On Thursday 22nd March the ICS hosted our first Public Engagement Workshop, bringing together academics working on classical subjects in order to share strategies for successful engagement activities, to explore the benefits and challenges of public engagement in Classics, and to generate ideas for new projects and events.
We were joined in the morning by five speakers with experience of working on a range of different types of engagement projects. Zena Kamash (Royal Holloway) set the tone for the day by sharing insights based on her extensive engagement experience, most recently in relation to her project Remembering the Romans in the Middle East and North Africa. Zena talked about the importance of collaboration (in particular with artists and museums) for her work and gave us some thought-provoking insights into the ethics of engagement. Laura Swift (Open University) shared her work on a different kind of collaborative project, with co-creation at its heart: Fragments, developed as part of Laura’s research into ancient Greek fragmentary texts, is an innovative partnership with theatre company Potential Difference which will result in the production of a new play. We were also joined by Michael Eades, Public Engagement Manager at the School of Advanced Study. Michael curates the annual Being Human Festival and was able to offer some excellent advice, based on years of experience, about what does and doesn’t work when it comes to planning and running engagement events. Excellent engagement can happen in virtual as well as physical spaces, however, and that was the theme of Jessica Hughes’ (Open University) talk. Jessica produces the podcast Classics Confidential, and talked about how online resources like this can offer a great way for academics to share their research with a wider audience. Finally, Jen Grove (Exeter) shared her work on the award-winning Sex and History project, which uses objects from cultures of the past to discuss sex and relationships with young people. Here again the theme of building partnerships resurfaced, as Jen talked about the mutual benefits of working with other people and organisations beyond the university.
The afternoon offered time for informal discussion, with attendees sharing their ideas for projects based on their own research. We were also able to think about some of the challenges faced by engaged researchers, and spent time discussing ways in which the ICS can support and facilitate public engagement in Classics in the UK. For a flavour of the day’s discussion, search for #ICSEngage on Twitter; those who livetweeted the event did an excellent job of capturing the key points which were raised. In future we’ll also be featuring guest posts from the morning’s speakers, so do subscribe to the blog if you’d like to be notified when these are published.
Many thanks to all who participated, and who offered ideas and suggestions for future events and initiatives. We’ll be sharing more news of ICS public engagement activities here in due course.
[Update: a video of the talks given by speakers at this event is now available here.]
Readers of this blog who would like to share their thoughts on ways in which the ICS can support and facilitate public engagement in Classics in the UK are invited to get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.