London’s architectural history comes alive in Birkbeck Arts Week walking tour series

Covent Garden Piazza and Market (Joseph van Aken) - cc Irina via Flickr

Covent Garden Piazza and Market (Joseph van Aken) – cc Irina via Flickr

Londoners will be able to get up close and personal with their city’s architectural and cultural history in May during Birkbeck, University of London’s Arts Week 2016.

From an exploration of Covent Garden Piazza’s long-gone original structure, to a wander among the West End’s media industry heritage, a series of free walking tours will run as part of the college’s annual showcase of the arts, which this year runs from 16 to 20 May.

Highlights of the walking tour series are:

(Monday 16 May, 5-6pm. Meeting at the south-west corner of Covent Garden piazza by NatWest Bank)
Not much remains of Covent Garden’s physical structure as it was between 1631 and 1830 – but, with the aid of contemporary images, and a lot of imagination, it is possible to recover something of how the piazza was viewed across those first two hundred years. Join Dr Thom Braun for an illustrated walk around Covent Garden piazza.

(Tuesday 17 and Wednesday 18 May, 5-5.50pm. Meeting outside 43 Gordon Square)
Dr Leslie Topp and Nic Sampson of Birkbeck’s Architecture Space and Society Centre will lead two linked but self-standing tours unearthing the hidden and not-so-hidden traces of architectural modernism in Bloomsbury. Behind the demure Georgian facades we’ll find stories of gentle liberation, false starts and fraught battles.


(Wednesday 18 May, 2-5pm. Meeting at the southwest corner of Fitzroy Square, W1)
This guided walking tour, led by Birkbeck’s Dr Joel McKim and Dr Scott Rodgers (Birkbeck), explores West End London as a lens into the media in city life and its environments. Join us to visit a range of buildings and neighbourhoods associated with major media industries. We will also observe some of the more unconventional forms of urban media and communication.


(Friday 20 May, 4-5.30pm. Meeting outside the National Portrait Gallery main entrance, St Martin’s Place, WC2H 0HE)
Join us for a guided tour of the politics and power plays of the Stuart era (1603 and 1714). Taking portraits as our starting point, we will attempt to reconstruct some of the careers of those at the courts of James I and VI and his son – and the lives of those who fell from favour. Decide whether James I was poisoned, whether Ben Jonson loved his king, and what happened to Arbella Stuart.

Running parallel to these tours will be the Arts Week Competition 2016. Titled “London Relocated”, the competition centres on the ever changing nature of London’s architecture. Members of the public are invited to submit a photo of any artefact or remnant of London’s ever shifting built environment – such as a sign, a map or a monument – along with 150 words about why it’s interesting. Up to two entries per person can be sent to before 18 May, for a chance to win a £100 book token.

Birkbeck Arts Week, the College’s annual celebration of arts and culture, will this year feature the widest programme in the festival’s five-year history, with more than 50 free events for the public to attend.

Primarily hosted in and around the School of Arts (43-47 Gordon Square), the 2016 programme includes a packed schedule of lectures, performances, screenings, book launches, workshops and discussions. It features contributions from Birkbeck’s own academics and guest artists and scholars from all over the world.

Professor Hilary Fraser, Dean of Arts, said the walking tours reflect one of Arts Week 2016’s wider themes: ‘exploration’.

She said: “The walking tours at this year’s Arts Week offer a fantastic opportunity for members of the public to explore their everyday surroundings through a new lens, as guided by a team of experts in the history and architecture of the area.

“These events are part of a key thread running through this year’s programme; the theme of ‘exploration’. Whether it is attending one of these local walks, a panel session such as the ‘Writing Arctic Disaster’ event, the special showcase of Colombian filmmaking, or any event across the week, we hope to inspire our community to discover and explore the world around them at the points where the arts and research come together.”

Birkbeck Arts Week 2016 runs from runs from May 16 to 20. To see the full programme of free public events visit, at or on Twitter @birkbeck_arts (being sure to use the hashtag #BBKArtsWeek). While attendance at all events is free, booking is essential.

Find out more

About the Arts Week Competition 2016: “London Relocated”

London is a city which is constantly changes. Every day Londoners pass a notice that ‘near this place’ something happened, or find a monument made up of sections of an old wall, or even, like Temple Bar, a whole chunk of the city removed and re-sited. This year Arts Week wants to find out more about bits of London that have been relocated. We are interpreting this widely – notices and signs of events close by count, as well as actual monuments. The prize is £100 book token.

To enter send us ONE image (photograph, map, or something else) of ‘London Relocated’ and up to 150 words telling us what it is and why it is interesting. Not more than TWO entries per person, please. Email your entry to

Closing date 18 May 6pm

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TRIGGER Mid-Term Workshop

Transforming Research Institutions, Gendering Contents and Gaining Equality: a Half-Way Reflection

This post was contributed by Mark Panton, Jeanne le Roux and Helen Lawton Smith of the Transforming Institutions by Gendering contents and Gaining Equality in Research (TRIGGER) team – a research project in Birkbeck’s Department of Management.

Trigger logoThe TRIGGER consortium mid-term workshop was held at Birkbeck on 14 April 2016 with participants from across Europe and the USA attending the event. Trigger is a five country FP7-funded European project (2014-17). It aims to promote systemic interventions designed to have deep, long lasting and widespread impacts at all the different levels in 5 research organisations. The project, coordinated and co-funded by the Italian Government, assisted by an institute specialised in gender and science, involves as co-funders five universities from different EU countries (Czech Republic, France, Italy, UK, Spain). In Birkbeck, the project involves the School of Science and the School of Business, Economics and Informatics.

The workshop was designed to present an occasion for common reflection and dialogue on the factors affecting the implementation of institutional change action plans for gender equality in science.

Opening speeches

Welcoming speeches were given on behalf of Michele Palma, Department of Equal Opportunities, Presidency of Council of Ministers of Italy, TRIGGER project coordinator and by Giovanna Declich, ASDO, technical assistance to and accompanying research on the TRIGGER Action Plans, and Stephen Frosh, a Pro-Vice Master of Birkbeck and Chair of the Birkbeck TRIGGER Board.

Listen to the speech by Stephen Frosh:


Professor Frosh made a number of key points that were reflected in the later discussion groups. He praised the excellent work being done by TRIGGER and gave the rallying call: “If you are meeting resistance then you are doing something right”.

Giovanna Declich, acknowledged the complexity of issues that were being addressed. She discussed some of the obstacles, enablers of change together with a range of emerging issues that include new rules to support work-life balance.

The TRIGGER experience at mid-term

The first morning session, chaired by Professor Rosemary Deem, Vice Principal (Education) & Dean of the Doctoral School at Royal Holloway was devoted to a reflection by each of the TRIGGER teams on their experiences at the mid-term point. The discussion was moderated by Alice Hogan, Independent Higher Education Consultant and inaugural Director of the ADVANCE Program of the National Science Foundation, USA. She highlighted the challenging nature of the work to achieve change, which is often not recognised and stressed that to do so takes exemplary and courageous university leadership. It is important to understand why institutions don’t change, sometimes because they don’t think there is any need to, so it is important to take this into account and not to get discouraged.

Helen Lawton Smith discussed the TRIGGER experience at Birkbeck, where sometimes pre-existing schemes can cause conflicts. One of the positives to emerge is the TRIGGER external board that allows engagement with other academic institutions and, most importantly, engagement with external business groups. In order to institutionalise actions developed within TRIGGER developments, a PhD module will be developed within the college for gendered research and gender and career develop programme both of which will be sustained after the end of the TRIGGER project.

Katerina Grecova of the University of Chemistry and Technology said that in Prague individual agreements such as those relating to home-working and applying for maternity leave during research projects have been institutionalised through a collective agreement. A competition has been established in memory of first female professor in Czechoslovakia and this has been very successful. Also a book of interviews with female researchers in Czechia has been published, which provides role models and can serve as a motivational tool.

Ines Sanchez De Madariaga and Ines Novella from the Technical University of Madrid provided an insight into gaining the attention of leaders. Prior to TRIGGER data was available on gender issues, but it was not internationally comparable and produced in an unsystematic and poorly designed way. Producing an in-depth 100-page report that was well designed and graphically set out the data provided the turning point in a meeting. The Rector of the university had read the whole report, making comments on each of the graphs and then formed an action plan. Previously, the legislation existed, but nothing had been done about it. The university has also worked with the United Nations to set up the UNESCO Chair of Gender, Technology and Sustainability.

Sophie L Henry and Rachida Lemmaghti from the University of Paris Diderot, France set out how their university has long tradition of gender equality work, being one of the first to institutionalise gender research. In the 1970s the university provided very strong support for research in this area and in 1985 got assistant professor on gender. In 2010 the university created a department devoted to gender equality. With TRIGGER, Sophie and Rachida learned to negotiate with teachers on gender, since it was important to support what was already there. Training is now in place for all first year university students. In Italy, Rita Biancheri and Silvia Cervia from the University of Pisa said that thanks to previous experience women’s salaries, careers and work-life balance have been promoted.

Negotiating institutional change

The second session, moderated by Jeanne Le Roux, founder of JLR People Solutions was on Negotiating institutional change with leadership in research institutions: setting the scene

Belinda Brooks-Gordon, Assistant Dean for Gender Equalities in the School of Science, Birkbeck discussed some of the issues in attempting to gain Athena SWAN accreditation at Birkbeck. In the course of three months, Belinda has put in place of actions designed to improve the environment for gender equality in the college. There have been a number of small, but incremental gains. These include a series of talks with senior people coming in to discuss their approaches to gender and diversity and made a number of changes such as some of the language like ending the use of “non-academic staff”.   It is now clear where the holes were in the previous application.

Henry Etzkowitz, visiting Birkbeck Professor, from Stanford University put forward his view that gender equality in science was possible through self-organised work, protest, and legal action. Professor Etzkowitz went on to give a number of examples of how this has worked, such as gender-based conferences at Berkeley, the Ellen Pao legal case in the USA, and protests in Europe.   Henry also challenged Birkbeck to take the initiative to build the Rosalind Franklin Institute for Gender and Science.

The teams were then invited to discuss what has worked in the TRIGGER project in their institutions and what did not.

The Top 5 issues for the TRIGGER project at mid term:

  • Awareness: people in the universities are not always aware of the project
  • Priority: not being on the top leadership agenda
  • Structure of leadership: change or very wide leadership structure
  • Resistance: people are resistant to the gender issues
  • Sustainability: lacks of resource to make actions sustainable

To deal with university leadership the main messages are:

  • Use the targeted audience’s language
  • Ensure the team is recognised and has the adequate sponsor
  • Use data to make the case

The afternoon followed on from the morning and was devoted an interactive group session on how to find solutions to some of the problems of negotiating institutional change with leadership in research institutions. Groups were asked to brainstorm on the solutions for one specific key issue so that could produce quick wins and initiate actions that could be part of a longer-term action plan.


The solutions were to:

  • Create a network of champions whose purpose is to raise the project awareness and enable the project to be on the priority list.
  • Use open language, not a confrontational style.
  • Link project to the institution strategy, core mission and agenda.
  • Involve the administration e.g. HR, External relations… to overcome resistance and make the project sustainable
  • Use data to showcase the project and impact of it.


Progress has been made but in every university, there is much more to do. Negotiating change is about addressing pre-existing power relations and finding ways around them to provide better solutions to gender inequality.

Find out more

List of speakers and discussion Chairs

  • Stephen Frosh, Pro-Vice Master, Birkbeck, University of London, Chair of TRIGGER Board, UK.
  • Michele Palma, Director General of the Department for Equal Opportunities – Presidency of the Council of Ministers, TRIGGER Project coordinator, Italy.
  • Chair: Rosemary Deem, Vice Principal (Education) & Dean of the Doctoral School, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK.
  • Giovanna Delich, ASDO, responsible for technical assistance to and accompanying research on the TRIGGER Action Plans, Italy.
  • Alison Hogan, Independent Higher Education Consultant, Inaugural Director of the ADVANCE Program of the National Science Foundation, USA.
  • Helen Lawton Smith, Birkbeck College, University of London, UK.
  • Katerina Grecova, University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague, Czech Republic.
  • Ines Sanchez De Madariaga and Ines Novella, Technical University of Madrid, Spain.
  • Sophie L Henry and Rachida Lemmaghti, University of Paris Diderot, France.
  • Rita Biancheri and Silvia Cervia, University of Pisa, Italy.
  • Jeanne Le Roux, Founder, JLR people coaching to JLR people solutions, London, UK
  • Belinda Brooks-Gordon, Athena SWAN, Birkbeck College, University of London, UK.
  • Henry Etzkowitz, visiting Professor, Birkbeck, University of London, Quandam Faculty Fellow, Clayman Institute of Gender Research, Stanford University, USA
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Cameras in the court

This post was contributed by Ruth Saunders, who attended the LSE Law and Birkbeck School of Law Judicial Images Project public lecture on Wednesday 13 April

‘From Oscar Pistorius to Reality TV: the implications of using the courtroom as a television studio’ was the title of last Wednesday’s well-attended lecture from the Judicial Images Network Project, a joint project of Birkbeck School of Law and LSE Law which brings together scholars across disciplines and continents to explore issues surrounding the production, regulation and consumption of judicial images.

The lecture featured speakers with extensive experience in the issues that arise from the use of cameras in courtrooms. Justice Dikgang Moseneke, Deputy Chief Justics of Constitutional Court of South Africa, took to the stage first to discuss the experience of, and issues arising from, televising the trial of Oscar Pistorius.

Describing the concept of open justice as a key and now well-established principle in post apartheid South Africa, Justice Moseneke discussed how the trial of Oscar Pistorius created new ways in which people could access and assess justice.

Dr Jur Ruth Herz

Dr Jur Ruth Herz

Emphasising that ‘democracy dies behind closed doors’, Justice Moseneke also acknowledged that televising the courtroom could foster a dynamic of intimidation for defendants and witnesses – but it would, he said, be more reliable than a journalist’s perception of events.

But ultimately, he finished, ‘we, the media and courts, share a common goal. We want the public to know and to assess what we do’.

Next, Visiting Professor at Birkbeck School of Law Ruth Herz, formally a Judge in Cologne and the star of popular German courtroom based reality TV show Das Jugendgericht (Youth Court), reflected on her four year experience in television.

Giving a frank recollection of her experiences, Ruth described her motivations for participating in the TV show to tackle the veil of secrecy that surrounds the court system in Germany. What she found, however, was that the presence of the camera with the focus on lighting, position and angle, did not create transparency.

Media, she says, speaks a different language, and is motivated first and foremost by money which informed casting choices and the types of cases heard.

These factors all worked against her attempts to use the reality TV court show as a useful educational tool to show viewers how justice in the courtroom works. She echoed the concerns raised by Justice Moseneke that Courts have a primary responsibility to pursue justice.

Lord Dyson, Master of the Rolls and Head of Civil Justice in England and Wales, closed the discussion commenting on his own experience of cameras in the courtroom. In the Supreme Court, Lord Dyson said, he was unaware and unaffected by the discreet cameras.

Professor Leslie Moran

Professor Leslie Moran

The Crown court pilot to introduce cameras in the court is proceeding carefully, he said, to minimise risks to the fairness of the trial and, he also described, a ‘duty of care to protect the vulnerable’.

Birkbeck’s Professor Leslie Moran brought together questions from the audience which resulted in a lively discussion.

brought together questions from the audience which resulted in a lively discussion.

In closing the event he encouraged all to become avid viewers not only of the UK Supreme Court summary judgment videos but also the UK’s first reality TV court show, ‘Judge Rinder’.

He explained, ‘the future of cameras in courts is already taking shape on our TV screen. We need to take it seriously and debate it further if it is to best serve the needs of open justice.’

More information:

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Twickenham business woman celebrates graduation after busy two years

A Twickenham businesswoman who has juggled family and study commitments while setting up her own HR consultancy celebrated her university graduation this week.

Sarah Mason

Sarah Mason

On Monday (18 April), Sarah Mason graduated with distinction with a Master’s degree in Management Consultancy and Organisational Change.

During her two-year part-time degree at London’s only specialist provider of evening university study, the 42-year-old Meadway resident established Talent Advantage, her own human resources and leadership training consultancy which built on her experience in senior roles at global recruitment firms. Since her consultancy’s launch in March 2014, it has become well established in the recruitment industry.

She was drawn to the MSc programme at Birkbeck’s Department of Management as it allowed her to combine full-time work in the daytime, while attending up to two three-hour lectures per week in the evenings at the college’s Bloomsbury campus.

She had previously completed a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and a diploma in Employment Law, however the Birkbeck MSc appealed to her as it combined organisational psychology, HR and business – all of which she was interested in deepening her knowledge of at this stage in her career.

While Sarah had prepared herself for a very busy two years upon enrolling, it took her some time to adjust to balancing her multiple commitments.

“It was harder than I thought it would be. I had to give up a lot of my spare time to reading academic papers, writing assignments and doing my research project,” she said.

“I really enjoyed studying but the hardest part was my eight-year-old daughter pushing notes under the door of my study asking me to go to the park with her. I was very lucky that my husband was really supportive and gave me the time I needed to study. Studying alongside a full time job is a big commitment but it was worth it.”

This week, Sarah joined more than 200 fellow postgraduate students from the college’s School of Business, Economics and Informatics at a formal afternoon ceremony held in Senate House. She was joined on the day by her husband, Phil Mason, and her daughter, Tegwen.

She said: “I’m really pleased with this accomplishment. I started off with several goals; get a distinction, learn some useful stuff and hit specific revenue goals for the business.  It was a lot of hard work, but I did achieve them.

“In reality, the grade is much less important than the learning and for some people it’s more about finding a good balance of study, work and life.  For me, having a focus of getting a good grade did push me to make sure I put enough time in to get the most from the course, so I learnt loads.  And I think it’s fine to be a geek!”

Moving forward, Sarah plans to continue growing her consultancy, and further applying the frameworks, theories and evidence-based approach to practice which she learned at Birkbeck.

Find out more

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