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Arts & Humanities Research Institute

World Service Project


The AHRI in conjunction with the Performance Foundation will be supporting research and public engagement activities related to the theme of ‘World Service’ from the Autumn of 2016. 

The programme will seek to build on the College’s acquisition of Bush House, and the exemplary cultural capital it represents for the Arts & Humanities through the history of the BBC World Service’s tenure. 

This moment offers an opportunity for the College to maximise the significance of its location, not least because the cultural activities of the World Service have been so relevant to the development of our disciplines. It also offers new possibilities for interdisciplinary work, and for configuring that work so as to maximise its visibility and impact.

We envisage a programme including events, performances, seminars, broadcasts, and conferences, centred around an Arts & Humanities Festival on the same theme in Autumn 2017.

A major strand of the project will be on the specific institution of the BBC World Service and its history; on its forms of broadcasting and public service; on the ways it has represented, and intervened in, the subjects we work on, such as imperialism and postcolonialism, area studies, literatures, languages, music, the study of culture, technology, identity and migration. 

We also hope to explore the topic of ‘World Service’ in broader senses too, from the notion of 'service to society' to Global initiatives, the Arts in translation, international collaborations, and so on.

A preliminary call to the Arts & Humanities staff and postgraduates produced a rich response from the majority of Departments, and a number of Research Centres and Projects. We would be glad to hear from other academics working in these fields. There has also been interest from selected creative practitioners and our international partners.

Areas where significant research synergies have emerged include:

  • Literature and Language: especially internationalist writers and the concept of ‘World Literature’; the concept of ‘The English-Speaking Peoples’
  • Media: especially sound; the public service model of journalism; the World Service as a utopian form of communication or mediation; how the media constructs categories of the national and the global 
  • History and Politics: the trajectory from Empire to Postcolonialism; especially during WW2; with the complicating of the cultural flows as the developing world increasingly calls back to London 
  • Life Writing: both the appearances on the World Service of writers or public figures researchers are studying; and the life stories of those who have worked for the World Service (either as staff or on occasional commissions)

We will put out a call for ideas in early 2017. In the meantime, if you would like to be kept informed, or have any initial ideas on the theme, please contact

The project is run by:
Max Saunders, Director, AHRI / Alan Read, Director, Performance Foundation

World Service Project Events Calendar 

Friday 3 & Saturday 4 February, 09.00-17.00
BBC and the World Service: Debts & Legacies
River Room, King's Building, Strand Campus 
Researchers from the English Department at King’s College London are pleased to announce a conference about BBC radio and the World Service. Keynote discussions will be led by scholars of radio and the BBC, including Todd Avery, Jessica Berman, Debra Rae Cohen, Daniel Morse, and Simon Potter. 

Further World Service events will be announced in due course.


On Tuesday 13 December, a symposium on cultural value entitled “Beyond Value for Money” was held at King's College London as part of the World Service Project.

Organised and chaired by Professor Richard Howells, participants investigated to what extent broadcasting, the arts, and cultural education have a value that is more than financial, and whether “good value for money” is therefore a sufficient measure of the full worth of what many of us do. Headline speakers included academics, professionals and policymakers Sir John Tusa, John Holden, Mark Damazer, Lizzie Crump, Jonty Claypole, David Elstein, The Right Honourable Ed Vaizey MP, and Georgina Born.

To listen to the podcasts, click here.

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