We are pleased to announce the School of Advanced Study’s programme for the Bloomsbury Festival 2013 which runs from October 15 – 20. This vibrant set of events features contributions from across the University of London and celebrates the people, places, and histories of Bloomsbury.

Introducing our festival theme – Ministry of Communication

Our festival theme plays upon the history of Senate House itself. Formerly the Ministry of Information during World War II, and the inspiration for George Orwell’s terrifying ‘Ministry of Truth’ in 1984, we look to both subvert the building’s history and celebrate its current use.

Inverting Senate House’s ‘Orwellian’ associations, we want to create not a ministry of ‘truth’, or even of information, but a ‘Ministry of Communication’. The Ministry will reflect the core aspects of the School of Advanced Study’s mission: openness and accessibility of knowledge to all; a neutral research support space; a national humanities research hub. The ministry will be staffed by volunteers with a passion for sharing knowledge.

Reflecting the breath of research within the University, we have curated  a diverse selection of events. Alongside well known poets and writers including Sir Andrew Motion, Ruth Padel, Will Self, Iain Sinclair, Sigrid Rausing and D.J. Taylor, we have initiated collaborations between University of London staff and researchers, and artists from Bloomsbury and beyond.

Programme Highlights: From the Orwellian Garden to an exploration of shale-gas fracking

In the shadows of Senate House’s car parks, an ‘Orwellian Garden’ will emerge, reclaiming these forbidding spaces with creeping ivy, succulents, and vegetation. An army of planted boots and shoes will lead the way into the building, where the familiar (if magnificent) interior will be transformed.

In the basement, formerly home to the Ministry of Information censors, an audio-visual collaboration between the Human Rights Consortium and pioneering art collective D-Fuse will bring to life issues surrounding shale-gas fracking and oil extraction from tar sands.

On the roofs of the university, from the Brutalist concrete of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies to the Portland stone of Holden’s Senate House itself, watch out for parkour athletes exploring new ways to make use of the urban fabric of the city….


Saturday, October 19: Bloomsbury: Hidden stories, communities and more

On Saturday 19 October, our programme features a range of talks exploring the lost literatures, histories, and communities of Bloomsbury, from the hidden history of Senate House itself to an exploration of the finest books ever to fall out of print in this ‘literary’ quarter of London. McMillan Hall will be transformed into an ‘Exploratorium’ featuring optical and auditory illusions, and workshops exploring taste and smell, hosted by the Institute of Philosophy’s Centre for the Study of the Senses.

Leading sound artist and roboticist Sarah Angliss will perform two eerie concerts featuring  Hugo, the head of a 1930s ventriloquists dummy, whilst the Warburg Institute will collaborate with pianist Jean-Paul Muir to bring you an audio-visual tour of 30,000 gods and myths from their collection. Finally, the curators of the British Library’s groundbreaking exhibition Propaganda: Power and Persuasion, cap off the evening with a rundown of some of the greatest, and most bizarre, public information films ever made (supported by the BFI).


Sunday, October 20: Poetry, Refuge and Parkour

On Sunday, we offer exercise for both your body and your mind. The Institute of Latin American Studies will introduce their contribution to the British Library’s ‘Endangered Archives’ programme, whilst a series of talks and musical events celebrate Bloomsbury’s history as a place of shelter for outcasts and refugees . Professor Rosemary Ashton (IES) leads a panel exploring Bloomsbury’s ‘History of Refuge’, whilst the Institute of Modern Language Studies host a recreation of a 1930s Austrian exile theatre.  Outside the building, we invite you to take part in a series of interactive ‘parkour’ workshops.

Finally, at the festival’s close, join publisher and philanthropist Sigrid Rausing, internationally acclaimed poet Ruth Padel, and other leading human rights poets as they launch In Protest: 150 Human Rights Poems, supported by the Institute of English Studies and the Human Rights Consortium.


We are on Twitter, get in touch…

Get in touch with us on @SASNews and on our Facebook page. You can also follow our progress via the project blog. If you would like to volunteer to staff the Ministry of Communication (as tour guides, greeters, etc (please contact michael.eades@sas.ac.uk )


Finding the Ministry of Communication:

 University of London, Senate House, Malet Street, London

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