Shut Up and Write: Day Long Retreat

“Shut up and Write! turns writing from a solitary, to a social experience.

The concept is simple: meet up with others in a cafe (hopefully one with plenty of power points), and write. The concept originated in the San Francisco Bay Area, amongst creative writers, but, thanks to social media, has spread amongst research students around the world. The idea is to make the act of writing fun and relaxing” – The Thesis Whisperer

The Graduate Research School is offering Birkbeck research students the chance to take park in a Shut Up and Write Day Long Retreat!

This session is aimed at those who would like to set aside a whole day for writing up. The format will be based on the standard Shut up and Write sessions but provides writing opportunities in both the morning and the afternoon. Tea and coffee and a sandwich lunch will also be offered to those who take part.

Sign up and see event details here!

DATE AND TIME
Wed 12th September
LOCATION
MAL631

London Science Fiction Research Community (LSFRC) – Reading Groups for Research Students

Aren Roukema

Science Fiction is simply one of the most productive and stimulating areas available for research and discussion — encountering and discussing SF texts provides opportunity for thinking (and worrying!) about the future, for struggling with ecological, social and philosophical issues of the present — in addition, of course, to new technologies and scientific advancements — and even for enjoying the continued presence of the monsters, utopian visions, and other imaginaries that have always drawn us to the fantastic.

Birkbeck has a number of faculty members who are leading SF researchers (Roger Luckhurst, Caroline Edwards) and even authors (Mark Blacklock) and has thus attracted a number of students over the years who are specifically interested in SF, whether via the MA module or as PGRs supervised by the above. As researchers whose projects are centrally concerned with SF, Rhodri Davies and I felt that setting up a Research Community with reading group could benefit both ourselves and the Birkbeck Eng and Hums community. We started slowly but have built up our average attendance at reading groups to the point where we can expect 15-20 people per session, either from the community or from universities in London and surrounding areas. We were later joined as organisers by Francis Gene-Rowe of Royal Holloway (in 2015) and Katie Stone (in 2018), who started this past year at Birkbeck.

We also hold an annual conference and host evening lectures, in tandem with Birkbeck’s Centre for Contemporary Literature. The last evening lecture we held (in February) was with SF author and critic Brian Stableford. Thus far we’ve held three of these lectures, in which we try to bring in a well-known SF author either for a lecture or a panel discussion.

Organic Systems

Our last annual conference, Organic Systems: Bodies, Cultures, Environments dealt with ecocriticism in SF. Our next conference will be held on 14–15 September, and will feature keynotes from Roger Luckhurst (Birkbeck) and Helen de Cruz (Oxford Brookes), and a round table with SF authors Jeff Noon, Justina Robson and Fiona Moore (Royal Holloway).

I’ve had many positive reading group experiences. One highlight, though, was reading Frank Herbert’s Dune in tandem with a documentary about a film adaptation by Alejandro Jodorowsky that was never made, yet went on to influence a number of now high profile SF film directors, screenwriters and illustrators. A high profile example is Star Wars, made shortly after Jodorowsky’s seven hour film project was shopped to (but not bought by) Hollywood studios. As a number of critics/conspiracy theorists have observed, Star Wars has some inventions and scenarios that seem suspiciously similar to Jodorowsky’s storyboards. The surprise for me in all this was that I enjoyed the concept of Jodorowsky’s film—the imagining of its never-fulfilled conception—more than I’ve enjoyed completed films like Star Wars; indeed, more than I enjoyed Dune itself!

It is part of LSFRC’s wider mandate to create a space for established academic researchers, students, and non-academic members of the community to discuss science fiction. Interested PGR students can contact

Aren Roukema: arouke01@mail.bbk.ac.uk;
Katie Stone: kstone03@mail.bbk.ac.uk;
Rhodri Davies: mrrhodridavies@hotmail.com

Follow @LSFRC_ on Twitter

Join the London Science Fiction Research Community on Facebook

Birkbeck Intern Blog Post – Pauline Suwanban

Pauline Suwanban

My experience starting a PhD was certainly shaped by my internship with Birkbeck Institutes.

It gave me a rich introduction into academia and public engagement. The Birkbeck Institutes of Social Research, Gender and Sexuality, and Humanities are directed by Professors Jacqueline Rose, Slavoj Zizek, Esther Leslie, Felicity Callard and Kate Maclean. The institutes promote interdisciplinary research on critical issues through public debates, lectures and workshops. They also founded the London Critical Theory Summer School, which is a two-week course where graduate students engage with internationally acclaimed academics.

I joined a group with three other PhD students from different Schools across the university, trained and supervised by the manager of the Institutes. We provided basic assistance at events. This ranged from registration (which in other words meant crowd control when it came to the Slavoj Zizek and Judith Butler talks), AV support, to being on hand in case of any technical hitches. We also promoted the events through emails and social media. This involved reaching out to specific audiences who could be interested- quite tricky for some niche events, especially in the case of one interdisciplinary stem cell and nutrition lecture. We also sourced and wrote blog posts for the website about research topics and events supported by the Institutes.

As interns we were also responsible for organising the annual graduate conference; a two-day event which encouraged MA and PhD students to present their work within a supportive environment. This was a more challenging and rewarding experience than I had anticipated. The budget had been allocated and room was pre-booked; which left the rest to our management. This included the theme, call for papers, keynote speaker invitations and the programme. This year’s theme was ‘the Age of Distraction’. We interrogated the meanings and implications of distraction, its reputation in modern societies, its potential to disrupt and to create. We had a broad range of stimulating panels which explored the role of distraction within aesthetics, politics, psychology, digital media and education. Our keynote speakers were Prof. Carolin Duttlinger from the University of Oxford, who insightfully discussed the ‘Narratives of Distraction’ from Kant to modernism, and Dr. Sophie Jones from Birkbeck’s English department, whose provocative paper explored minimalist literature and attention deficit disorder.

We also presented a mini-exhibition of Dr. Kai Syng Tan’s photographic series (BADGE-WEARING MIND WANDERING IN ACTION 2017). Dr. Tan’s work, which explored the fusion of at and mental health, was complemented with energetic drawings from the public which interpreted the concept of mind-wandering. This display was curated by Alessandra Cianetti, who joined Dr. Jones and Prof. Callard in a discussion on mind-wandering, contemporary art and day-dreams. She also presented a very arresting film by Dr. Tan, which surrounded the audience with the visual and sensory impact of attention deficit disorder.

Credit: Dr. Kai Syng Tan

 

I easily underestimated the time that had to be spent for all the logistics and unexpected obstacles, which sometimes felt like an endless checklist! But there were certainly fulfilling moments, especially from noticing the pride in fellow students and the enriched thoughts of a public audience.

I would urge anyone to apply for this internship. It ticks all the boxes in building an academic career and is a wonderful way to meet new people who could inspire your research. Keep an eye on the BIH and BISR websites for recruitment and join the mailing lists to keep up to date with upcoming activities. If you are unsuccessful, there are still ways to get involved, such as volunteering at events, writing a blog post and joining the next graduate conference as a speaker or helper.

Pauline Suwanban is a second year English PhD candidate. Follow her on Twitter @paulinesuwanban 

The Other Side of the Story

Melanie Jones

I decided to take my Creative Writing MA at Birkbeck because of The Mechanics’ Institute Review, an annual collection of short fiction that showcased the best writing at the college. At that time, the Review was produced by MA students as part of a publishing module.

In the first few weeks of term, it became clear that everyone wanted their story to be selected. For some, including me, it represented the first ever chance to be published. Unfortunately, the module was cancelled in my first year because not enough people signed up. Everyone wanted to be in the book, but being an editor made you ineligible.

Julia Bell, the lecturer who set up the Review ten years earlier, wouldn’t let the project die. Instead she called for volunteer editors and built a team that included Birkbeck alumni as well as current students. MIR 11 was published that year and I was fortunate enough to have my story Sowing Seeds included.

I had only written one short story before I started my MA. I had never shown my writing to anyone else. I had never called myself a writer. Seeing my name in print, going to the launch party, holding a physical copy of book that included my work was a gamechanger. It legitimised a creative spark that had, up until that point, just been a hobby. When I was a little girl in the early 80s, I felt like having my name printed out in ‘computer writing’ on a piece of paper meant I was famous. MIR 11 allowed me to live out that dream as an adult.

Julia had a vision for MIR. She didn’t want it to be a university publication that just printed work from Birkbeck students. She wanted to open it up to all UK based authors and she wanted to combine the other extra-curricular activities (like the Writers’ Hub website and the Hubbub live reading event) offered at Birkbeck under one banner. I was about to start my PhD at Birkbeck and becoming the Managing Editor for the online counterpart to the Review was the perfect way to help with my fees and to share my experiences with other budding authors.

 

At MIROnline, I manage a team of about twenty volunteers. We have readers, copy editors, bloggers, features writers, and social media experts. We publish fiction and poetry from writers across the UK and provide an in-depth copy-editing experience for those writers. We run live reading events and free writing workshops that are open to all.

I am a secondary school teacher and sometimes the combined workload is overwhelming. In theory, my weekly schedule is Monday MIR, Tuesday teaching, Wednesday PhD study at home, Thursday PhD study in the Wellcome Library, Friday and Saturday teaching, and Sunday relaxing. It doesn’t always work out that way! My research focuses on anxiety and creativity, and sometimes the stress of a MIR deadline gives me some first-hand experience of this link. That being said, I have an amazing team of volunteers who always step up when I need them. I also have the support of Julia, Toby Litt, and Sue Tyley, the experts who give us a professional sheen.

In my research, I am looking at ways for writers to use the mental barriers they might face to fuel their creativity rather than block it, and this definitely comes in to play when mentoring new writers. Of course, we publish the work of experienced authors too and I learn a lot from their methodology and practice.

My aim as Managing Editor is to offer quality university and industry level experience for anyone who wants to engage with us. For the volunteers, I hope that they learn and develop as writers and editors. For the authors and participants in our events, I hope to pass on the feeling I had when I held the physical copy of MIR 11 in my hands. You are an author now. Legitimate and celebrated.

MIROnline

MIR Anthology info

Buy Mechanics Institute Review 2017 Edition

Melanie Jones is the Managing Editor of MIR Online and a PhD student at Birkbeck University where she researches the links between anxiety and creativity. Melanie teaches at a secondary school for pupils with anxiety and other emotional barriers, autism, dyslexia and school phobia. Melanie was long listed for the 2018 Bristol Prize and shortlisted for Poetic Republic’s Short Fiction Competition. Her work can be found in the following anthologies: Kissing Him Goodbye and Other Stories, and The Mechanics’ Institute Review issues 11 and 13. Melanie is currently working on a collection of semi-true short stories.

 

Health and Safety Training Available for Research Projects

These courses require a password to sign up. See end of post for details.

Risk Assessment using Sevron

Thursday August 30th. 10.00 – 13.00 A half-day course on general health and safety risk assessment with an introduction to the Sevron online risk assessment system. Book here

COSHH Risk Assessment using Sevron

This course is for people needing to assess the risks of the use of hazardous substances under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (COSHH). The course introduces the Sevron online risk assessment system and its use for COSHH assessments. There are several opportunities to undertake this training.

Wednesday September 12 morning session 10.00 – 13.00.

Wednesday September 12 afternoon session 14.00 – 17.00.

Thursday September 20 morning session 10.00 – 13.00.

Thursday September afternoon session 27 14.00 – 17.00.

Level 2 Award in Fire Safety

A one-day course for persons with special responsibilities for fire safety such as fire wardens. Wednesday September 19. 9.30 – 17.00. Book here.

Level 2 Award in Health and Safety at Work

A one-day course for persons with special responsibilities for general health and safety such as Departmental Safety Coordinators. September 25. 9.30 – 17.00. Book here.

Level 2 Award in Manual Handling

A one-day course for staff undertaking manual handling tasks as a regular part of their work. Monday 10 September 09.30 – 17.00. Book here.

 

These courses require a password to sign up. Follow the links and enter “BBK” at the Eventbrite page.

Birkbeck Intern Blog Post – Ralph Day

Ralph Day

I joined the Peltz Gallery intern team at the beginning of the academic year 2017/18. Interns are employed on a 40-hour contract, and we manage our own time, deciding how much time we would like to give to organising our own public engagement event, promoting and evaluating events at the Peltz, and installing and de-installing exhibitions.

The internship is designed to fit around our own PhD research, and all three interns have been flexible in swapping responsibilities and supporting each other in our Gallery projects. As well as promoting public events at the Peltz and supporting the install of exhibitions, the major part of my work as an intern has been conceiving, organising and facilitating a public engagement event.

In May, the Wellcome-funded, internationally-touring exhibition, Transitional States: Hormones at the Crossroads of Art and Science, was installed at the Peltz Gallery. The exhibition explores feminist and queer perspectives on the role of hormones in contraception, fertility, menopause, and gender transition. By chance, this academic year also saw the emergence of the Birkbeck Feminist and Queer Theory Reading Group.

While meetings of this reading group normally take place in seminar rooms at Birkbeck, it seemed to me that it would be stimulating to stage a discussion of a queer text at the Peltz Gallery with the Transitional States exhibition in place. And what better text to discuss, in order to engage with the themes of the exhibition, than Paul B. Preciado’s Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era, which explores the author’s use of testosterone as a form of ‘gender hacking’. This proved timely, as Preciado had also been invited by the organiser of Transitional States, Dr. Chiara Beccalossi, to deliver a lecture about his work at the Wellcome Collection in June.

With my bid for funding approved by Birkbeck Gender and Sexuality (BiGS), I invited two specialists to contribute to the reading group meeting at the Peltz, to help us unpack the relationship between queer and feminist theory and (art) practice: Raju Rage, a London-based artist and activist whose video work at Transitional States makes reference to Testo Junkie; and Sofia Ropek-Hewson, a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge who is writing her thesis about pharmacopornographic subjectivity in Preciado’s work. Spaces for this session quickly filled up, and it promises to be a valuable resource for the PhD and MA students involved. This may also signal the start of new partnerships between the Peltz Gallery and university reading groups.

 

Careers and professional development training

The following CHASE Career and Professional development training opportunities are available to all Arts and Humanities PhD students at Birkbeck (regardless of whether you are funded by the AHRC/ CHASE).

Further details about each of the sessions below, and information about how to register, is available here.

 

Creating (and) the Critical
The critical component of practice-based PhDs

14 June 2018, Goldsmiths, University of London

What is the relationship between the creative and critical strands of practice-led PhDs? How should the critical commentary be thought of, when should it be written?

This CHASE training event will consider this relationship and the questions, challenges and, sometimes, anxieties that it causes, both for students and supervisors.

Join for a day of discussion, debate and reflection, open to all research students but especially aimed at those involved in creative practice.

 

Find out more and register here

 

 

Critical Excursion: Remapping the Arcades Project
25 & 26 June | Glasgow

This two-day critical excursion, organised by the Space, Place and Time Research Group and led by researcher Sam Dolbear will consist of workshops, walks and film-screenings that focus around Walter Benjamin’s The Arcades Project (1927-40).

This short course will aim to give a panoramic sense of this panoramic text. The first day will cohere around the themes of history, historiography, temporality, and methodology. The morning will explore these themes through a workshop, followed by a walk and a screening of films on related themes. The second day will follow the same structure, but the focus will shift to the spatial configurations of the city: to processes of urban generation and regeneration, the subterranean spaces of the city, the notion of the threshold, the street and the interior, as well as building materials and construction techniques.

Travel and accommodation will be organised by Space, Place and Time group.

 

Find out more and register here

 

 

Feminist Research Ethics in Practice
Thursday 12 July | University of East Anglia

This free one-day event provides an opportunity for researchers to discuss the process of building safe, productive spaces for both researchers and participants and asks what can institutions do to best support them. In so doing, this training event seeks to build a community of support, share experiences and document best practice.

Places are limited – Find out more and register here

 

 

CHASE writing summer school workshops and residential

Monday 16 July | SOAS, University of London
Behind the mystique: what academic writing is, and how to get better at it
This one-day workshop is for any student who wants to write more clearly and stylishly within their discipline. It strips down academic writing to its fundamentals.

Tuesday 17 July |  SOAS, University of London
Story time: how to create a narrative through your literature review
This one day workshop helps students to create a narrative by heightening their awareness of their relationship with the reader.

Thursday, 19 July | SOAS, University of London
Reaching out: writing about your research for non-specialist audiences
Many postgraduate students struggle to explain complex research, in writing, to people outside their discipline, or outside academia.

Thursday 26 July to Friday 27 July  | Birkbeck, University of London
Thinking, Writing, Advancing: a 2 day, residential writing retreat for mid- to late stage PhD students
This two day, residential retreat offers a breathing space for PhD students, allowing them to air writing issues with their peers, share best practice and re-examine their writing process. Day 1 tackles common writing problems and gives students exercises to stimulate creativity and help them gain perspective on their project. In the evening, there is a communal dinner and networking. Day 2 is a chance to write in a quiet and supportive atmosphere and to have one-to-one consultations with two successful professional writers.

 

Find out more and register here