Campaign for the Humanities

Passionate about research in THE HUMANITIES

Leeds Cultural Conversations

The Centre for Culture and the Arts was founded in 2013 and brings together researchers from across Leeds Beckett University working in the Arts, Humanities and Culture. The Leeds Cultural Conversations series is a series of monthly lunchtime talks organised by the Centre for Culture & the Arts at Leeds Beckett University in partnership with Leeds City Council.

The aim of the Leeds Cultural Conversations series is to involve people in the centre's research: Dr Susan Watkins, Director of the Centre commented: “We want to get away from the idea of a separation between town and gown. Leeds Beckett University has a long history of public engagement work and we want as many people as possible to know about the fascinating range of research that our Centre academics are doing. We are delighted to be working with Leeds City Council and Palgrave on this series - working with the council allows us to reach a bigger audience and the publisher Palgrave's ‘Campaign for the Humanities’ is something we are closely involved with.”

The talks from the series are being filmed so we'll be adding the video from each talk to this page - keep an eye on this page for the latest content. 

2018/19 Series

Talks from the Leeds Cultural Conversations 2018/19 series.

An American in Calcutta: Henry Lee and the Indo-U. S. Trade, 1811-1816

Dr Andrew Lawson examines the business strategies of Boston merchant Henry Lee, one of a number of American interlopers in a trade dominated by the British East India Company.

Look who's talking - language and literature in a world of data

Leeds has significant claim to the title of Data City, and this talk looks at ways in which work on literature and language can provide perspective on issues confronting citizens of the digital realm. 

Dieting: Why We Started and Why We Must Stop

Why does dieting dominate most women’s lives? Professor Jayne Raisborough explores how slimness shifted from being a sign of illness to a symbol of emancipation before discussing more recent understandings of slenderness as a guarantee of fitness and health.

Devilish and Debonair: The Wildean Dandy and the Long Life of a Gay Stereotype

Professor Ruth Robbins delivers a talk about both the uses and abuses of a stereotype of gay identity.

Revisiting Borstal: Youth, Crime and Penality, c. 1902-1982

In this talk Professor Heather Shore introduces a history project which is starting to untangle the evolution of the borstal system, and the experiences of borstal youths.

Challenging the British Asian Football Exclusion

Dan Kilvington draws on the oral testimonies of British Asian football communities to demonstrate that systemic racism, overt racism, racio-cultural stereotypes and a lack of role models have excluded British Asians from the football.

Stitch and Bitch: Knitting, Femininity and Women's Everyday Lives

The first talk in the Leeds Cultural Conversations series 2018/19, presented by Dr Katherine Harrison and Dr Cassie Ogden, reveals findings from research with real-life knitters to discuss the often-overlooked importance of knitting in female relationships, identity and creativity.

Previous Events

Talks from the 2017/18 Series

Black History and the Anti-Slavery Movement
4 October 2017, Room 700, Leeds Central Library
As part of Black History Month, Dr Rob Burroughs discussed black history and the anti-slavery movement in the nineteenth century.

An Appetite for Cookery and Lifestyle
8 November 2017, Room 700, Leeds Central Library
Dr Melanie Chan focused on smart-phone apps and their relationship with celebrity cooks in, ‘An Appetite for Cookery and Lifestyle.

Asbestos in Leeds: A History of Transnational Contamination
6 December 2017, Albert Room, Leeds Town Hall
Dr Jessica Van Horssen examined the history of asbestos in Leeds originating from Canadian mines.

Dystopia, Apocalypse and Contemporary Women's Writing
7 February 2018, Victoria Hall, Leeds Town Hall
Professor Susan Watkins investigated the way in which contemporary women writers offer a fresh take on dystopian and apocalyptic themes.

Forgotten Heroine? Recovering Emily Hobhouse 1899-1926
7 March 2018, Sullivan Room, Leeds Town Hall
To coincide with International Women's Day, Dr Helen Dampier explored the issues associated with recovering 'forgotten' women as 'heroines', focusing on the Emily Hobhouse Letters Project.

Civic Pride in Victorian Leeds: the Heaton family and their legacy
9 May 2018, Sullivan Room, Leeds Town Hall
Dr Simon Morgan used the journals of Dr John Deakin Heaton of Claremont, Leeds, to explore the contribution of the Heaton family to the educational, charitable and cultural life of the town, and traces their legacy in modern-day Leeds.

Talks from the 2016/17 Series

The Dark Age: Air Pollution in Urban-industrial Britain
September 7th 2016, Sullivan Room, Leeds Town Hall
This talk examines the complex cultural, technical, economic and political barriers to positive environmental change in Britain’s cities.

Remembering “Firths Carpets”: Responses to Altered Landscape in an Ex-Industrial Community
October 5th 2016, Denny Room, Leeds City Museum
This talk investigates an altered experience of place and the emotional consequences for people once dependent on the now de-industrialised landscape of Bailiff Bridge. It explores the strategies people use to locate themselves in relation to a changed narrative of industrial heritage, how they both navigate and hold a sense of shared locality within its changed landscape.

From the Stands to Social Media: The Changing Nature of Racism in Football
November 9th 2016, Sullivan Room, Leeds Town Hall
This talk evaluates the shifting nature of racism within contemporary English football.

Autism, Adulthood and Fictions: Reading Autism Portrayals after Diagnosis
December 7th 2016, Thoresby Room, Leeds City Museum
The talk combines literary criticism with a post-diagnosis view of how autism is depicted in contemporary culture. Dr McGrath addresses aspects of gender, class, and disability itself in relation to autistic identities, and will also considers the wider potential of culture in shaping and challenging expectations placed on autistic adults.

Scenery, Antiquities and Manufactures: Touring Nineteenth-Century Yorkshire with Murray's Handbook for Travellers
11 January 2017, Albert Room, Leeds Town Hall
In this talk Dr Gráinne Goodwin explores how Murray's Handbook for Travellers in Yorkshire promoted industrial tourism through its routes and travel itineraries and considered how established regional highlights were depicted.

W. G. Grace: Cricket Missionary to the North and Hero of 1895 (to Oscar Wilde’s Villain)
8 February 2017, Albert Room, Leeds Town Hall
The talk covers how W. G. Grace became a big cricket star, how the crowds’ interest in him tied first-class cricket to the MCC and the county championship, and how he became perhaps the most recognised celebrity of the later Victorian years.

The Trials of Oscar Wilde’s Salome: The Maud Allan Libel Case
8 March 2017, Carriageworks, The Electric Press, 3 Millennium Square
This talk examines the difficult history of Oscar Wilde’s play Salome.

Verdant Creativities: Urban Gardening & Sensuous Place-Making in West Yorkshire
5 April 2017, Albert Room, Leeds Town Hall
Focusing on case studies of urban gardening in West Yorkshire, this talk explores how gardening communities participate in practices of place-making through acts of verdant creativity: planning, planting, and growing.

Measuring Morale in Second World War Leeds
10 May 2017, Albert Room, Leeds Town Hall
This talk uses examples from wartime Leeds to explain why morale was ‘ultimately measured not by what a person thinks or says, but what he does and how he does it’ (Home Intelligence, Oct. 1941).

Talks from the 2015/16 Series

Eastern European 'Show Trials' of the 1950s: the Slansky Case
May 11th 2016, Court Room, Leeds Town Hall
New evidence and insights from previously closed archives about the Slansky trial, one of the best-known political show trials in 1950s Czechoslovakia, have recently become available. This talk discussed how knowledge and understanding of the Slansky trial evolved as a result.

Women, Visibility and Playful Acts
March 9th 2016, Albert Room, Leeds Town Hall
This talk/performance followed the public celebration of International Women’s Day as part of the Festival of The Body organised by F= and based at Central library Artspace from 29 February to 31 March 2016. Leeds Beckett Feminist research group F= offer a space for individual and collective voices to speak out on feminism and its relevance today.

Pride of Place: LGBTQ Histories and Heritage
February 10th 2016, Albert Room, Leeds Town Hall
Historic houses and heritage sites contain some amazing, but often under-recognised, stories of same-sex love and gender crossing. In what ways does the historic environment look different if we put LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and queer) history back into it?

The Life and Crimes of William Sheen: the Real Fagin?
January 13th 2016, Albert Room, Leeds Town Hall
This paper explored the life of a Victorian criminal named William Sheen. In 1837, the year in which Charles Dickens started his serialisation of Oliver Twist, William Sheen was prosecuted for keeping a brothel in Wentworth Street, Spitalfields.

Doing Urban History in an Urban World
December 9th 2015, Sullivan Room, Leeds Town Hall
In an urban world, urban history is more important than ever, especially in explaining the huge social, economic and environmental challenges facing us all today, but also in understanding our increasingly recognisable global urban culture.

Retaking the Commons: Culture, Politics, and the Public Realm
November 11th 2015, Sullivan Room, Leeds Town Hall
In this event Dr Andrew Lawson and Dr Katy Shaw will discuss how the left can find new ways of challenging the neoliberal discourse of 'public bad/private good,' and ask how literary and cultural texts can reframe ideas of collective agency and the common good.

It's not all Sequins and Bikinis? Power, Performance and Play in the Leeds and Trinidad Carnival
October 7th 2015, Thoresby Room, Leeds City Museum
The Midnight Robber, in his black sombrero adorned with skulls and coffin-shaped shoes, is a mysterious masquerade character from the Trinidad carnival. He exemplifies many of the practices which were central to Caribbean carnival culture - resistance to officialdom, linguistic innovation and the disruptive nature of play, parody and humour...

What is the European Capital of Culture and What it can do for a City
September 9th 2015, Henry Moore Lecture Theatre, Leeds Art Gallery
The European Capital of Culture has been much in the news following Leeds City Council's decision to bid for the title for 2023. This talk provided a brief history of the European Capital of Culture (ECoC) event since its launch in 1985, and discussed its aims, and gave some examples of how it has been used by different European cities to produce cultural, economic and social change...