The festival is open!

Welcome to the Arts & Humanities Festival 2012, a fortnight packed with exhibitions, lectures, concerts and film screenings showcasing the remarkable research currently taking place across the School of Arts & Humanities at King’s.

The festival officially opens this evening at 18.00 with a panel discussion about transformations across our disciplines, featuring a handful of leading figures from across King’s including Deborah Bull of the King’s Cultural Institute, Professor of English Paul Gilroy and Festival director Max Saunders. This will be followed by a drinks reception at 19.30 – all are welcome.

Tickets for many events have already sold out, but if you haven’t booked yours yet then don’t worry; there’s still plenty to see and do. The festival is proudly home to six inaugural lectures from Professors including Markus Vinzent (TRS), Jo McDonagh (English) and Peter Heather (History), who will take a unique look at one of the most significant moments in Western history: the conversion of Constantine.

Musical events also abound, with a clutch of concerts including an exploration of Early Music led by Jane Chapman in the Chapel, Parody Masses and contrafacta from the King’s College Choir, and the début performance of a new work by composer and Department of Music Professor Silvina Milstein.

And as our city’s sporting summer draws to a close, we’ll also be exploring the cultural legacy of London 2012, with Dr Ben Schofield leading a discussion about representations of Germany in the Cultural Olympiad, and the Strand Campus Quad playing host to Collective Spirit, the ‘ship of stories’ that made its maiden voyage around the South Coast in the run-up to the Olympics.

Tickets for all these events and many more are available on our eventbrite page. We look forward to welcoming you over the next two weeks and in the meantime: enjoy the festival!

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Arts@Work: Converting Degrees into Careers

A challenge that besets many idealistic arts and humanities graduates is how to translate their degrees into real working careers. How does a talent for creative writing blossom into becoming a playwright, or a passion for reading into organising a literary festival? To help address these quandaries, King’s College London’s English Department, the Film Studies Department with the help of the Careers and Employability Service and a special grant from the College Teaching Fund, offered a two day careers workshop entitled Arts@Work, running from 28th-29th June 2012. Its aim was to use interviews, talks and workshops to give students the chance to quiz a range of arts professionals on how to use their degrees in future careers. Continue reading

Adapting Parade’s End

One definition of a classic book is a work which inspires many metamorphoses. Romeo and Juliet, Gulliver’s Travels, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Great Gatsby don’t just wait in their original forms to be watched or read, but continually migrate from one medium to another: painting, opera, melodrama, dramatization, film, comic-strip. New technologies inspire further reincarnations. Sometimes it’s a matter of transferring a version from one medium to another – audio recordings to digital files, say. More often, the new technologies encourage new realisations: Hitchcock’s Psycho re-shot in colour; French or German films remade for American audiences; widescreen or 3D remakes of classic movies or stories.

Adaptations of literary works for the screen have become ever more prominent; not only in television scheduling, but in the teaching of literature. They are among the metamorphoses that feature most often in the working lives of academics and students in the Arts and Humanities. So they might well feature among the topics to be discussed at the Festival’s opening panel.

The adaptation that’s been preoccupying me for the last month is the BBC2 version of Parade’s End, the series of four novels about the Edwardian era and the First World War, written by the British novelist Ford Madox Ford, and dramatized by Sir Tom Stoppard.

Parade’s End (1924-28) has to be one of the most challenging books to film. It’s a classic work of Modernism: with a non-linear time-scheme that can jump around in disconcerting ways; dense experimental writing that plays with styles and techniques. Though it includes some of the most brilliant conversations in the British novel, and its characters have a strong dramatic presence, much of it is inherently un-dramatic and, you might have thought, unfilmable: long interior monologues, descriptions of what characters see and feel; and – perhaps hardest of all to convey in drama – moments when they don’t say what they feel, or do what we might expect of them. Imagine T. S.Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’, populated by Chekhovian characters, but set on the Western Front. Continue reading

Olympic Legacies – Cultural Transformations

How can the legacy of the Cultural Olympiad be documented and maintained?

A keyword of the London 2012 Olympics has been ‘legacy’ – that notion of securing a longer-term impact for the Games, which both LOCOG Chair Sebastian Coe and IOC President Jacques Rogge stressed in their speeches during the Opening Ceremony last night. (It is also the concept that has been so brilliantly lampooned by the BBC‘s Olympics mockumentary “Twenty Twelve”, in which the Head of Legacy and Head of Sustainability fight tooth and claw over the vagueness of their remits.)

Legacy is also a central issue for the Cultural Olympiad – both for the programme as a whole, designed as it was to bring culture to the masses, and for the individual artists and organizations involved. It involves both the documentation of the Olympiad itself – a way of preserving its artistic legacy – but also an attempt to continue the public engagement and idea of cultural citizenship promoted by the season of events.

For Shakespeare’s Globe the first step in securing the artistic legacy of the Globe to Globe Festival was to digitally document the season. This involved filming all the productions, which are now available online on thespace (a portal documenting many aspects of the Olympiad, and designed to transform the way people connect with culture), as well as undertaking company interviews for the Globe Archive (also available online) and capturing the festival in photographs.

A further feature of the digital documentation was the Globe to Globe blog – instantaneous responses to the shows written by a group of academics, including staff from King’s. Dr Sonia Massai, from the Department of English and the London Shakespeare Centre, wrote on the Italian production of Julius Caesar, while Professor Ann Thompson, also from English and the Shakespeare Centre, wrote on the Lithuanian version of Hamlet. As a German Studies specialist, I wrote (together with my colleague Jeannie Farr) on the Bremer Shakespeare Company‘s German-language production of Timon of Athens. These blogs in turn mark the first step towards a book project, Shakespeare Beyond English: A Global Experiment, edited by Christie Carson and Susan Bennett. You can read my blog review of Timon of Athens on the Globe’s website here.

Yet legacy means more than just the documentation of the events, and the academic discussion derived from this. The Globe to Globe season relied heavily on volunteers, as did so many elements of the Olympiad, including last night’s Opening Ceremony. ‘Globe Ambassadors’ were sought for each of the 37 languages represented in the festival, and ultimately a group of over 80 Londoners were formed who promoted the season, bringing its message to groups it might not have reached otherwise, and acting both as ambassadors for the theatre, and for their own linguistic communities and the wider London 2012 Festival. City, national and international identities were activated through participation in a cultural event like the Globe to Globe season – and now organizations like the Globe are working out how to capitalize and build on the volunteer networks, and the cultural activation of local and global communities, that have been a product of the Olympiad.

How this process might be managed, and whether the Olympiad can have a legacy beyond the first step of documenting the artistic events involved, are just some of the issues that will be discussed at the German Department’s event in the Arts and Humanities Festival 2012, on ‘Staging German Culture: The Representation of Germany in the Cultural Olympiad’.

Dr Ben Schofield, Department of German

What’s happening at this year’s Festival?

We are delighted to announce some of the exciting events taking place at this year’s festival…

Michael Morpurgo and Maggie Fergusson will discuss ‘The Spoils of War’. Will Self and Patrick Wright will examine contemporary society, and the notion of a shrinking England. Arts group Lone Twin will be ‘mooring’ their extraordinary Boat Project in the Strand Quad for its London premiere, which will include talks by the artists about the stories behind the boat, and a concert.

Simon McBurney of Complicite theatre company and writer Lisa Appignanesi will discuss the Brain and the Mind with experts in neuroscience and philosophy of mind. The Guardian’s Charlotte Higgins will discuss ‘Fakes, Mistakes & Fantasies in Roman Britain’. There will also be a virtual tour of the Strandlines project, featuring its ‘Cabinet of Artists’. Crime writer Jim Kelly will discuss transforming landscapes.

There will be concerts including a performance by The Opera Group, and a world premiere of new work by King’s composer Silvina Milstein, performed by Lontano. One evening will include ‘Theatre by the Hour’ performances.

The Festival also features events on Feminism; Proust’s Magic Lantern; the conversion of the Emperor Constantine; how art and neuroscience represent auditory hallucinations; the transformation of film from celluloid to digital; Religion in American Politics; the controversial Christian Gospel of Marcion; the use of digital technology to reconstruct lost architecture; William Blake’s spiritual city; the graffiti of the Arab Spring; and many more.

The full programme for the festival, which runs from 13th – 27th October, will be available on the website soon – watch this space!

“But Shakespeare is German!”

Where does national identity fit into a ‘World Shakespeare Festival’?

One of the most high profile strands of the Cultural Olympiad has been the World Shakespeare Festival. In planning since 2007, the festival was designed to “celebrate Shakespeare as the world’s playwright”, and has been a central feature of this summer’s London 2012 Festival. A highlight of the programme was the Globe to Globe season at Shakespeare’s Globe: a remarkable attempt to stage thirty-seven of Shakespeare’s plays in thirty-seven different languages over just six weeks. In many respects, the season can be seen as a form of cultural analogue to the sporting Games that will begin in just eight days time – celebrating the ‘Yard Olympians’ (the 117 dedicated audience members who were brave enough to stand for every show) and the ‘Olympic stamina’ of the actors and companies involved.

My interest in the Globe to Globe and World Shakespeare Festival is two-fold. On the one hand, I’m keen to examine the ways in which Shakespeare becomes the focus for cultural transfers and transformations, especially in the framework of the Olympiad, with its double prerogative of celebrating both UK and global culture. What event could better respond to this need, you might think, than a World Shakespeare Festival? On the other hand, I’m also fascinated by the ways in which the rhetoric of a ‘global Shakespeare’ potentially elides or replaces national narratives. Where does nation fit in to our image of a ‘World Shakespeare?’

Working in the German Department at King’s, my particular interest is in the relationship between Shakespeare and Germany, not least since Shakespeare is often called an honorary German (something that regularly comes as a surprise to those used to thinking of him as the ‘British Bard’). In the words of Patrick Spottiswoode, the Director of Globe Education, “there has been a strong love of Shakespeare in Germany amongst actors, scholars and writers since the late 18th century”. Given that Shakespeare arguably belongs as much to a German cultural tradition as an English one, perhaps we should begin to question whether German interpretations of Shakespeare can even be read as ‘appropriations’ of English culture, or whether Shakespeare has truly ‘gone native’ in Germany?

This is just one of the issues I consider in my podcast on the Globe to Globe Festival and the German production of Timon of Athens by the Bremer Shakespeare Company, which you can find below. Click on the player to listen, or visit the podcasts page of the King’s News Centre and iKing’s to discover more lectures and podcasts from King’s College London academics.

Dr Ben Schofield, Department of German

Festival 2011 Highlights: Peter Adamson’s Brief History of Nothing

One of the highlights of the 2011 Arts & Humanities festival was Professor Peter Adamson‘s lecture, A Brief History of Nothing. In it, he spoke about his podcast project, The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps, and the idea of telling the history of philosophy as a continuous narrative, without leaving anything out. Then, by way of illustration, he discussed the problem of empty space or “void”, showing how this idea evolved from the earliest Greek thinkers to authors of the Islamic world – in both science (including medicine) and philosophy.

Listen to the full recording of Professor Adamson’s lecture below, and visit the iKing’s page to discover more lectures and podcasts from King’s College London academics.