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Bush Writers 1940-2012

Bush Writers 1940-2012

Bush Writers is a collaborative project between the Open University and the BBC World Service. It is part of a larger project examining diasporic cultures at Bush House from 1940 to 2012, when the Bush House era will end as staff move out and take up new working premises. Other than a few notable exceptions (for example, Modern Poetry in Translation, Special Issue, No 22, 2003 edited by Daniel Weissbort) very little work has been done on the subject of Bush Writers. This project plugs a gap in public and academic knowledge about the remarkably polyglot, cosmopolitan and creative cultures of Bush House which have contributed to making it a globally respected institution that can speak in many tongues to audiences around the world. We held three Witness Seminars in which Bush Writers (past and present) presented short readings in front of an invited audience.

Other than a few notable exceptions (for example, Modern Poetry in Translation, Special Issue, No 22, 2003 edited by Daniel Weissbort) very little work has been done on the subject of Bush Writers. This project plugs a gap in public and academic knowledge about the remarkably polyglot, cosmopolitan and creative cultures of Bush House which have contributed to making it a globally respected institution that can speak in many tongues to audiences around the world. We held three Witness Seminars in which Bush Writers (past and present) presented short readings in front of an invited audience. Bush Writers is a collaborative project between the Open University, BBC World Service and BBC History.

Research questions

  1. Has the cosmopolitan culture of Bush House informed your writing and, if so, how?
  2. How have the themes of translation, migration and mobility (actual and imagined) across nation, cultural and linguistic boundaries featured in your work?
  3. Has your work for radio affected your style or practice as a writer or vice versa?
  4. Have the social, literary and artistic networks in and around Bush House contributed to your literary career and if so how?
  5. How and when did you write while working at Bush House? Maybe you even wrote your novel or poems on the night shift?
  6. How has Bush House culture changed in your knowledge and experience?
  7. What opportunities exist for combining journalistic and literary career at Bush House?

Project contact

Professor Marie Gillespie, The Open University, Sociology, m.gillespie@open.ac.uk

Project members

Zinovy Zinik is a Moscow-born novelist and broadcaster. Zinik lost his Soviet citizenship when he immigrated to Israel in 1975. Since 1976 he has been living and working in Britain. Of his ten books of fiction, written and published since his departure from Russia, four - The Mushroom Picker, The Lord and the Gamekeeper, One-Way-Ticket and Mind the Doors - have been translated into English.  Une Person Deplacee, Une Niche du Pantheon and Service Russe were translated into French. His prose was also translated into Dutch, Hebrew, Polish and Estonian. His novel The Mushroom Picker was made into a film by BBC TV. His two collections of stories and sketches in Russian about his life in England At Home Abroad and Letters from the Third Shore were recently published in Moscow. His first book written in English, History Thieves, is to be published in London in autumn 2010.  Zinik taught creative writing in Jerusalem University, Wesleyan Ct, Denver Co. and Columbia University NYC. He regularly contributes to BBC Radio, The Times Literary Supplement and other periodicals.

Marie Gillespie is Professor of Sociology at the Open University and the Principal Investigator on Tuning In. She is Director of media research ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC). Her research interests focus on the political, socio-cultural and economic implications of migrant transnationalism, especially in relation to the South Asian diaspora. Recent Open University teaching texts include an edited volume Media Audiences (2005) and Analysing Media Texts (2006). Recent research projects include: an audience ethnography of media coverage of the attacks of 9/11/2001; Shifting Securities, a study on transnational news cultures and the politics of security. Her publications include a monograph entitled Television, Ethnicity and Cultural Change (Routledge, 1995).

Anna Aslanyan is a freelance journalist and translator. She has written for a number of British magazines and online publications. Among her translations into Russian are books by Zadie Smith, Mavis Gallant, Jonathan Lethem and Peter Ackroyd. Anna contributes regularly to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Dr Alban Webb is a Research Fellow in Sociology at the Open University, working as part of the ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC). His previous research as a historian has focused on Cold War Britain, examining the UK's nuclear deterrence strategy, intelligence services and civil defence planning. His book on the BBC World Service, London Calling: BBC External Services and the Cold War, will be published in 2011. His latest research, on the roles of public and cultural diplomacy in the context of international relations (most recently as part of the AHRC-funded Tuning In: Diasporic Contact Zones at the BBC World Service project) forms the basis of his ongoing examination of the changing Cultures of Diplomacy at work in British overseas communication strategies.

Sophie West graduated with a History Degree (BA hons) from the University of Sheffield in 2008. She has been working as Senior Research Assistant for the Tuning In project since July 2008. She is based in the BBCWS Marketing, Communications and Audiences department where she also freelances for the BBC.

Hugh Saxby is head of Governance and Public Affairs at the BBC World Service. He joined BBC World Service in 1979 and has experience across all its activities including operations, production, organisation, business planning and governance. He has been a member of the World Service Board since 2003 where he is responsible for governance, accountability, heritage and internal communications. In 2007 his role was extended to include all of the BBC's Global News division.  Hugh holds a Masters degree in Business Administration.

Robert Seatter is Head of BBC History, looking after the story of the BBC as interpreted across radio/TV/online, as communicated via dynamic partnerships with broadcast history museums, and as explored through academic scholarship and research. Current projects in action/development include Year of Soap collaboration with the National Media Museum, War Correspondents with the Imperial War Museum, and an evolving Oral History project with the British Library. For more information, visit the History of the BBC website.

Jess MacFarlane has worked at the BBC World Service for many years in a variety of roles - most recently heading the team which manages day-to-day relationships with the FCO, Parliament and other UK-based stakeholder organisations and individuals. Jess has worked closely with Prof Marie Gillespie and the OU on Tuning In and related projects, and is on the Advisory Board Committee of the Centre for Research on Scio-Cultural Change (CRESC).

Cross theme reference: 
Bush House Cultures
Cross theme reference: 
Witness Seminars