On January 17th 2020 I delivered the keynote lecture at the Political Studies Association Schools Day at the University of Warwick. The theme of the event was the politics of imperial legacies. My talk was entitled 'How should we deal today with the legacy of the British Empire', and it focused specifically on how young people position themselves in relation to the British Empire, when their history curriculum at school tells them one thing and their consciences often tell them something else entirely. In particular, we discussed how a number of British universities are attempting to confront their own history of benefiting from donations from slave traders, plantation owners, tobacco merchants and the like. Technology was used for the lecture which enabled the students to engage through anonymous voting, sometimes in relation to questions of fact (where they had to guess the most likely answer, as they could not have been expected to know it) and sometimes in relation to questions of opinion (where they could also guess how everyone else had voted before the answers were revealed on the screen).
On October 1st 2019 I was invited back once again to my old school to talk to the Sixth Form Forum. I provided them with a Whitchurch-specific and a school-specific talk to try to spark their interest in our Colonial Hangover project. It was entitled, 'Sir John Talbot's and Clive of India'. The link is really rather straightforward: when I was at the school, one of the houses was named after Robert Clive, who was treated as something of a local celebrity. I began by asking them whether me and my classmates should regret our passivity in the face of one of our school houses being named after someone who by today's system of public morals would be considered a war criminal. This then became a prelude to asking them to reflect on whether the Clive name should be removed from various locations in North Shropshire and what they would do about the fact that Clive's statue still stands proudly in the main market square in the county town of Shrewsbury. Sixty-seven sixth-formers were in attendance.
On July 21st 2018 I appeared in an 'In Conversation' slot at the annual Belgrade Mela in Coventry and was also interviewd by Radio Plus. The Mela is a public event hosted at the Belgrade Theatre to celebrate South Asian arts and culture within the UK and, more specifically, within the Coventry and Warwickshire region. I was interviewed by my Department's Widening Participation Officer, Shahnaz Akhter, before the discussion was opened up to a Q&A session with the audience. The theme was the Colonial Hangover project that we have been running with local schools, showcasing the activities we have put on for students within the region and, more generally, asking how modern-day Coventry is located in relation to the ongoing political and economic structures of imperial legacies. At the instigation of both Shahnaz and the audience, there was a distinct Brexit theme to the developing conversation.
On June 15th 2018 my Department ran a RADA Bronze Award Schools Day, where we teamed up with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to provide the means for Year 10 students from the Coventry and Warwickshire area to study for a Shakespeare Award. We ran this in conjunction with the Colonial Hangover project. The engagement with RADA will develop over a series of sessions, each of which will explore themes of territory and empire in Shakespeare's plays. I delivered the opening lecture of the first day to 60 fifteen-year-olds and their teachers. It was entitled, 'The Colonial Hangover Project: What Should Our Instinctive Response to the British Empire Be Today?'
The second event was held on June 29th and was entitled 'Exploring Shakespeare'. I gave a short talk as a taster for the concluding event on the controversies surrounding the statues in Parliament Square, contrasting this to the politically non-controversial statues of Shakespeare and Shakespearean characters that appear in his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon. This followed lectures by my colleagues Stuart Elden and Shahnaz Akhter on 'Shakespeare and Territory' and 'Shakespeare and Hip Hop' respectively.
The third event was held on July 10th and was entitled 'Shakespeare at the Houses of Parliament'. I delivered a lecture entitled 'The Politics of Statues', before the students delivered their interpretations of political scenes in Shakespeare in front of our invited guests from RADA. We then took the students into Parliament Square to look at the statues there, and my colleague Jason Dymydiuk prepared an information sheet for them on potential political controversies surrounding many of Westminster's most famous public works of art.
On March 9th 2018 I delivered a lecture entitled 'The 'History Wars': How Should the History of the British Empire be Taught in Schools?' to Year 12s at King Edward VI College in Nuneaton. 65 students attended the lecture and then stayed as we outlined this year's Colonial Hangover competition.