Blaenau Gwent arts project celebration event

Aspiring Poets, musicians and artists from across Blaenau Gwent got together over video last month in a cultural celebration of their area, history and people.

The group are part of BG REACH (Blaenau Gwent Residents Engaging in Arts, Culture and Heritage) a celebration of the heritage, history and people of Blaenau Gwent past and present, led by Dr. Richard Marsden, Senior Lecturer and Staff Tutor in History. The group met for the first time in February 2020 at creative workshops in Aberbeeg. The pandemic cut short face-to-face sessions, but the group kept in touch over video and carried on working together.

‘Back then we didn’t anticipate the imminent challenges to come in the form of severe flooding and then a global pandemic,’ explains Sarah Roberts, the OU in Wales’ partnerships coordinator for south-east Wales. ‘But by working together and mainly down to the commitment and passion of people within the Aberbeeg community group, here we are today to share and celebrate some of the creative work that’s been happening during these challenging times.’

During the online celebration, the group shared a music project, poems, art and photography with each other and the Open University academics who had worked with them. Linc Cymru Housing Association staff, who also supported the project, were among the attendees alongside family and friends. Cynefin2, a video created and recorded remotely by the group during the pandemic which celebrates in words and music the beauty of the area, was also premiered during the event.

The BG REACH team hope to keep gathering more creative work which celebrates heritage in Blaenau Gwent. This can include photography, creative writing, artwork, or music which will be shown in an exhibition in 2021. If you live in the area and interested in sharing your work email wales-partnerships@open.ac.uk to find out more.

Funding success for Community Research and Engagement Project

Dr Richard Marsden, Lecturer in History, with Sarah Roberts of the OU in Wales and partner Linc Cymru, have been successful in their bid for funding for a community research and engagement project with participants in Blaenau Gwent (South Wales).

The award of £37.5k, from the UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) “Enhancing place-based partnerships in public engagement” competitive £500k pathfinder funding, will be matched by a further £18.5k in kind from the OU and project partner Linc Cymru housing association. The UKRI fund supports eligible research organisations UK-wide to pilot place-based public engagement partnerships and activities. Of 91 bids from universities across the UK, just 19 were successful

The project – BG Reach (Blenau Gwent Residents Engaging in Arts, Community and Heritage) – will enable participants from marginalised communities to explore their own sense of heritage and identity through the creative arts. A series of workshops facilitated by Open University tutors are at the heart of the project. These will support community members to reflect on local heritage and its relevance to their own sense of identity. Participants will be supported to articulate those reflections through creative endeavours such as fiction, art, song-writing and oral history.

At the end of the project, a multi-media exhibition of participants’ work, designed by community members, will be toured and made available online. The team will produce a report on the challenges, and their solutions, to community-based co-production experienced by the project, and a journal article using the exhibition to explore links between heritage and identity in the South Wales Valleys. Pathways towards formal study will also be created for those participants, enthused by the informal learning in the creative workshops, who wish to further their studies.

The intention is to seek further funding which would enable widening the project out to other disadvantaged communities across the UK.

This is one of 53 pilot projects that we have funded, all using exciting ways that researchers and innovators can involve the public in their work. In 2020 and beyond, we will build on the lessons we learn through funding these pilot projects to help us achieve our ambition of making research and innovation responsive to the knowledge, priorities and values of society and open to participation by people from all backgrounds.” – Tom Saunders, Head of Public Engagement, UK Research and Innovation.

UK Research and Innovation works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. It operates across the whole of the UK with a budget of more than £7 billion.

Dr Sandip Hazareesingh keynote address ‘Food Memories and Stories from Karnataka women farmers’

How historical research can contribute to international development challenges

Dr Sandip Hazareesingh delivered a keynote address titled ‘Food Memories and Stories from Karnataka women farmers’ at a GCRF event on ‘Food and Heritage’ at the University of Leeds on 10 January. The event was organised by Praxis, a recently set up project funded by AHRC-GCRF with the aim of championing the distinctive contribution that Arts and Humanities research can make to tackling urgent development issues. https://changingthestory.leeds.ac.uk/praxis/

New online resource on UK peace activism in the Cold War

On 21 November a new online resource for exploring the British peace movement during the height of the Cold War was launched, developed by our own Dr Luc-André Brunet. This resource, entitled ‘Peace Activism in the UK during the Cold War’, is a collaboration between The Open University and the Peace and Security project at LSE IDEAS, of which Dr Brunet is Co-Director. You can explore it here.

This online resource features newly digitised documents from the collection of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), housed at LSE Library, providing new insights into different aspects of the British peace movement in the 1980s. These are complemented with video commentary by activists, policymakers, and academics. Organised around six themes, the resource enables students, researchers, current activists, and members of the public to reassess peace activism in the Cold War and to draw lessons that can be applied to the international situation today.

The resource was launched with a public event at LSE on 22 November, featuring Dr Brunet, CND General Secretary Kate Hudson, and Sam Dudin from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). Event details can be found here.

OU PhD Studentship success

Dr. Amanda Goodrich and Dr. Luc-Andre Brunet will be the primary supervisors for two new OU PhD studentships, through the AHRC Open-Oxford-Cambridge doctoral training partnership. The studentships will be held in collaboration with two institutions, the History of Parliament Trust and Cambridge University Library.

France and the Second World War: The Cambridge Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection (1944-1946)

The recent 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings underscored the importance of the Liberation of France in the history of the twentieth century. This PhD project aims to make use of the Cambridge University Library Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection to explore particular aspects of France during the Second World War, the Liberation, and/or in the immediate post-war period (1939-1946). The Collection consists of about 3000 books and pamphlets in French on these subjects, published from the Liberation of Paris in August 1944 to the end of 1946, encompassing a wide range of material, including novels, poetry, illustrated books, photographic albums, literature for children, testimonies from the camps, military works and political publications.

The Black and Mixed Ethnicity Presence in British Politics, 1750-1850

There is today a move to restore Black and mixed ethnicity (BME) people to their rightful place in British history. Historical attention has primarily focused on the narrative of slavery and abolition. Much has been written on the lives of Africans who migrated to Britain after escaping slavery such as Olaudah Equiano, Ignatius Sancho, Quobna Ottobah Cugoano and Mary Prince. The BME offspring of local slaves or indigenous women and British men in colonies such as the West Indies or India, who were brought ‘home’ to Britain, have also received some attention. The engagement of BME men in extra-parliamentary politics has been explored through the writings of Equiano and Cugoano on reform politics and the roles of Robert Wedderburn and William Davidson, and most recently Henry Redhead Yorke in extra parliamentary radical agitation. Yet few BME individuals have been identified in extra-parliamentary or formal British politics.

This doctoral thesis will aim to identify, quantify and analyse the BME presence in British politics and political culture more broadly, employing both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. It will potentially explore both houses of Parliament, constituency elections, local government and extra-parliamentary politics, to identify BME individuals, noting any fluidity between the sectors of engagement. In addition, the term ‘presence’ will include their methods of engagement with politics, ideas, influence and networks. The representations of and about such individuals by others and in the press may also be explored. Slave abolition will need to inform an element of the study, but it will not be the focus. In order to incorporate all relevant ethnicities the term BME will be defined with the doctoral student.

 

Royal Historical Society Symposium at The Open University, 17 May 2019

This Symposium sponsored by the Royal Historical Society reflected on how the war was commemorated in a range of different countries between 2013 and 2019. The centenary of the signing of most of the peace treaties related to the conflict in 2019 is an excellent vantage point to reflect on six years of commemoration and ask a number of important questions. How did different countries seek to commemorate the war? How did such commemoration differ, and why? Why did the origins of the war become a controversial topic once more? How did the centenary play out in countries that entered the war much later than others, and countries that were colonies during the wartime period? How did the war’s different end-points play out for national commemorations? How were the different national memories of the experience of the war reflected in planned and actual commemorative events? And, most importantly, what do we know now that we did not know before the centenary, and how might this affect the future trajectory of First World War studies? The Symposium addressed these questions, in particular examining what is different after six years of commemoration, debate, and publishing on the First World War on the occasion of the centenary. The symposium highlighted that the war was experienced differently, and is therefore remembered differently, by the various combatant nations and empires. Was commemoration perhaps less contentious in nations which had been on the winning side than among the losers of the war? We were treated to an excellent and thought-provoking keynote lecture from Professor Jay Winter, seven excellent papers and a roundtable discussion, as well as great contributions from our audience both in Milton Keynes and online.

Programme

10.00 – 10.15 Tea and Coffee

10.15 – 10.30 Welcome from Professor Annika Mombauer and Professor John Wolffe (The Open University)

10.30 – 11.30 Keynote Lecture

Professor Jay Winter (Yale University): ‘The Centenary of the Great War: Unfinished Business’

11.30 – 13.00 Panel 1: Europe

Dr Helen McCartney (King’s College London): ‘Commemoration of the First World War in Britain 2014-2018’

Dr Alison Carrol (Brunel University): ‘Local and National Commemorations of the First World War in France’

Professor Annika Mombauer (Open University): ‘2014: Germany remembers the First World War’

13.00 – 14.00 Lunch

14.00 – 15.30 Panel 2: Africa and Asia

Dr John Slight (The Open University): ‘Commemorating the war in the Middle East during a time of turbulence’

Professor Santanu Das (Oxford University): ‘Centennial Commemoration in an age of Multiculturalism: The Case of South Asia’

Dr Anne Samson (Independent Scholar): ‘Who in Africa remembered? Who remembered Africa?’

15.30 –16.00 Tea and coffee break

16.00 – 16.30 ‘Commemoration in the Museum Sector’, Laura Clouting (Imperial War Museum)

16.30 – 17.30 Roundtable discussion

Louise Ryland-Epton wins the Bryan Jerrard award and commended for the Parliamentary History Essay Prize

PhD student Louise Ryland-Epton has won the Bryan Jerrard award for 2018 and was commended for the Parliamentary History Essay Prize. The Jerrard award is something given by the Gloucestershire Local History Association (and sponsored by the History Press) for the best published article on an aspect of Gloucestershire’s local history.  Louise’s article was titled ‘Cirencester Workhouse under the Old Poor Law’ and it was published by the Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society in 2018.  The essay commended for the Parliamentary History Essay prize is entitled ‘The Impact of Backbenchers in the Creation of Social Reform: “The Indefatigable and Honourable Exertions of Mr Gilbert.”’ and will be published in Parliamentary History in 2019.

 

Mobilising Global Voices: Perspectives from the Global South

Dr Sandip Hazareesingh and collaborators from the Indian NGO Green Foundation were invited to present the research findings of their GCRF project Changing Farming Lives in South India, Past and Present at a conference on Mobilising Global Voices: Perspectives from the Global South, held at the House of Commons on 27-28 February 2019. Read Dr Hazareesingh’s blog below:

This event was jointly organised by UKRI-AHRC and the International Development Committee (IDC) of UK Parliament. The conference brought together development scholars and NGOs from the Global South, UK-based researchers, and UK Parliamentarians. Its main objective was to share ideas about achieving greater visibility and inclusion of globally diverse voices and perspectives with a view to improving UK Government (DFID) policy-making.

The IDC’s main role is to scrutinise the work of DFID by providing information and perspectives from a wide range of sources so as to ensure that policies are compliant with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. As much of the IDC’s current focus is on monitoring and evaluating DFID’s work in the areas of Forced Displacement and Climate Change, its members were given a unique opportunity to hear first-hand accounts of collaborative north-south research projects on these themes using Arts and Humanities approaches. These methodologies included oral history, story-telling, street theatre, participatory video, creative writing, used by projects researching subjects such as Local Community Experiences of Displacement from Syria; Traditional Knowledge and the Revival of Millets for a Changing Climate in South India; Living with Typhoons and Insecurity in the Philippines; Resilient Pastoralism in Mongolia and Kenya.

Members of both IDC and AHRC expressed great delight at the information and insights provided by the presentations and voiced the hope that this event heralds a continuing and inclusive dialogue between researchers in both north and south and their parliaments. However, many of the researchers present expressed scepticism about the effectiveness of such events in changing or improving government policies. Indeed, some invited delegates from the south had been refused visas to travel to the UK. Personally, I made the point, to loud applause from the floor, that unless the Home Office’s ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy is reversed and visa applications from the south approached with a radically different mindset, ‘voices from the south’ will remain marginalised and hopes for a deepening north-south dialogue on development voiced by the conference organisers might well prove unsustainable.

Harvesting water in South India, Bombay Agricultural Department Bulletin 1910. Image credit: British Library

John Slight awarded Rothschild Bursary

The Trustees of the Rothschild Archive have awarded Dr. John Slight, Lecturer in Modern History, a Rothschild Bursary to facilitate his research in the Rothschild Archive in the City of London and the Archives Nationales du Monde du Travail, Roubaix, France, for a journal article on the Rothschilds and the 1882 British occupation of Egypt.