Heritage & Creativity

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By Professor Neil Crosby, Professor of Real Estate & Planning, University of Reading

With the increase in house prices in London since 2008, and resultant increase in land values, there might be an expectation that the number of affordable homes provided within residential development schemes would meet local planning authority policy expectations.

However, this has not happened. Instead, the percentage of affordable housing delivered within schemes has actually fallen. These were the findings of a research project I co-authored, which was commended in the recent RTPI Awards for Research Excellence.

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By Andy Willimott, Lecturer in Modern Russian and Soviet History, University of Reading

With the centenary of the 1917 October Revolution approaching, historians who focus on this period, like me, find ourselves in demand. As well as highlighting the facts of Russia’s second revolution that year, we often find ourselves focusing on the turning points, the personalities, and the politics.

Of course, it’s impossible to view the events of 1917 without considering those that followed. The popular uprising of that momentous year could be viewed as a mere punctuation mark in a story that takes in five-year plans, Stalin, the Gulag and a reign of Terror.

But the socialist revolution in Russia was about more than just Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and the birth of a new state.

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Researchers from across the Heritage and Creativity theme at the University of Reading have started the new academic term strongly with several funding awards and the publication of new books.

Professor Roberta Gilchrist, Research Dean for Heritage & Creativity, said: “My congratulations to all our colleagues with good news to share.

“While the new university year has just begun, the summer is actually one of the busiest periods for research. Our researchers mark the new academic year with major new publications, grants, honours, and research events.”

Reading researchers with good news to share across the arts and humanities include the following:

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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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