BBK x SWUFE SUMMER SCHOOL 2019

BBK SWUFE Summer School

On the 29th of July, Birkbeck welcomed twenty students to London from the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics (SWUFE) of Chengdu, China. These students were the first to arrive and experience Birkbeck’s student lifestyle as part of the joint bachelor’s degree programme between Birkbeck and SWUFE.

“From their cultural ‘English Insights’ classes to punting on the river Cam, the SWUFE students were exposed to everything British, everything Birkbeck and more.

On a sunny Monday afternoon, Andrea Williams, William Richards and Xiaohong Chen greeted the arriving students at Heathrow airport; jet-lagged and bleary-eyed from their twelve-hour flight. With a quick stop-off at the student halls and a welcoming tour of Bloomsbury, the Summer School swung into action from day one.

For two weeks, the visiting SWUFE students experienced the beauty of Bloomsbury, the inclusive Birkbeck student lifestyle and the wider wonders of London. From their cultural ‘English Insights’ classes to punting on the river Cam, the SWUFE students were exposed to everything British, everything Birkbeck and more.

During their first full day in London, the SWUFE students received a ceremonial welcoming from Professors Philip Powell and Kevin Ibeh. Shortly after the formalities however, a red 1960s Routemaster bus gave the SWUFE students a whirlwind tour of London’s sights.

A red 1960s Routemaster bus gave the SWUFE students a whirlwind tour of London’s sights

“A red 1960s Routemaster bus gave the SWUFE students a whirlwind tour of London’s sights.”

As part of the two-week programme, Ms Narelle Hassell presented a series of guest lectures surrounding British culture and ‘English Insights’. SWUFE students were exposed to cockney rhyming slang, Punch & Judy, Sherlock Holmes and even the British obsession with pubs. As a point of order, the students were then treated to an evening at The Marquis Cornwallis where they sampled British ‘pub grub’ and a pint besides Russel Square. Fish and chips certainly proved popular!

To compliment Narelle’s fascinating lecture series, the students were guided in exploring several iconic sites in England; the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, the grounds of the Tower of London, the Greenwich observatory at sunset and a day exploring the enchanting streets and waterways of Cambridge. A spectacular ride on the London Eye topped-off the outings with the students having their own BBK x SWUFE capsule.

Birkbeck’s academics and alumni equally played a key role in shaping the SWUFE experience during the Summer School. Guest lectures from Dr Geoff Walters, Ms Andrea Picazo and the Birkbeck Students’ Union gave the SWUFE students an insight into academic seminars, student support services, and extra-curricular activities on campus. Practicalities were covered too; London’s employability and the range of student housing options were presented by Ms Catherine Charpentier and Ms Lucy Crittenden.

Whilst the two-week programme allowed the SWUFE students to explore London and enjoy a taste of the Birkbeck student experience, their real adventure begins in the Autumn of 2020 for a full year of studies with Birkbeck. In wishing farewell, each of the students were presented with a certificate and a unique Birkbeck gift at this year’s closing ceremony in the Keynes Library. A fabulous high tea at the British Museum then saw them through to the end of this year’s summer school.

"The real adventure begins in the autumn of 2020 for a full year of studies with Birkbeck."

“The real adventure begins in the autumn of 2020 for a full year of studies with Birkbeck.”

The BBK x SWUFE Summer School has proved to be an instant hit as Birkbeck and SWUFE develop their special partnership. Andrea Williams and the School of Business, Economics and Informatics would like to thank all students and staff who helped in making this a summer school to remember.

As for 2020, the bar has been set high…

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Arts Week 2018: Floating Islands

Ellie Warr is a full-time student on the Birkbeck and RADA Text & Performance MA. She is currently collaborating with members of the T&P course to develop a new show inspired by the offshore bars established by the LGBTQ+ community of New Orleans. She writes here about Professor Gill Perry’s lecture Floating Islands In Contemporary Art, and was drawn to the event by the promise of different perspectives on the way that islands, and the themes of exile and identity, interact.

Floating plastic waste … a trash island in the making

The lecture took place in the cinema at 43 Gordon Square, which allowed Visiting Professor Gill Perry to share large images of the work of Alex Hartley, Robert Smithson and Andrea Zittel with her audience. ‘Floating islands’ is a sub-category of the subject of Perry’s forthcoming publication, Islands in Contemporary Art, and the lecture provided an opportunity for Perry to work through some of the issues that she was encountering in her research, including the scarcity of women artists creating work in the topic.

Coverage of floating islands in literature is abundant, Perry argued, while in the visual arts the subject is a lot less busy. Perry is thinking specifically of 18th and 19th century science and fantasy fiction, such as Jules Verne’s, The Floating Island, in which a propeller-powered, aristocrat-laden mobile island tours the Pacific Ocean. For contemporary visual artists, the idea of the floating island is pertinent to critical ideas such as migration and ‘post-Brexit fantasies of our separate island status’.

Global warming was the direct cause of Alex Hartley’s ‘Now Here is Land’, an island in the high arctic region of Svalbard that Hartley ‘discovered’ in 2004. Now Here is Land (also pronounced ‘no where island’) was revealed as a result of glacial retreat and claimed by Hartley in a satire of colonial statement. After securing a commission from the Arts Council as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, Hartley won his appeal for the island’s independence and tugged a piece the size of a football pitch around the south west coast of England. His ‘new nation for a complicated world’ ornamented, or ‘disfigured’, the seaside snaps of holidayers from Weymouth to Bristol, many of whom became citizens via the island’s mobile embassy. 23,003 signed up in total, and were ‘rewarded’ for their global spirit by receiving a chunk of the island once the tour was done.

The commission was a subversive element of the Cultural Olympiad and Perry wryly commented that Hartley does not think the idea would receive funding if proposed today. As an anti-nation state, Now Here is Land pokes at the resurgence of the nation-state in recent years. Perry juxtaposed the island with the more easily recognisable Orbit, the 114.5-metre-high sculpture by Sir Anish Kapoor that has reshaped the East London landscape and exemplifies the ‘hubristic masculinity’ that Perry also recognises in Christo’s forthcoming Mastaba, a huge floating installation piece coming to the Serpentine this summer.

In contrast, Perry argued, Hartley’s work is more in keeping with the potentially ‘naive’ works of Lucy and Jorge Orta, whose Antarctica Project (2007) featured a series of tents decorated with flags from around the world recalling the temporary accommodation of refugees fleeing military and social conflict. Like Hartley, the Orta’s mimicked the processes by which nationhood is constructed, distributing the Antarctica World Passport, ‘which included a proposal to ratify the UN Declaration of Human Rights: Article 13.3. Everyone has the right to move freely and cross-frontiers to their chosen territory. No individual should have an inferior status to that of capital, trade, telecommunication, or pollution that traverse all borders.’ Perry emphasised the way that contemporary artists invoke symbolic citizenship as a form of political activism; acts of collective power that are exempt from the 21st century ideals of individualism and isolation that the island motif offers.

Perry opened the floor to questions towards the end of the session, inviting her audience to comment on the wide-ranging nature of her research so far. One of the issues of the subcategory of floating islands, Perry explained, was in constructing a justifying criteria. However, while the international campaign to recognise the Trash Isles, the island of plastic floating in the Pacific, as an official country continues to raise awareness about the critical issues of the contemporary, I think Perry’s efforts will remain highly relevant.

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LLM students through to semi-finals of prestigious Moot competition

Two Birkbeck LLM students are set to compete in the semi-finals of one of the most prestigious and popular mooting competitions in the UK, led by Mooting Co-Ordinator Jonathan Thorpe from the School of Law.

Lewis Aldous (pictured, right) and Daniel Cullen (left), both post-graduates on the LLM Qualifying Law degree programme, are through to the semi-finals of the Oxford University Press (OUP) and Inns of Court College of Advocacy National Mooting Competition.

Moot competitions are an ancient method of training lawyers in the art of advocacy, an essential skill for those wishing to practise law. Moots involve two teams, competing in a fictitious appeal case, but in front of a real judge. Teams are scored under several headings – on their ability to interpret and use the law, their skill in presenting legal arguments, and how they deal with questions from the judge during the moot.

Birkbeck Law School runs its own moot training programme each academic year. from which students are selected to compete externally, against other universities, in the major UK moots.

Over the past few years, Birkbeck Law School has had considerable success in the national moots, but LLM students Lewis and Daniel have done exceptionally well this year, beating three highly reputable law schools in legal problems ranging over criminal law, contract law and contempt of court, to reach the semi-finals of OUP.

Further congratulations are due to Lewis, who was recently awarded a full scholarship by Inner Temple Inn of Court to study to be a barrister.

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Birkbeck’s day out with the London Venture Crawl

Jenna Davies leads the extracurricular Enterprise activities at Birkbeck and recently took a group of students on the London Venture Crawl, an event aimed at connecting them with businesses and experts.

Wednesday 14 March saw a group of entrepreneurial students from Birkbeck join an event that was unlike any other; six double-decker buses, nine London Universities and over 200 students made up the London Venture Crawl and celebrated everything the city offers to budding entrepreneurs.

Birkbeck teamed up with University of the Arts and the University of East London and transported students to a range of enterprising spaces around the capital to inspire them to pursue their start-up ventures, meet successful entrepreneurs along the way and ultimately check out a snapshot of what London offers on the start-up scene.

The day started bright and early with students ready for the first stop of the day at Campus London, a Google space in Shoreditch. Hearing from Creative Entrepreneurs, an innovative community of creative individuals, the group woke up and boarded the double decker bus that was to be their mode of transport for the day.

On board, they were greeted by serial social entrepreneur Benjamin Western, Co-Founder of Gaggle and indiGO Volunteers to pump them up for the rest of the journey.

The second stop was at Amazon Fashion, catering nicely for the group as they got an insight into the impressive warehouse where all of Amazon’s fashion items go for checking, photographing and packing. A panel discussion with the top operators gave a glimpse into life at the leading online retailer.

Third stop of the day took the group to Grant Thornton, after hearing from their Head of Growth Finance, Sarah Abrahams. Lunch was served and the students met Crate Brewery Founder Tom Seaton who shared his story starting up Hackney’s well-known venue.

The venture continued on to Hello Fresh, the extremely impressive and relatively new organisation that saw its revenues grow from €2.3m in 2012 to €304m in 2015 – here the students met some of the key players at their London hub and toured the quirky space.

The penultimate stop for the group was Innovation Warehouse, a co-working space and community for digital high-growth start-ups. The students were able to hear from the founder Ami Shpiro along with some of the entrepreneurs within the community.

The final stop brought all six buses together where students from across the nine universities to could network over a pizza and beverage while hearing from the inspiring Lawrence Kemball-Cook, founder and CEO of Pavegen, as well as take part in the cross-bus pitching competition. Birkbeck stormed through to the final, with Business Innovation student Bobette Kenge rounding off the day on a high and ending what was an extremely eventful, inspiring event for everyone involved.

Birkbeck Business & French student Jennifer said: “The Plexal building was fantastic, the talk at Grant Thornton with the Founder of Crate Brewery was great and gave an insight into the different types of investments, investors and how it all works, and Amazon Fashion was heaven to me! I would love to come to a similar event again and meet more people.”

This was an incredible opportunity for our students to network with a huge range of fellow London students, plus receive invaluable advice from the speakers throughout the day. The energetic atmosphere lasted right to the end of the day and was fantastic to see.

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