Interview: Hannah Silva ahead of her drama ‘An Artificially Intelligent Guide to Love’ on BBC Radio 4

We caught up with playwright and QMUL Leverhulme Fellow, Hannah Silva to talk about her new radio play on the algorithm and love.

Hannah will be talking about the play on BBC 4’s flagship arts show Front Row on Tuesday 8 February 2022.

Tell us about An Artificially Intelligent Guide to Love’. What should we expect? 

In ‘An Artificially Intelligent Guide to Love’ I have a conversation with a machine-learning algorithm about love, dating, and my life as a single queer mum. The algorithm’s responses range from the funny and surreal, to the poetic and poignant. When I ask the algorithm questions about love it tells me: ‘I’d suggest that you find out how to answer these questions. This is not just about writing. It is about real life. The answers are in your life.’  

What inspires you to write stories like this? 

I always enjoy finding ways to generate material to work with. In the past I’ve used cut up writing methods a lot, where I splice together existing texts and subvert their meanings. Working with an algorithm is an extension of these procedural writing methods.  

I wanted to think about love with this project because in the past I didn’t think about it, I just fell in it. I wondered what a machine-learning algorithm might be able to teach me about love.  

What advice would you give to emerging writers at Queen Mary? 

Prioritise reading, writing and thinking, and don’t give up.    

Applications for Leverhulme Trust’s Early Career Fellowship Scheme Open [Deadline 12 pm 5 January 2022]

Early career researchers seeking support for their application to the Leverhulme Trust’s Early Career Fellowship scheme are invited to get in contact with us from now [deadline 12 noon, 5 January 2022].

The School of English and Drama invites early career researchers seeking support for their application to the Leverhulme Trust’s Early Career Fellowship Scheme to submit to us:

  • An academic CV of not more than 2 pages to demonstrate your research stature.
  • An outline research proposal including title, abstract (100 words), details of past and current research (250 words), a 2-page (A4) project outline, and a statement detailing relevant research being carried out in the School of English and Drama and your reasons for choosing Queen Mary (200 words).

Please send the above to Dr Huw Marsh, Research Manager, at: sed-research@qmul.ac.uk by no later than 12 pm on 5 January 2022.

Full scheme details including eligibility criteria can be found on the Leverhulme Trust’s website: https://www.leverhulme.ac.uk/funding/grant-schemes/early-career-fellowships

All outline proposals will be considered by a School committee and applicants will be notified of the shortlisting outcome in the week of Monday 24 January 2022. Shortlisted candidates will be put forward for approval by the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty Executive, who will report their decisions by 27 January. Decisions will then be communicated to candidates, and the School will work with successful applicants to finalise their applications. The final deadline for submission of approved applications is 4pm on 24 February 2022.

The School recommends that applicants make clear the following in applications (CVs and proposals):

  • the strength of your academic record (e.g. classifications, awards, time taken to complete your PhD, etc.)
  • the strength of your research record (e.g. publications (including their length; and if forthcoming, where they are at in the process); presentations; research leadership; if you make practice as research, indicate how it is research; etc.)
  • what research you will publish/disseminate through the fellowship
  • the importance of doing your fellowship in the School of English and Drama at QMUL (e.g. synergies with staff and research centres)
  • your proposal’s importance, originality, methods, critical contexts, resources, structure and outputs.

New Learning Resources in the School of English and Drama

The School of English and Drama is delighted to announce new resources are available:

  1. Digital Theatre+ (digital recordings of theatre productions).  This is in addition to Drama Online (digital recordings of theatre productions and play scripts), which we started subscribing to last year.
  2. Oxford Research Encyclopaedia of Literature (dynamically updated key reference work on literature)
  3. Alexander Street Academic Video Online (documentaries and films across all subject areas)

Don’t forget you also get access to the following resources:

  1. Linkedin Learning – (courses on key skills including video editing)
  2. Box of Broadcasts – (recordings from TV – thousands of films and shows)
  3. Financial Times – (arts and culture coverage)

Solitudes Project Podcast on Award Shortlist – Vote Now!

One of the podcasts produced by Natalie Steed for the Solitudes project has been shortlisted for an award. It’s an episode on ‘The Mind’ in our podcast series, ‘Spaces of Solitude’.

It was curated by Akshi Singh and features the psychoanalyst and writer Adam Phillips, the poet Denise Riley, and the neuroscientist Sarah Garfinkel. It’s a terrific podcast, and of course we’re delighted that it’s been shortlisted.

If you listen to it and like it, you can vote for it! There’s a ‘people’s vote’ – link below. But please do it soon, as the results will be made public next month.

https://vote.lovieawards.com/PublicVoting#/2021/podcasts/features/best-individual-episode

English Research Seminar Speakers Announced

The Queen Mary Postgraduate Research committee is delighted to invite you to our schedule of seminars this autumn (see poster above). We have put together a fantastic line-up of speakers from across the UK and America, who will be sharing their work with us, ranging from seventeenth-century skin colour to twenty-first century music videos.

This semester, we will be hosting seminars on Zoom on Thursdays, beginning 14th October. The seminar begins at 17:00 (UK time) and follows the format of a paper of up to 45 minutes and a question session of 15 minutes. All QMUL staff and students are warmly invited to attend, and to share with anyone else who might be interested at other universities or elsewhere.

We hope the seminars inspire you and spark new discussions, especially at a time when we are rediscovering the strength of our QM English community after a long time apart. It is our belief that the PGRS seminar exemplifies all that is best about QM English – innovative, supportive, and led by learning from each other. We are so looking forward to seeing you all there this autumn as we reconnect with our community here at SED. 

Zoom registration for our very first talk, ‘Citizenship in an Erotic Mode in the work of Beyonce Knowles and Warsan Shire in Lemonade (2016)’ on 14th October, is open now! Follow this link to sign up: https://queenmaryenglish.wordpress.com/autu/

ArtsOne – Enhancing Facilities

This post to update you about some exciting developments happening in Arts One on our Mile End Campus. Queen Mary University of London has committed to a major investment aimed at improving and enhancing our arts and culture facilities. The new facilities will ensure that we can continue to support teaching and research that is both world leading, inclusive and accessible to the communities we work with.

The enhanced facilities, for which accessibility has been a driving principle — will include:

  • A new cinema designed by leading architects McFarland-Latter, including the latest in surround-sound and projection technologies;
  • The instalment of new digital technologies for motion capture and ambisonic playback in Rehearsal Room 3;
  • A new production suite adjacent to Rehearsal Room 3 including a fully sound-proofed recording booth, and control facilities for video and audio production;
  • Improved lighting, sound and seating in Room G.34 enabling flexible use as a seminar room, gallery or installation studio;
  • Improvements to the toilet facilities in the Arts One Foyer, including improvements to the accessible bathroom facilities;

There may be some temporary disruption while these works are completed, but we are working hard to keep these to a minimum as much as possible. We will also provide regular updates on progress by email, via a project Sharepoint site, and in details posted within the Arts One Foyer. The construction work will mean some temporary changes to the Arts One Foyer as a work and meeting space, students might like to consider using our online tool to book a study space on our Mile End campus:

Staff can find advice about how to make ad-hoc room bookings via this page.

British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Scheme 2021-22 – Applications Invited

Early career researchers seeking support for their application to the British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship scheme are invited to get in contact with us as soon as possible

Deadline for applications: midday on Friday 17 September 2021

The School of English and Drama invites early career researchers seeking support for their application to the British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship scheme to get in touch by submitting:

(1) an explanation of the reason(s) for your choice of Queen Mary as the host institution (150 words maximum)

(2) an outline of your proposed programme of research (1,500 words maximum)

(3) details of your planned research outputs, e.g. monograph, journal article(s), book chapter(s), digital resources, events, other (please specify) (300 words maximum)

(4) a list of existing publications (1 page maximum)

(5) a CV (2 pages maximum)

Please submit the above documents to Dr Huw Marsh, Research Manager, sed-research@qmul.ac.uk, by no later than midday on Friday 17 September 2021. Please state ‘British Academy PDRF’ in the subject line.

Your application should demonstrate:

  • that you are eligible according to the BA’s criteria
  • the excellence of your research track record and professional track record (where relevant);
  • your academic record;
  • the research outputs you propose, how you will structure, pursue, and complete your project in the time frame, and its importance;
  • the relevance of QMUL SED to your research and vice versa;
  • who you would like as a mentor and why.

You are strongly encouraged, before submitting your application and time permitting, to find a member of staff in QMUL’s School of English and Drama who will be your nominated mentor, provisionally agree their support, and get some feedback from them on a draft application. Please note this in statement (1).

Full scheme details can be found on the British Academy website: http://www.britac.ac.uk/british-academy-postdoctoral-fellowships

All outline proposals will be considered by our Directors of Research and those that we give institutional support to will have approximately one month to finalise their online application, due by 14 October 2021.

Mad Hearts: The Arts and Mental Health Review By Ana Claudia De Castro Lima

By Ana Claudia De Castro Lima

This two-day online event explored productive, radical, contemporary encounters between the arts and mental health, bringing together clinical, artistic, and research perspectives that offered a re-interpretation of contemporary mental health science and practice, with a view of imagining a different future. This event was joined by more than 100 people including survivors, service users, mental health professionals, artists and researchers interested in how the arts can contribute to mental health.

The conference was opened by photographic artist Daniel Regan, who shared his discovery of the power of the arts in his own mental health journey. Daniel discussed the shame and stigma of living in crisis and how transforming his relationship to his lived experience turned it into his greatest asset. Consultant psychiatrist Dr Tom Cant introduced Peer Supported Open Dialogue and the ODDESSI* trial, a multicentre randomised control trial funded by the National Institute for Health Research. Developed in Finland in 1986, Open Dialogue is a social network model of mental healthcare where the person of concern is genuinely offered the power to define their recovery.

[*ODDESSI stands for Open Dialogue: Development and Evaluation of a Social Network Intervention for Severe Mental Illness]

On the second day, the artist keynote was given by playwright and theatre director Julie McNamara, an outspoken survivor of the mental health system, who works with people from locked-in spaces, foregrounding the stories of disavowed voices from the margins of our communities. People who have lived in long-care hospitals are not ordinarily perceived as artists and storytellers with meaningful contributions to make in our cultural industries. Julie talked about her creative process, staging the voices of women who transgress, women who fail to perform femininity as constructed in this ableist, patriarchal society. Lived expert consultant Amanda Griffith introduced the Power Threat Meaning Framework (PTMF), a radical approach to understanding emotional distress and wellbeing that is attracting interest both nationally and internationally. Aimed at a wide range of stakeholders, the framework highlights the links between personal, family and community distress and wider issues arising from social inequalities and injustices. This gives particular attention to the experiences of people and groups who have been exposed to abuses of power on the basis of their race, ethnicity, gender, class, religion, nationality, age, sexuality, disability, or their status as a mental health service user, and the way these identities and associated experiences of power intersect.

A series of panels invited discussion on different topics. In the panel led by the Centre for the History of Emotions at Queen Mary, the audience applauded the concept of “emodiversity”, developed as part of a programme for emotional literacy in primary schools, a superb pilot run by Prof Thomas Dixon.

Conference delegates participated in a Creative Enquiry all group activity, led by Dr Louise Younie, pioneer of the creative enquiry approach for flourishing in medical education. Moreover, selected participants were invited to present their artworks of poetry, painting and music: a delightful moment, inviting both aesthetic pleasure and reflection.

During discussions and reflections raised by this momentous event, the audience was enraptured and applauded the presented projects and innovative practices. Also, organizers and the public felt stimulated to discover new alternative approaches to mental health for future times, taking into account above all creativity, open dialogue, and direct participation from users of the health system.

It was clear that the bio-scientific, logical-rational, reductionist, and mechanistic model of mental health needs updating. An empathetic look, which gives rise to interpretive and communication abilities, is necessary to approach the idiosyncratic narratives brought by survivors and service users. In addition, the well-established hierarchy relationships within the mental health medical environment, which highlight authority and power, oppress and make stagnant the creativity and humanization that should permeate all human relationships. All this misinterpretation over mental health care leads to overly rigid and standardized models of approach, lacking human connection.

Hence, health professionals need to be open to access subjectivity and make deeper connections, giving voice and opportunity for self-expression. Ultimately, the arts seem to be a catalyst tool to materialize the inner turmoil of mental disorders, providing opportunities for representation and meaning-making, as well as being a fantastic means to well-being.

Performance Possession & Automation Event Series

Performance, Possession & Automation – a collaborative research project led by Nick Ridout and Orlagh Woods, in collaboration with Dhanveer Singh Brar – invites you to two online conversations.

Possession & Modern Acting

Friday 4th June, 6-8pm (BST)

Online

Shonni EnelowJulia Jarcho and Nicholas Ridout 

Possession: an actor seems to have been taken over by someone else.

Automation: an actor is someone whose actions are not their own.

In this public conversation, Shonni Enelow, Julia Jarcho and Nicholas Ridout explore ideas about possession and automation in relation to 20th and 21st century experiences of acting, theatre and the movies. Do they hold clues to the roles that both possession and automation play in contemporary life, and to how we might think and feel about them.

Click here, to book your place and for further information.

I was born a loser

Friday 11th June, 6-8 pm (BST)

Online

Edward George and Dhanveer Singh Brar 

What occurs when “lose her” is recast as “loser”, and covered over once more to become “winner”? And why in each reversioning does “pride” persist, but never in the same guise? These are questions which arise from listening to the Jamaican essayist of the song form, Alton Ellis.

By losing ourselves in Alton Ellis’s losses and revisions, Edward George and Dhanveer Singh Brar believe it is possible to begin to open up an auditory dimension to the question of spirit in Jamaica, the Caribbean, the diaspora, and in turn, modernity itself, as it was being rendered towards the end of the twentieth century.

Click here, to book your place and for further information.

Performance, Possession & Automation is a research project exploring automation and possession as two ways of thinking about what happens to human subjects who act in ways that they do not themselves fully control. How can making and thinking about performance contribute to thinking about these ideas?

In partnership with Fierce Festival, performingborders and Transform Festival

This project is supported by:

Collaborations Fund of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL)
The Centre for Public Engagement, QMUL
Strategic Research Initiative, School of English and Drama, QMUL

Let’s Talk About Mental Health – Essential Links and Resources

Thanks to Nathalie Grey in our alumni engagement team who shared this list from the event held on 4 March 2021…

  • Sandeep Saib’s (QMUL Alumna) personal social media links:
  • Happy Heads Organisation:

Interview with Professor Margaret Reynolds on new book ‘The Wild Track: Adopting, mothering, belonging’

We caught up with our very own Margaret Reynolds to talk about her new Penguin book The Wild Track: Adopting, mothering, belonging.

Professor Reynolds has recently been featured in The Guardian and the Telegraph and has interviews with Talk Radio, Times Radio, Monocle Radio, about the book and her experiences of adoption and writing the book with her daughter Lucy.

Here’s what she could tell us…


Tell us about your new book ‘The Wild Track: Adopting, mothering, belonging’. How did it come about and what can readers expect?

I adopted my daughter 12 years ago when she was six. And from the first, I used to jot down things that happened to us, little stories about our lives together. Then two years ago I heard a couple of things that reminded me how hard adoption can be, how often (very sadly) it does not work out. But we were still here! So I wanted to encourage others, so show how amazing and important adoption can be in helping children – who necessarily have difficult beginnings – in going on to make a success of their lives.

How has it been working with your daughter on the book? What do you think the book has to say to mothers around the world?

I showed the original version of the book to someone who said ‘don’t you think Lucy should have a voice?’. And I knew he was right! Politically, ethically it is always right to listen to the voices of children. So I asked her to write some sections.  In fact, it was great doing this. We have talked a lot about our different experiences and about the things we share.

Mothers are all different. Always, everywhere. There is no such thing as one ‘motherhood’. But there might be overlaps, and there might illumination and there might be a shared understanding, a recognition and acceptance which could be a positive for both mothers and children.

What 3 books would you recommend to readers after reading your book of course?

Jacqueline Rose, Mothers: An Essay on Love and Cruelty, Rachel Cusk, A Life’s Work, Sarah Knott, Mother: An Unconventional History.

Are there any lockdown lifelines that have kept you going in the last year?

Growing vegetables, going for long walks with our dog, watching classic films, cooking, noticing the seasons, planning a long trip to remote Greek islands.

Call for Papers – Queen Mary PGRS Virtual Conference ‘Contagion: Spread the Word’

Queen Mary PGRS Virtual Conference:
Contagion: Spread the Word 12 July 2021

Keynote Speaker: Dr Elizabeth Outka (University of Richmond)
Due to the global pandemic, the word “contagion” may instantly inspire thoughts related to sickness or disease, but “contagion” has numerous metaphorical applications as well. William S. Burroughs in The Adding Machine (1986) states that:

“The Word is literally a virus, and that it has not been recognized as such because it has achieved a state of relatively stable symbiosis with its human host […]. The Word clearly bears the single identifying feature of virus: it is an organism with no internal function other than to replicate it-self.”


This one-day, interdisciplinary conference is organised by the English Department’s Postgraduate Research Seminar (PGRS) Committee at Queen Mary University of London: https://queenmaryenglish.wordpress.com/conferences/contagion-conference/.

We welcome proposals from graduate researchers in literature and related disciplines that ex-plore the theme of “contagion” across periods and genres.
We encourage broad interpretations of the theme.

  • Possible topics include but are not limited to:
  • Historical outbreaks of disease
  • Epidemiology literature
  • Legal developments regarding medicine and medical qualifications
  • Medical figures in history and literature
  • Sickness/disease as metaphor
  • Spread of literacy and knowledge vs censorship
  • Letters and postal systems, epistolary novels
  • Spread of literature through social media
  • Spread of (mis)information
  • Illness and prejudice
  • Imaginative contagion (e.g. the outbreak narrative, ‘zombie culture’, vampire fiction)
  • Bloodlines and the preoccupation with birth and class
  • Migration narratives and travel writing

A 250-word abstract and 50-word biography should be submitted to qmenglishpgrs@qmul.ac.uk by 1st May 2021.

AHRC LAHP Collaborative Doctoral Award: ‘Decolonising the Sloane Herbarium’

Decolonising the Sloane Herbarium

Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and the Natural History Museum (NHM) are pleased to announce the availability of a fully funded doctoral grant from October 2021.

This studentship is funded for 3.5 years full time (or part-time equivalent). The project will investigate provenance information for the botanical specimens in the Sloane Herbarium, a foundation collection of NHM, to re-imagine our understanding of its global and imperial dimensions.

The successful candidate will combine archival research and special collections handling with digital methods for structuring humanities data in order to surface hidden histories within the Sloane Herbarium, not least by building a resource that supports future generations of scholars.

A full description of the project objectives and application process is available in the Further Particulars.

This studentship is funded through the AHRC’s Collaborative Doctoral Awards (CDA) scheme via the London Arts & Humanities Partnership (LAHP) of which QMUL is a member. The studentship includes a stipend at the Research Council UK Home / EU rate (£17,609 per annum in 2021/22) plus fees for 3.5 years. The awarded candidate will also be entitled to a £550 per annum stipend top-up. Studentships can be either full or part-time. As a LAHP student, the successful candidate will have full access to the LAHP Doctoral Training Partnership development activities and networking opportunities, joining a cohort of about 90 students per year.

CDA grants provide funding for doctoral students to work on a project in collaboration with an organisation outside higher education. They are intended to encourage and develop collaboration and partnerships and to provide opportunities for doctoral students to gain first-hand experience of work outside the university environment. They enhance the employment-related skills and training available to the research student during the course of the award. Collaborative Doctoral Awards are not only a route into academia but also provide hands-on work experience in the cultural sector and transferrable skills.

This project will be jointly supervised by Dr Richard Coulton (QMUL) and Dr Mark Carine (NHM), with further supervisory input from Professor Markman Ellis (QMUL) and Miranda Lowe (NHM). The student will be expected to spend time at both QMUL and NHM, as well as becoming part of the wider cohort of LAHP funded students across the capital.

We want to encourage the widest range of potential students to study for this Collaborative Doctoral Award and are committed to welcoming applicants from different backgrounds. Candidates may come from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds (e.g. archaeology, anthropology, literary or cultural studies, history, heritage studies, natural history, history and philosophy of science, museum studies, archive and information studies). Some experience of historical collections handling and/or digital humanities will be of benefit.

Potential candidates are welcome to contact Dr Richard Coulton (r.x.coulton@qmul.ac.uk) and Dr Mark Carine (m.carine@nhm.ac.uk) before preparing an application.

The successful candidate will commence their PhD in October 2021. They will hold their doctoral training grant in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Queen Mary University of London, and will work in partnership with the Natural History Museum.

Applications must be made in two phases:
Firstly to QMUL by 5pm on Friday 29 January 2021
Secondly to LAHP by 5pm on Friday 5 February 2021

You must complete the QMUL process first in order to include your QMUL application ID reference number on the LAHP CDA application form.

Interview date: TBC (late March / early April)

Women / Theatre / Justice Project Launches with Website, Twitter + Events

Our very own Caoimhe McAvinchey is part of the research team on this innovative AHRC project around Clean Break Theatre company and working with women in the criminal justice system.

Events as part of the series include Working with Incarcerated Women in the Context of COVID 19.

The aim

The Women/Theatre/Justice project aims to:

  • Examine Clean Break’s impact on contemporary British theatre and the lives of the women it works with.
  • Examine Clean Break as an organisation, run by women for women, with distinctive organisational practices characterised by learning through listening to the voices of those involved in its work. It considers the implications of these practices for management and leadership more widely. 
  • Create opportunities for artists, academics, women with experience of the criminal justice system and those who work with them, to share their expertise through seminars, training, podcasts and teaching resources. 

The research is supported by the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance and Women in Prison.

About the project

Women/Theatre/Justice is the umbrella title for research and public engagement activities that are part of Clean Break: Women, Theatre, Organisation and the Criminal Justice System (2019-2021). This interdisciplinary Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project is led by academics in theatre and performance studies and work and employment relations, in partnership with Clean Break theatre company.

Clean Break was initiated by women in HMP Askham Grange (UK) in 1977 and has since become an internationally recognised theatre, education and advocacy organisation that places stories of women, crime and punishment centre stage. 

Through seminars, conferences, training, exhibitions, podcasts and publications, the project examines wider issues including: the criminalisation of women; theatre practices with incarcerated women in different cultural contexts; gender, organisation and leadership; worker voice; the role of higher education in partnerships within the criminal justice system; implications of COVID-19 for incarcerated women and the response of arts organisations.

A Season of Bangla Drama 2020 – An Unmissable British-Bengali Lockdown Treat

A Season of Bangla Drama

12-21 November – Online

Join a festival of free online events including coming of age poetry by local young people, a cook-a-long, community panels and eye-opening plays that explore the British-Bengali perspective. QMUL is a key partner and sponsor.