Heritage & Creativity

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A model box by Peter Snow, the designer of Hall’s 1955 Waiting for Godot

Professor Anna McMullan, Film, Theatre and Television, University of Reading.

The death of Sir Peter Hall on 11th September marks the passing of a major theatre director who shaped post-World War II British theatre. He founded the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1961, and was director of the National Theatre from 1973 – 88, as it moved into its South Bank home. In addition to his landmark productions of Shakespeare and opera, he nurtured the work of contemporary playwrights such as David Hare and Howard Brenton.

All of his obituaries note that the play that propelled the 24 year old director into the public eye was his production of the English language premiere of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in August 1955 at the Arts Theatre London. While some critics thought that Waiting for Godot was ‘an odd mass of nonsense’ (Ronald Barker in Plays and Players), the influential Harold Hobson and Kenneth Tynan recognised that Godot was taking theatre in a new direction – Tynan noted that the play forced him ‘to re-examine the rules which have hitherto governed the drama; and, having done so, to pronounce them not elastic enough’. That Hall was strongly drawn to Beckett’s theatre anticipated his championing of Pinter when he staged The Homecoming in 1965 at the Aldwych amid considerable opposition. Read the rest of this entry »

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By Katherine Harloe, Associate Professor in Classics and Intellectual History, University of Reading & Jessica Stevens-Taylor, LGBT+ Heritage Officer, Support U

An appeal for personal stories from members of the LGBT+ community has been issued as part of a project marking 60 years since the publication of a milestone report in the unfinished path towards equality.

Monday September 4 marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of the Wolfenden Report, which resulted 10 years later in 1967 in the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales. The report was named after former University of Reading Vice Chancellor Sir John (later Lord) Wolfenden, who chaired the ‘Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution’. He was Vice-Chancellor at the University of Reading from 1950 to 1964.

Now, the University and local LGBT+ charity Support U are seeking to mark the anniversary by collecting stories and recollections from those who have witnessed discrimination first-hand, but also felt the positive difference changes to the law over the past 50 years have made to their lives.

Monday’s anniversary comes two days after Reading Pride, and Support U’s partnership with Reading Buses means many will have seen Lord Wolfenden pictured on the side of buses over the weekend. While ‘pride’ was not an item on Wolfenden’s agenda, indeed his view was that gay people should not be visible, without events like Wolfenden’s Report the LGBT+ community would not have had a voice; they would still have been persecuted into the shadows.

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By Dr Matthew Nicholls, Department of Classics, University of Reading

A heated conversation arose on social media on Wednesday surrounding the question of the racial diversity of Roman Britain, or the Roman empire more generally.

The tweet from Alt Right commentator Paul Jospeh Watson, that kicked off the debate

There is plenty of evidence that the Roman empire was relatively diverse, as might be expected from an empire that encouraged trade and mobility across a territory that extended from Hadrian’s Wall to north Africa, the Rhine, and the Euphrates (and which, less positively, enslaved and moved conquered populations around by force).

Rome itself was a melting pot of people from all over the Mediterranean and beyond (satirical poets moan about it, and we have the evidence of tombstones). Outside Italy the Roman army in particular acted as medium for change and movement in several ways.

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By Dr Rebecca Bullard, Department of English Literature, University Reading

Jane Austen would, I think, have been delighted to feature on the new £10 note. Many of her novels are about the impact of money – and especially the lack of it – on women’s lives.

Her first published works, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, feature families full of daughters struggling under a legal system that keeps all property in the hands of (sometimes distant) male relatives. The famous opening of Pride and Prejudice, of course, tells us that ‘a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife’. Austen’s fourth novel, Emma, turns this observation on its head, with Emma Woodhouse declaring that, ‘A single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable old maid!’

Austen never condones this kind of snobbery: Emma comes to regret her unkind behaviour towards the impoverished spinster, Miss Bates, and the protagonist of Mansfield Park, Fanny Price, is dignified in poverty. Nonetheless, it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that marrying well for Austen meant, above all, escaping the financial insecurity of a single life; love is a bonus.

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A project to explore how growing more trees on farmland could regulate the climate is one of those that was secured during May.

A total of £2,173,327 was confirmed during the month, with funds awarded by research councils, businesses, government departments and agencies, charities, and learned societies. The awards will be distributed across 20 new research projects.

Professor Steve Mithen, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, said: “Once again, well done to everyone who has been involved in securing this latest batch of research awards.

“The list of funders this month highlights how our researchers are engaging with a diverse range of organisations outside academia, including in business and policy areas.”

Among those winning funding are:

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More than £2 million of new funding was confirmed for University of Reading research during April.

A total of 19 research projects received awards ranging in size from less than £1,000 up to nearly £500,000. The total value is £2,033,172.

Professor Steve Mithen, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, said: “Congratulations to all those who have been awarded research funds.

“I am pleased that we are attracting funding for both applied and pure research. It is vital that we continue both to research topics that show immediate benefits to society, as well as projects aiming more generally to advance our understanding.”

Funders during the month include UK research councils and trusts, charities, and international government agencies in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Among those winning grants are:

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By Professor Grace Ioppolo, English Literature professor at the University of Reading, and 2017 Sam Wanamaker Fellow at Shakespeare’s Globe

Although the Sam Wanamaker Fellowship Lecture was scheduled several months ago, for Thursday 8 June, the timing is now auspicious, for it will take place on the evening of the General Election.

Whilst my subject will be how Shakespeare viewed his audiences, I will now be obliged to work in a few Shakespearean quotes and puns on elections (at least from Hamlet and Julius Caesar, not to mention All’s Well that Ends Well (‘thy frank election make; / Thou hast power to choose, and they none to forsake.”).

We know how we feel about Shakespeare, but we don’t really know how he felt about his theatrical audiences and readers. My talk will look at evidence that still exists in archival records and in play texts from the late 16th and early 17th century about how Shakespeare and his colleagues viewed public and private audiences.

I assume that Shakespeare liked us as much as we liked him, although he knew that

The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.  (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

So, it’s the poet who gives the audience the power to use their imagination. Whether they accept that power is up to them.

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Professor Roberta Gilchrist, Professor of Archaeology and Research Dean at the University of Reading, will present the prestigious Rhind Lectures 2017, at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, from 19-21 May. The Rhinds are the biggest archaeology lecture series in the world, comprising six lectures given over one weekend.

Professor Roberta Gilchrist at Glastonbury Abbey, the subject of one of her Rhind Lectures

The free annual lectures have been hosted by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland since 1874 to commemorate Alexander Henry Rhind, whose money bequeathed to the society first allowed them to take place, making the Rhinds the oldest and most renowned series of archaeology lectures internationally.

Professor Gilchrist has chosen the theme ‘Sacred Heritage: Archaeology, Identity and Medieval Beliefs’.  The six lectures will explore the value of sacred heritage today and in the past, examining the political and ideological use of monastic archaeology from the 12th century to the modern day.

The lectures outline a new research agenda for the archaeological study of medieval monasticism, focusing on critical approaches to heritage, the study of identity, healing, magic and memory.  They feature a strong emphasis on the archaeology of medieval Scotland, to coincide with the Scottish Government’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017.

In the past year, Professor Gilchrist has also given prestigious named lectures in Sweden, Canada and the USA and was Current Archaeology’s Archaeologist of the Year 2016, based on a vote by members of the public.

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Are you an Open Researcher? Do you support or promote Open Research? Did the conference convert you? If you’ve got an Open Research story to tell and would like to write a post for our blog, please drop me a line. We would love to hear your stories.

On 30th March we hosted the conference Open in Practice: Inspirations, Strategies and Methods for Open Research here at the University of Reading. Our aim was to stimulate conversation about Open Research, to showcase the benefits of an Open Research approach, and to enthuse researchers to adopt open methods in their own research practice.

The conference featured a number of guest speakers, including academics, publishers and data specialists, who came to talk about their experience of Open Research and what it means in practice. The audience included a broad representation of University researchers and research students, members of the University’s research support services, and academics from beyond Reading. Altogether 90 people, over two-thirds of them research-active, attended the conference, and took part in a day of stimulating discussions.

Slides from speakers’ presentations and a record of the concluding panel discussion can be found here, and you can relive all the drama of the day at our Storify timeline. In short video clips Marcus Munafo and Simon Tanner summarise the key messages of their plenary talks, and several of our delegates tell us about their Open Resolutions.

Why a conference on Open Research?

This is the first time the University has organised an event of this nature. Why did we do it? For two reasons.

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