Pioneer Programme supporting entrepreneurial students at Birkbeck kicks off with a bang

Students on the Pioneer programme began the journey to develop their entrepreneurial skills with an inspiring session on Innovation and left feeling energised and motivated for the year ahead.

On Saturday 17 November, nearly 200 Birkbeck students started their journey on the Pioneer programme, a 7-part course that develops their entrepreneurial skills and knowledge and culminates with a Pitch and Celebration Evening in June 2019.

The programme, in partnership with Santander Universities, began with an inspiring and energetic session on Innovation from serial innovator and entrepreneur Julie Holmes, who motivated the students to pursue their ideas and turn them into reality. In between science-experiment style fireworks and top tips for starting a business, Julie kicked off the Pioneer programme with a bang and prepared the audience for a brilliant programme ahead.

Students also heard from Ambi Mistry at Creative Entrepreneurs, a movement that brings together the resources, roles models and networks creative people need to turn their ideas into successful businesses. Ambi delivered an invaluable networking session to encourage students to collaborate and think outside the box when it comes to making connections for their business ideas.

Jenna Davies, Programme Manager for Pioneer said, “Pioneer offers a fantastic platform for students who have a business idea or who are keen to develop entrepreneurial skills. Julie and Ambi have started this year’s programme in incredible fashion; the students were genuinely buzzing when they left the building.”

Baldeep Hothi, Programme Coordinator added, “The students will benefit immensely from Pioneer and it’s clear that they have already gained so much from this first session. Santander’s support has made this happen and we can’t wait to continue the journey in the coming months.”

Pioneer continues in December followed by a monthly workshop on a range of topics including Lean Business, Start-up Marketing, Funding, Pitching and more.

Further information:

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Birkbeck welcomes generous alumni back to Malet Street

The College invited alumni and guests to learn about the difference gifts in wills can make to Birkbeck’s students and community.

Master of the College, Professor David Latchman (r) speaks with an alumnus over tea.

Many Birkbeck alumni and supporters have generously chosen to help secure Birkbeck’s future by remembering Birkbeck with gifts in their wills. On Tuesday 13 November, the Master of Birkbeck, Professor David Latchman CBE, invited some of the College’s alumni to Malet Street to tell them more about this way of giving and to thank those who have already remembered Birkbeck in their wills.

Gifts in wills have made a huge difference to Birkbeck. From 2016-2018, Birkbeck received £2.5million from gifts in wills. These gifts have supported Birkbeck students,  provided for student-centred facilities as well as enabled world-leading research projects.

The late alumna Constance Kenway provided a very generous gift to the Psychology Department to support excellent students in financial need. Christine Ozolins, recipient of the Constance Kenway Scholarship in 2017, spoke to the guests about her story.

Christine Ozolins, recipient of the Constance Kenway Scholarship, addresses the group.

She said: “As a child, I had a difficult home life and was unable to finish my schooling.  I spent many years working in a variety of different jobs. However, I always felt unfulfilled and longed to be in a career where I could help others and fulfil my potential.  It took me years to get the courage to change my life, but when I eventually did, I commenced a BSc in Psychology here at Birkbeck.  This degree transformed my life in ways I never could have imagined. I fell in love with the brain and with cognitive neuroscience, something I was not expecting.”

Christine graduated with a first-class degree, and went on to a master’s degree. When her marriage broke down, she worried she would no longer be able to afford to continue her studies. She applied for, and was offered, the Constance Kenway Scholarship which is available for postgraduate psychology students experiencing financial hardship. The scholarship enabled her to complete her MSc.

She continued: “I believe it is so important that people like myself are given a chance to fulfil our potential and create value for society in the present and the future. I believe Birkbeck stands alone in its mission to provide the highest quality education to everybody, regardless of age, background or gender.”

Christine now plans to start a PhD, and she is putting all her energies into finding a way to fund her studies. As there are few funding options available for part-time candidates, she plans to become successful enough to leave money in her own will to support students like herself and to make the path easier for those who will come after her.

Chris Murphy, Director of Development and Alumni and himself an alumnus of Birkbeck, also addressed the group and explained that he and his wife had both chosen to leave a gift to the College in their wills. Gifts in wills, Chris noted, are one of the most private and therefore most generous ways that alumni and supporters can give to the College.

The tea was an opportunity for some of our supporters to find out how integral these types of gifts are to the future of the College. They fund a variety of research projects and support students in different ways. Whatever the amount, gifts in wills make an enormous difference to the College and to students who may otherwise be unable to continue in education.

Legacy gifts of every size have a lasting impact and help to ensure that Birkbeck’s high-quality teaching and world-class research continue to serve future generations of students. If you would like to know more about remembering Birkbeck with a gift in your will, please get in touch with the Development & Alumni Team by calling Kara McMahon on 020 7380 3187 or sending an email to

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Celebrating, Commemorating, Centenaries of Suffrage

As the centenary year of women’s suffrage draws to a close, The Centre for the Study of British Politics and Public Life has been examining how and why we celebrate centenaries.

What springs to mind when you hear the words ‘women’s suffrage’? The purple, green and white banners of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), Emily Wilding Davison losing her life in protest at Epsom Derby, or perhaps the lively rendition of ‘Votes for Women’ given by Mrs Banks in Mary Poppins? All this and more was acknowledged at a fascinating event from The Centre for the Study of British Politics and Public Life at Birkbeck on Tuesday 13 November, as the centenary year of women’s suffrage draws to a close.

Chaired by Professor Sarah Childs of Birkbeck’s Department of Politics, Celebrating, Commemorating, Centenaries of Suffrage aimed to address the centenary of women’s suffrage by exploring how and why we celebrate centenaries.

The first part of the evening saw Dr Mari Takayanagi, a Senior Archivist at the Parliamentary Archives, deliver her paper Celebrating Suffrage Centenaries. She began by explaining how one of the most important anniversaries in the UK’s democratic history is in many respects problematic. As the UK celebrates the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, it’s worth remembering that the Pitcairn Islands in the Pacific have already commemorated their 175 anniversary of women’s suffrage, while the more local Isle of Man has had equal suffrage since 1881. Suffrage has rarely been awarded, at least at first, without being linked to age, race, marital status, class and even relation to men in the armed forces, and British women would wait another ten years for the Equal Franchise Act of 1928 to grant them the same voting rights as men.

Still, this first legislative step towards equal suffrage should be recognised and the impact of this year of national commemoration has been both powerful and wide-ranging. Centenaries act as a catalyst for reflection, prompting greater public awareness and accelerating academic research. During this period, government grants were awarded to projects addressing discrimination and improving female work progression and numerous exhibitions were curated to capitalise on the renewed interest in women’s suffrage. Institutions that boasted some of the biggest collections on this subject, such as the Museum of London and the Manchester People’s Museum, used the opportunity to draw public attention to their permanent exhibits.

Dr Takayanagi argued that centenaries hold a unique emotive power, asking whose memory should be drawn on in their commemoration, and whose memory should be honoured? Unsurprisingly, memorable protagonists of the suffrage movement took centre stage in the celebrations. Emily Wilding Davison alone was remembered through documentary, commemorative services, a play, a plaque, a tree, not to mention #Emilymatters and an appearance at the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony. Indeed, the marking of the centenary of suffrage has in many ways been dominated by the militant side of women’s suffrage, the WSPU. The striking purple, white and green banner now seems synonymous with the entire women’s suffrage movement, leaving the red of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) and the gold of the Women’s Freedom League to jostle for shelter underneath it.

Undoubtedly, said Dr Takayanagi, the WSPU knew a thing or two about marketing, but could the success of their particular brand of militant feminism ring truer with today’s audience and the swelling anger of the #Metoo campaign than their non-violent counterparts? Thirst for feisty feminist heroines can be quenched more easily with an Emmeline Pankhurst than a Millicent Fawcett. Either way, Dr Takayanagi hopes that the huge public interest roused in 2018 will continue as the ten year countdown to the centenary of universal suffrage begins.

This insightful talk was followed by a roundtable discussion with Mary Branson, Parliament Artist in Residence 2016, and Dr Red Chidgey, lecturer in Gender and Media at Kings College London. The thread running through a broad and lively discussion and Q&A session seemed to be the desire for the uncovering of an inclusive, collective memory of the fight for universal suffrage. Branson discussed how her discovery of a staggeringly wide range of arrested female protestors through the parliamentary archives led her to create an art installation, New Dawn, that would celebrate the ordinary women of the suffrage movement. Dr Chidgey drew on the example of modern feminist movements, such as Sisters Uncut, who sport the colours of the WSPU, to ask if the ‘beloved national feminist memory’ of women’s suffrage could become a tool of protest, rather than its result.

The evening was aptly concluded by Sian Norris, Ben Pimlott Writer in Residence 2018 in the Department of Politics, who read two monologues from the pamphlet  And in the end, we won: Three stories of women’s protest, written as part of her residency at Birkbeck. As her words led us from the mind of a silenced woman of pre-1918 Britain to one who feels she has no voice in the era of the Trump administration, we appeared to need the memory of the suffrage movement more than ever before.

Further information:

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Winnie Madikizela-Mandela: A Controversial Life

Join an upcoming symposium, exploring the life and legacy of Winnie Mandela through screenings of two documentaries, Winnie (2017) and Winnie Mandela and the Missing Witness (2010), followed by discussions with the directors and further panel discussions. This will take place on Friday 16 November 2018, 9am-4.30pm, at the 43 Gordon Square Cinema. 

In death, as in life, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela continues to excite strong views. Exemplified in the Independent headline, ‘Winnie Mandela: the turbulent life of the woman who went from “Mother of the Nation” to “mugger”’, most narratives of this global icon either fall into the binary trope of good/bad mother, or trace the fall from grace of a respected and courageous comrade. Excoriated by her critics, most significantly, for her association with the Mandela United Football Club’s violent activities in the 1980s, her life and legacy has gained a renewed saliency in South Africa in which her visions of a radical democracy speak anew to a younger generation of activists disillusioned with the fruits of the ‘Mandela miracle’ and with what they see as the compromises of the ANC leadership.  Both the essentially mythical Madikizela-Mandela and the complex and controversial historical figure call for re-examination.

This day’s symposium, held to mark the centenary year of Nelson Mandela’s birth, and the year of the death of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, seeks to play a role in this reappraisal. Beginning with the screening of two recent documentaries of her life, the Sundance Award-winning film Winnie (2017) and Winnie Mandela and the Missing Witness, (BBC Inside Story series. Episode TRC 99, Part 01, 2010), and discussion between the directors Pascale Lamsche and Nicholas Claxton, and film-scholar Dr Jacqueline Maingard, the days’ events conclude with a round-table and Q and A session with columnists, writers and academics. Columnist and publisher Palesa Morudu, historians Drs Elizabeth Williams, Emily Bridger and Professor Colin Bundy, and writer, Fred Bridgland will form this second panel, chaired by the former BBC correspondent, Martin Plaut. They, together with an audience of academics and the interested public, will reflect on the turbulent and dramatic life of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela looking beyond one-dimensional vilifications and rose-tinted eulogies and immortalisations to consider the historical figure in all her complexity.

An initiative of the University of London Southern African Studies Seminar, and generously funded by BIMI, BISR and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, it has been convened by Sue Onslow (Institute of Commonwealth Studies), Emma Sandon (Birkbeck) and Hilary Sapire (Birkbeck)

Click here for further information and to register.

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