London Bound: Queen Mary University of London Hub
By Katherine McAlpine, Public Engagement Officer for Queen Mary University of London
Katherine has been telling the Being Human team about some of the highlights in the QMUL’s ‘London Bound’ programme. Learn about the rich history of London, and the 8 million people whose lives originated here and will end here – the people who are London bound.
What inspired you to act as a ‘hub’ for Being Human 2018?
Queen Mary University of London has been involved with the Being Human festival for the past couple of years, and we’ve always had great feedback from our researchers who take part. We recognise that those for whom public engagement is maybe a new activity, it might feel a bit daunting and lonely to try and do everything on your own. For those researchers it’s great to have a ready-made opportunity for them to take part in, and because the festival is so well respected and well-known now, it makes promoting the events much easier.
But it’s also not too prescriptive. The themes are great because they allow us to share so many different kinds of research with so many different people, and our researchers love getting creative and coming up with activities to fit the theme.
How does your programme respond to our ‘Origins and Endings’ theme?
When we had our initial brainstorm meeting where we got all the researchers into a room with lots of coffee, we asked them to think about how their research specifically responded to the theme. My job was then to find the thread that drew all of those differing elements together. On the one hand, it might seem like an impossible job – what’s the connection between Ice Age Britain and tea, for instance? But when we looked at it, all the events one way or another reflected the diversity of experiences and perspectives in London, which meant it was just as well that we became the London hub! Whether it’s the doctors and nurses in London who have to find a way to cope when a patient dies, explored in ‘My First Death’, or people who are living in what feels like the last ever social housing co-operative with the ‘End of Social Housing’, London is a place with millions of beginnings and endings taking place every day.
Can you tell us about a few highlights from your programme? What are you most excited about and what can people look forward to?
I think that while there is going to be a lot of fantastic knowledge, content, interesting facts and stories, I also think the researchers have created an amazing programme of experiences; of sights and sounds and tastes and smells that will stay with visitors. I’m personally really excited to see the light projections on the buildings around East London. All the outdoor activities, are going to require people to wrap up warm which will get them thinking about the ideas of home and comfort, and get them thinking about the role London plays in that, what does it mean to have a home? With social housing becoming rarer and rarer do people feel differently about their own homes? And what about our home comforts like a lovely cup of tea? How many of us know it’s less palatable history?
I also really like that children are catered for across this programme, with children’s activities being provided as part of the ‘Making and Motherhood’ workshops, which explore creativity and motherhood. Karina Lickorish is running a Creative Writing workshop called ‘I Write My World!’ for children of dual heritage to explore their backgrounds. And at Hackney Museum you can literally uncover the history of ‘Living in Ice Age Hackney’!
Why could your programme only be staged in London? What have you found out about London that you didn’t know before you started putting the programme together?
Whether they started their lives here or ended up here, over 8 million people call London ‘Home’, and those varying perspectives have all been represented in our programme. Even ‘Other Registers’, the light display about police brutality in Rio, may not directly link to London at first, but the installation explores how police brutality continued alongside the Rio Olympics; where London handed over the Olympic baton in 2012. There was such a feeling of hope around the London 2012 Olympics, like it was the start of something amazing, and I wonder how many Londoners feel that promise has been kept? I think the installation will inspire people to reflect on these questions as well as plenty of others.
What do you think the legacy of your hub will be?
The walking tour will be available long after the festival ends on 24 November, so that’s a very concrete legacy. I think all of these events will have a legacy in one way or another, whether that’s strong links between the university, the researchers and the cultural organisations we’re working with so we can deliver more things in the future; or fresh perspectives for researchers to bring back into their research.
Finally, if you could define your hub programme in a tweet (140 characters), what would it be?
Whether you started out or ended up here, London Bound is a season for all Londoners to share and reflect on their similarities and differences!