Looking back at Birkbeck’s first One World Festival

The Festival was designed to celebrate Birkbeck’s positive contribution to the local and global societies, its exceptional international reach, and its rich and diverse cultures.

Last week Birkbeck celebrated its first One World Festival, with hundreds of students and members of the local community joining the events taking place throughout the week.

The attendees came from over 68 countries for over a dozen events, including a potluck picnic, with food and games on Gordon Square in which students were encouraged to bring a dish from their home country; a tea party in the Library; a sold-out performance from feminist Greek chorus cabaret, “Myth Independent” by the Constellations Theatre Company and “Around the World in 45 Minutes” by the Dionysus Ensemble; a number of academic lectures, public awareness workshops and discussions; and a historic walk around Bloomsbury, led by Birkbeck historian Mike Berlin.

The Students’ Union also relaunched their magazine, the Lamp & Owl, at a drinks reception. The new edition of the magazine focused on the rich internationalism of Birkbeck, and included a welcome message from Professor David Latchman, Master of Birkbeck.

Dr Sanjib Bhakta, Assistant Dean (International and Partnership), School of Science and Chair of the One World Festival Planning Committee said: “It was fantastic to bring so many students and members of the local community together to celebrate Birkbeck’s international culture and to start the new academic year with such a special festival of food, music and academic discussion. We hope this One World Festival was the first of many to come.”

Fraser Keir, Academic Registrar at the College said: “Birkbeck is home to students from over 120 countries worldwide, and we are proud to celebrate our diverse international community with our first One World Festival, as well as our own contributions to local and global societies. Many thanks to the staff and students who gave up their time to organise the events and made it such a success.”

New and returning international students at Birkbeck are now invited for a morning tea with Professor Latchman on 16 October 2018 at the Keynes Library, School of Arts.

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Open House London: architectural history for the people

Adam Coleman, MA History of Art student, joined the Birkbeck team to give his first tour as part of Open House London, the initiative that first sparked his interest in architectural history.

I’ve always been a fan of Open House London since moving here back in 2002; on reflection, I think that my interest in architectural history (and in particular post-war social housing) is probably attributable back to some of my early tours of estates like Camden Council’s Alexandra Road. The event has always struck me as a great entry point for the general public into architectural history, so it felt the right platform (and the right time) to ‘switch sides’ as it were and be the person giving the tour, rather than the one going on it. On Saturday I was pleased to join the Birkbeck team (steered by the incredible Eva) to contribute to the programme of tours at Gordon Square. The tour I led tour focused on Birkbeck’s RIBA award-winning cinema, completed by Surface Architects in 2006. I followed this on Sunday by co-leading tours of Tottenham’s Ferry Lane Estate, a low-rise housing estate of 750 homes completed by the Greater London Council (GLC) in the 1970s.

The opportunity to co-lead tours of the estate came about somewhat serendipitously as a result of research undertaken for Birkbeck’s Graduate Certificate in History of Art, which I completed in last academic year. As a result of my research, I had already been in contact with the estate’s active Resident Association and when I suggested that they enter Open House to mark the 40th anniversary of the estate’s opening they were enthusiastic. Without the buy-in of the Residents Association a tour would not have been possible – or indeed appropriate – and the collaboration meant that the tour could combine my architectural research with resident insight into estate’s dramatic lived history (which saw various tussles with the GLC and a high-profile case of squatters occupying an empty block).

The estate had always fascinated me since moving to Tottenham five years ago, and the research I undertook only deepened my interest; leading to more questions rather than solid answers about its built form. It was built during a period of great change in British history which witnessed a Conservative Government’s forced dismantling of the British Welfare State combined with a growing public dissatisfaction with modernist architecture, typified by the high-rise point-blocks of the late 1960s. The estate combines two contrasting housing typologies (medium-rise flat blocks and low-rise terrace/street housing) built in a consistent neo-vernacular material vocabulary comprising red brick and slate-hung upper levels. The plan of the estate is informal: private, semi-private, and public spaces combine in an irregular manner with strong natural landscaping throughout. My particular line of enquiry concerned the way in which its built form reflects this period of British history, and the extent to which it can be understood as a progressive example of estate planning which combines modernist ideas with emerging postmodern thinking.

Social housing (or lack of) is a very ‘live’ issue in Tottenham, as elsewhere in London. Local residents are currently joining forces to campaign against a controversial planning application which would see a commercial developer build over 1,000 flats in 13 tall towers, with not a single home at genuinely affordable or Council rent being proposed. It certainly felt like an apt moment to acknowledge the vision and ambition of GLC’s Ferry Lane Estate.

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Newham Young People’s Careers Fair

Hester Gartrell, Outreach and Widening Access Senior Officer at Birkbeck, discusses the recent careers fair at our Stratford campus for Newham residents aged 16-24.

On Wednesday 29 August, Birkbeck’s Stratford campus hosted Newham Young People’s Careers Fair. The fair which was delivered in partnership with Workplace, Newham’s job brokerage, provided support, advice and guidance about education, employment and training for young people aged 16-24.

The event is the result of an ongoing partnership between Birkbeck Access and Engagement and Workplace and was a fantastic opportunity for us to showcase our campus to Newham residents. A key part of our access work is to demonstrate to potential students that Birkbeck is a welcoming place which will support them throughout their studies. Opening up our doors to what can seem a daunting and gated space is essential to this.

The fair also gave us the chance to speak to local residents about Birkbeck and its flexible study options right in the heart of Newham as well as being a culmination to the work that we’ve been doing throughout the borough this summer. This has included joining Workplace on their roadshow across Newham, holding regular information and advice drop-ins at local libraries and attending community festivals.

In addition to hosting 179 Newham residents, we also had 30 organisations exhibit at the fair from sectors as varied as construction, television and further education. Not only did the event allow us to build links with these businesses, it again allowed us to show others our campus where they may want to host their own events or where they or their colleagues may want to consider studying.

We’re looking forward to hosting more Access and Engagement events and activities on campus in autumn and beyond with plans for our own events and further partnership working.

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