24-hour intellectual capital

An ambitious free festival exploring everything from the iconic London Underground map to brain scans of cab drivers and novelist Will Self will take place at University College London later this week.

June 13, 2012

One Day in the City on 15 June will feature a series of short presentations from academics on topics connected to London in a bid to celebrate the value of arts and humanities studies in the capital.

Organiser Nick Shepley, teaching fellow in modern British and American literature at UCL, said the title of the festival had been inspired by his own research on novels such as James Joyce’s Ulysses and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway – both of which take place over a single day.

He said that when he first envisaged the project at the end of 2010, there had been “a lot of negativity about student fees going up, about the need to quantify the value of the arts and humanities, so we wanted to do something celebratory and reach out beyond the university”.

He set up a partnership between UCL’s English department and the Bartlett School of Architecture to create a series of panels for academics to present “10-minute summation papers often introducing their current specialised projects”.

Hope Wolf, teaching fellow in life writing at King’s College London, for example, will present the Strandlines project, which explores the past, present and future of the Strand, while artist Hilary Powell, AHRC fellow in the creative and performing arts at the Bartlett, will present a critique of the “utopian narratives” that have grown up around the Olympics.

Hugo Spiers, a lecturer in the cognitive, perceptual and brain sciences department at UCL, will look at the brain scans he has carried out on London cab drivers as well as a similar experiment on novelist Will Self, who will join him for a discussion at the festival.

As the day goes on, academics will largely be replaced by creative writers addressing themes such as London in verse.

It will conclude with a discussion in which leading novelists A. S. Byatt and Alan Hollinghurst will examine “London and literature” with John Mullan, professor of English at UCL.

matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com

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