Show/hide main menu

Past Festival highlights

Arts & Humanities Festival 2011: The power of stories


Stories have power. They persuade, enchant and transform. Held between 24-29 October 2011, King's Arts and Humanities Festival 2011 asked academics, artists, performers, theologians and politicians to debate how, where and why story-telling has shaped our world.


Telling stories...

From the Greek philosophers to conflict resolution now, politicians, managers and peace-makers, soldiers, scholars and saints all rely on stories to get things done. Stories strike a chord in a way dry arguments don't. People make sense of human action by telling tales about what they've done or are going to do. We can't live without the power to tell stories - or can we?   

Stories aren't always straightforward or coherent. Do they ever offer a coherent view of the world. Do they just veil the chaos of real life? Are there only so many stories out there, which we repeat in new forms? How far is our sense of who we are based on the way we tell tales about ourselves. Are we now living in a society where big forces like the state or global capitalism make it harder for us to tell convincing stories about who we are?


Monday 24 October

Authentic politics in the age of the soundbite

Tottenham MP David Lammy will be joined by a panel of commentators and King's academics to ask how story-telling can help politics connect with real life in the age of the soundbite. 

Panellists include Amber Elliott (Total Politics Magazine) and Michael Kerr (King's, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean Studies).

Walter Benjamin's 'The Storyteller' - Roundtable

In his iconic essay 'The Storyteller: Reflections on the Works of Nicolaj Leskov', included in the landmark collection Illuminations, Walter Benjamin notes with typical melancholic perspicacity the decline of the art of storytelling in the era of modernity, relative to the competing forms of the presentation of events in the novel, and as information. Through his dense discussion of the works of Leskov among other figures Benjamin traces the outline of what it is that has been lost, and analyses the condition of which this loss is the symptom. 

This roundtable brings together academics from different departments of the School of Arts & Humanities in a discussion which promises to illuminate the interdisciplinary value of Benjamin's essay, his approach to the form of the story and its specific relation to experience.

'You the Jury': Legal Stories from 18th century Britain and Bengal

Listen to unique testimonies from eighteenth-century London and Bengal – and decide who’s guilty! 

Dr Laura Gowing and Dr Jon Wilson, experts in 17th and 18th century legal and social history in Britain and India, will introduce and comment on two law cases: one from London’s Old Bailey and one from rural Bengal. A team of student performers will act the part of witnesses,reading out testimony replete with all the intriguing details of seamy London street life and the experience of British imperialism in India. You, the audience, will be the jury, and decide whose story rings truest. Together we’ll discuss the role of legal testimony as an extraordinary kind of historic document, revealing  the dramatic dynamics of power and the hidden subtleties of social life across the early modern empire. 

Laura Gowing’s research is concerned primarily with the history of women, gender and sexuality in early modern England. Her most recent publication, Common Bodies: Women, Touch and Power in Seventeenth-century England (Yale, 2003) was awarded the Joan Kelly Memorial Prize by the American Historical Association.

The Opera Group Performance

King Harald's Saga - Judith Weir
Touches - Leonard Bernstein
Midnight Closes - Charlotte Bray

Soprano: Rhona McKail
Pianist: Yshani Perinpanayagam

To mark its residency at Kings, The Opera Group performs two short theatrical pieces written by composers at the beginning of their careers, plus a solo piano piece by Leonard Bernstein.  Judith Weir's 1979 tour de force announced the arrival of a witty and important operatic voice. 29 year old Charlotte Bray is a new talent.

King Harald's Saga is a three-act opera based, as is a good deal of 19th century opera, on an actual historical event; in this case, the Norwegian invasion of England in 1066 led by King Harald 'Hardradi'. As the opera is scored for solo soprano and lasts just under ten minutes, a certain amount of compression has been necessary. The soprano sings eight solo roles, as well as the part of the Norwegian army; and none of the work's musical items lasts over a minute.

Touches, a chorale, eight variations and coda, dedicated by Bernstein “To my first love, the keyboard” takes us on a journey of a series of musical interpretations around the title word of the piece.

Charlotte Bray's Midnight Closes are three short, evocative settings of Hardy poems.

Taken together they are a snapshot of varieties of story-telling with music and words - and an insight into The Opera Group's exciting work.

The evening's performance is to be followed by a conversation with the composer Charlotte Bray, chaired by The Opera Group's new Artistic Director, Frederic Wake-Walker.

City Portraits: Telling Stories through Portraits

City Portraits was a site-specific installation by artist Laura Hensser that took place during summer and autumn 2010, featuring 20 life-sized, full-length photographic portraits of Southampton residents on banners located in and around the City’s newly refurbished Guildhall Square. Part funded by the Creative Campus Initiative, and developed in association with the John Hansard Gallery, University of Southampton, and Paul Sweetman, then School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton, now Senior Lecturer in Culture, Media and Creative Industries, King’s College London, the artwork was intended to celebrate the lives and diversity of the City’s inhabitants, and helped to mark the inauguration of its new Cultural Quarter. It was also research-led, reflecting Paul’s concerns with visual methods of research, and issues of both ethics and anonymity and representation and recognition.

Exhibition - 'A brighter Hellas': rediscovering Greece in the 19th century

This autumn the Special Collections exhibition in the Maughan Library’s Weston Room focusses on 19th-century Greece and its environs, and explores how the country captured the imagination of British travellers, writers and artists during a period in which it fought for independence from the Ottoman Empire and emerged as a new nation state. The display includes publications by travellers such as Sir William Gell, antiquarian and member of the Society of Dilettanti, which promoted the study of classical antiquities and sponsored archaeological expeditions. The exhibition highlights works by Romantic poets such as Shelley, who was inspired by the Greek struggle, and Lord Byron, who was amongst the Philhellenes who travelled to Greece to fight in the War of Independence. Remarkable views on show include lithographs of scenes in southern Albania by Captain George de la Poer Beresford, and Edward Lear’s evocative depictions in Journals of a landscape painter in Albania. The exhibition also features works relating to the period of British rule in the Ionian Islands, drawn from the historical library collection of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).


Tuesday 25 October

Shin Dong-hyuk: the story of a North Korean defector

Shin Dong-hyuk was born in 1982 in Camp Number 14 a notorious “total control zone” political prison camp located in Kaechon north of Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. Like all other prisoners Shin Dong-hyuk was expected to serve a life sentence and die in the camp. His only crime was that he was born as the child of prisoners. He lived in the camp until he was 22 years old. Within the camp, he was victim to torture, forced labour, deprivation from nutrition and medical care. Years of hard labour have left scars as well. At the age of 14, he witnessed the execution of his mother and brother who had tried to escape.

Shin Dong-hyuk escaped in 2005 at the age of 22 after hearing stories about the outside world from another prisoner and made his way to the North Korean – Chinese border in one month. He lived in hiding in China until he resettled in South Korea in 2006. His father remains in the camp, his fate unknown.

Since Shin Dong-hyuk’s defection to South Korea he has become involved with human rights groups to bring about awareness concerning the atrocities occurring in North Korea.  

Come and hear Shin Dong-hyuk tell his amazing story.

A new book about his life is due out in out in March 2012: Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom  in the West

Musical emotion & responses to Nazi Germany: Alfred Cortot and Lotte Lehmann

Alfred Cortot (1877-1962) and Lotte Lehmann (1888-1976), pianist and soprano, were musicians whose performances are among the most intensely expressive on record. Recent research at King’s has begun to show how that expressivity works, from sound to listener response. This talk will use sound visualisation software to reveal some of their musical habits and to shed light on the stories they claim to draw out of the notes. The spontaneity in their performances, on which so many commentators have remarked, is shown to be a brilliant illusion. In deciding how to value them today, we also have to consider their behaviour in the 1930s and 40s, when they were at the peak of their professional success. Both courted the Nazis, Cortot collaborating thoroughly on behalf of Vichy, while Lehmann was (as it turned out) fortunate to be rebuffed. How are we to experience their intensely moving performances, apparently so sensitive to human feeling, so far above politics, when we consider their lack of scruple? The talk will be illustrated with recordings of them in Chopin, Schubert and Schumann, drawn from the major collection of early recordings at King’s which it is hoped will form the basis of a new Centre for Music on Record.

Panel discussion: City Portraits

Featuring both artists and academics, the panel discussion accompanying the City Portraits exhibition will focus both on the original project and its results, and on wider issues of ethics, representation and recognition in visual and other research. What are the possibilities afforded by representations of the sort featured in the City Portraits project and related installations; do they challenge existing understandings of how people should be represented in social and cultural research; and can they contribute positively to participants’ sense of themselves and their surroundings, to their sense of place?

Filling the Gaps: A brief history of nothing

In 2011 Peter Adamson began a series of podcasts covering the entire history of philosophy, "without any gaps." 

In this talk he will say a bit about that project and the idea of telling the history of philosophy as a continuous narrative, without leaving anything out. Then, by way of illustration, he will discuss the problem of empty space or "void", showing how this idea evolved from the earliest Greek thinkers to authors of the Islamic world – in both science (including medicine) and philosophy.

To listen to the podcasts visit the History of Philosophy website.

Film Screening: 'Private Romeo'

Presented by the London Shakespeare Centre and Queer@King's

Writer/Director: Alan Brown

Based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

When eight cadets are left behind at an isolated military high school, the greatest romantic drama ever written seeps out of the classroom and permeates their lives. Incorporating the original text of Romeo and Juliet, YouTube videos, and lip-synced indie rock music, Private Romeo takes us to a mysterious and tender place that only Shakespeare could have inspired.

Cast: Seth Numrich, Matt Doyle, Hale Appleman, Chris Bresky, Sean Hudock, Adam Barrie, Bobby Moreno, and Charlie Barnett 

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the Director.

Come and share this special event with us. If you would like your name to be placed on the entry list, please email your name and number of seats required to Entry is FREE but tickets are limited to 150, so please do get in touch as soon as possible to be sure of a place.


Wednesday 26 October

Performance by The Choir of King's College London

The Choir will be performing as part of the festival on Wednesday evening in the Chapel.

The concert will contain music by Stanford, Cornelius and J. S. Bach and entrance is free.

History & Policy: Why history matters to international development

Where did the ideas underpinning policies around public health, education, resource management and social security come from? How did certain ideas, and not others, help shape particular policy responses? How did the content and effectiveness of these interventions vary across different countries?

History brings a unique sensibility to debates about international development policies – assembling, analysing and interpreting different forms of evidence which produces different policy conclusions to those emerging from prevailing approaches.

International development naturally draws on a range of disciplines to inform policy but among the economists, anthropologists, sociologists and social policy specialists, historians are often overlooked.

But if history matters for understanding the outcomes of development interventions, then surely historians should contribute to the debates informing such policies.

This panel will examine the contribution a historical sensibility brings to development policy, and to what extent its use has improved development interventions. 

Coral Fantasy - Music by Wendy Hiscocks

Launch of new CD of the music of Wendy Hiscocks

Australian composer and pianist Wendy Hiscocks celebrates the release of her chamber music CD on the Symposium label, recorded by some of Britain’s finest musicians – Rachel Nicholls (soprano), Madeleine Mitchell (violin), Sarah Thurlow (clarinet), Brian Mullan (cello), Michael Turner (viola) and Philippa Mo (2nd violin). 

In the beautiful surroundings of the Downer Room at Australia House, Wendy will be joined by Rachel, Madeleine, Sarah and Brian to perform extracts from Shades of the Alhambra (clarinet, cello & piano) and Mother & Child (soprano, clarinet & piano), Nocturne (violin & piano) as well as the British première of Dry White Fire (violin & piano).

Telling Tales of Tradition

This lecture will examine the development and spread of the idea of ‘English Heritage’ in the latter part of the 20th century, focusing particularly on country houses or, as they came to be known, ‘stately homes’. Although the survival of such buildings arguably primarily affected and was the responsibility of the landed classes, heritage lobby groups successfully repackaged such properties as belonging the nation as a whole and, as such, their survival came to be regarded as a shared concern and a legitimate cause to be supported by public and private funding. The defenders of stately homes brought about this shift in public opinion by generating as sense of urgency, emphasizing the ‘danger’ these buildings were in and the necessity of ‘rescuing’ them. They told stories, created myths, about the nation, tradition and continuity, the family and the countryside; myths which often obscured ‘difficult’ historical truths. So potent were these myths that they succeeded not only in changing popular attitudes but also in recruiting government and other powerful organizations to the cause of the preservation of the architectural legacies of the aristocracy.

Journalistic Storytelling after the News of the World

The phone hacking scandal that shook the UK and beyond in 2011 has had reverberations for media, policing and politics. It raises questions about privacy, corruption and celebrity culture – as well as about the very role of journalism in democratic societies. In this panel we bring together  panel of distinguished academics and journalists to ask about journalistic storytelling after the News of the World.

Story and the Bible: 1611-2011

This year is the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. Professor Burridge will reflect on the celebration of the anniversary year, and tell the story of how the Bible came to be translated into English and subsequent developments in the last 400 years. He will also explore narrative approaches to the Bible which have been increasingly important in recent biblical scholarship.

Leadership as the Art of Telling Meaningful Stories

This lecture explores the use of stories in leadership looking at examples from ancient and contemporary politics.


Thursday 27 October

Arts & Humanities Postgraduate Fair

Academics and students from across the School of Arts & Humanities have been invited to display and talk about their work during the Arts & Humanities Fair 2011. If you are thinking of studying at King’s and you want to find out more about taught and research programmes, student life and funding opportunities, please join us for this exciting afternoon of exchange and discovery.

From Medieval History to Digital Culture & Society, you will find out how you can turn your ideas into research and contribute to the vibrant teaching and research culture at King’s. You can also find out about the support that we can offer you as one of our students.

The Trevor Reese Memorial Lecture 2011

Writing the life of an historian: Manning Clark, Australian history & the challenges of biography

Lecture by Professor Mark McKenna, University College Dublin

Mark McKenna is the biographer of Australia’s most famous historian and popular sage, Manning Clark, whose six volume A History of Australia (1962-87) is a cultural monument in its own right. In this lecture Professor McKenna will relate Clark’s colourful life and times, both fictional and real, to his works and to the eternal themes of story telling that are at their heart. 

Patient Zero: The Legacy of a Powerful Origin Story

Part of the AIDS@30 lecture series

Throughout history, societies visited by disease epidemics have attempted to understand their causes - efforts which have often led to accusations and blame. The initial recognition of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s was no different. One of the more notorious tales advanced to explain the origins of the North American epidemic was the story of 'Patient Zero'. This popular notion held that the disease was spread from coast to coast by a French-Canadian flight attendant who was as intent on spreading his infection as he was on ignoring the warnings of public health officials.

Playing with Authenticity: The Story of Early Music's Coming Of Age

Telling the story of the early music revival with words and music, Nick Wilson is joined by a star line-up of professional period performers – Laurence Cummings, Richard Edgar-Wilson, Helen Gough and Clare Salaman. This illustrated talk and performance explores how the discourse of ‘authenticity’ completely revolutionised classical music performance. It reviews how a flourishing new industry in early music developed around the idea of authentic performance. As we approach 40 years since the founding of many of the leading early music groups it is a good time to look back and ask some searching questions. Why has authentic performance proved so successful? Why does authenticity conjure up such strong feelings for musicians?  What if ... performers, musicologists and others, were really ‘making it up’? And what next for early music?

From Stone to Internet: Ancient Greek (hi)stories for the Modern World

A launch event for Ancient Inscriptions of the Northern Black Sea, an international collaborative project supported by the A.G. Leventis Charitable Foundation and the Loeb Library Foundation. 

A team of British, Russian, French, and American experts in ancient Greek inscriptions and Digital Humanities embark on a multi-year project aimed at producing a bi-lingual (English and Russian) digital publication of all ancient and medieval inscriptions made on stone originating from the northern coast of the Black Sea, home to Greek settlements since around 600 BCE till the fall of Constantinopole in 1453.

The Proliferation of Borders

Far from the image of a borderless world, current globalization is characterized by a proliferation of borders. No longer merely the dividing lines that mark the edge of territories, borders now run through the middle of political spaces and determine the stories of our interactions and exchanges. They establish different kinds of social, cultural and economic separations, and are thus crucial to understanding the deepening inequalities of the contemporary world. But they are also essential to enabling global flows, mobilities and connections. 
This talk approaches borders as a means of tracking changes in relations between labour and capital, territory and jurisdiction, war and politics. Moving across different geographical scales and institutional settings, the aim is to convey a sense of the increasing heterogeneity of global space.


Friday 28 October

Musical Treasures from the Foyle Special Collections Library

Harpsichordist Jane Chapman, Artist in Residence at the Foyle Special Collections Library,  presents a recital of fascinating and unusual repertoire mainly drawn from the personal library of Thurston Dart, King's founding Professor of Music.

Dart's extensive library of 17th and 18th century scores, numbering several hundred volumes, contains many rarities, one of the most remarkable is an 18th century collection of Indian music, of which the Library owns one of the few known copies:The Oriental Miscellany; being a collection of the most favourite airs of Hindoostan, compiled and adapted for the harpsichord, &c. by William Hamilton Bird (Calcutta, 1789). This collection of Indian song, was the first publication of North Indian music written in staff notation for performance on Western instruments, most notably the harpsichord. 

Alongside the Hindustani Airs, Jane will perform other Western vocal arrangements including 'Aires' from Handel's Rinaldo arranged by William Babell, premièred 300 years ago at the Queen's Theatre, Haymarket, London. This spectacular opera based on Torquato Tasso's epic poem Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem Delivered), contains the famous arias 'Lascia ch'io pianga', and the virtuosic 'Vo far guerra',  during which Handel improvised a breathtaking cadenza, the harpsichord also taking on the role of orchestra, and singer.

The Conflict Within

In this lecture, Michael Kerr, Director of the Centre for the Study of Divided Societies, discusses his new book, The Destructors: The Story of Northern Ireland’s Lost Peace Process. Michael Kerr applies literary analogy in setting the tone to what is the first major historical work on Northern Ireland’s first peace process (1972-76), borrowing from Graham Greene’s short story The Destructors, which plays on the themes of desensitisation to violence and the socialisation into conflict in war-time Britain. He questions whether we should, and how we might deconstruct the identity forming narratives that engrain ethnic conflicts in the hearts and minds of people living in deeply divided societies. Drawing on previously unavailable British and Irish archival material, and over forty interviews with politicians and officials central to a peace process that led to an Anglo-Irish settlement at Sunningdale, in December 1973, The Destructorsre-examines why Northern Ireland’s first power-sharing experiment failed.

Dancing Stories: A celebration of Emotion and Beauty

Classical Indian dance is, in part, a story telling artform. The body is trained to express emotion. This performance lecture by Vena Ramphal gives a glimpse of the theory and practice of this process. How does the external being - the body - express the internal landscape of emotion? It introduces the way in which classical Indian dance classifies the spectrum of human emotion, and looks at the types of stories and motifs that are privileged in its repertoire. It also discusses the role of the audience and the purpose of witnessing dance. As witnessers of the stories being elaborated, audience members are considered 'rasikas' (enjoyers) of the spectrum of emotion that is presented to them. By witnessing the possibilities of their own humanity being played out before them, they have the opportunity to savour the dish without having to digest it.

Dance is also a celebration of the body's capacity to inhabit time and space in an infinite variety of ways. The patterns of rhythm and movement are endless. The power of the dancing body to tell an abstract story of rhythm and shape is perhaps more compelling for its abstractness. The idea of the body as a flesh-story is explored. The notion that beauty is good, auspicious and beneficial is central to classical Indian dance. A well executed performance is supposed to uplift the spirit of the viewer. This notion of the flesh performance touching the spirit of the viewer offers the possibility of telling a story from the outside in, starting with the flesh and allowing an interpretation/ story to occur within the viewer's experience. 

Storytelling and Retelling

The work of Jorge Luis Borges is preoccupied with the ways that stories change as they are told and retold. Translation is an integral part of that awareness. He grew up reading English writers and classic texts such as the Odyssey and the Arabian Nights in various European languages. His work has commonly been read as a parable about the nature of storytelling and translation.
But what does it mean to know his writing through a series of different English translations? Borges has appeared to English readers in numerous guises, from his own collaborations with Norman Thomas di Giovanni to the more recent Collected Fictions, translated by Andrew Hurley. Each attempt to create an English Borges has aroused controversy. The talk will discuss the ways that translation has shaped our view of Borges and his reflections on storytelling.


Saturday 29 October

Storytelling for children: Jonny Zucker

An hour long workshop for children aged 6-11 to include storytelling and magic by one of Britain’s most acclaimed children’s authors.

Jonny's session will focus on where he gets his ideas, how he creates his characters and how on earth you get published – as well as including some top magic tricks!  

Strandline Stories: a guided walk

The Strand is a major London street with a rich and undersung history. Its stories feature the high point of the Peasants’ Revolt; eighteenth-century antiquaries, artists and sea-captains; the founding of the Royal Air Force; twentieth-century puritans vandalising a masterpiece of modern art. The Strand is also full of stories harder to recover – stories of the poor, sick, homeless and vulnerable.

A guided walk of about an hour will explore the Strand through people, places and ideas. Led by Professor Clare Brant, Project Director of Strandlines, a digital community project about  Lives on the Strand: past, present and creative, the walk will introduce a selection of Strand stories that catalyse ideas about how power is constructed, conveyed and interpreted through different forms of stories.

Sitemap Site help Terms and conditions  Privacy policy  Accessibility  Modern slavery statement  Contact us

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454