Research interview with the AHRC

I gave an interview for the AHRC on my research - the full version can be found below. We're discussing theatre music, Scandinavian modernism, and the future of academia.


Bacc for the Future: An Interview with Henry Vann

I interviewed Bacc for the Future campaign coordinator Henry Vann on the importance of the humanities in education, and why the EBacc is problematic for the future of arts teaching.

The Oxford Culture Review

Bacc for the Future is a multi-organisation campaign to prevent the EBacc (English Baccalaureate) from becoming a compulsory performance measure in state schools, proposed by schools minister Nick Gibb in June of this year. I spoke to one of the campaign co-ordinators, Henry Vann, about what the EBacc means for schools, why he believes it is detrimental to secondary education, and what impact its introduction has had on the study of creative subjects.

What is the Bacc for the Future campaign?

It is a cross-arts coalition campaign involving the creative industries, businesses, education organisations and the subject representatives from music, drama, art, design and technology, dance etc. They have all come together to challenge the government’s plan to make the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) compulsory for all secondary school pupils. The key thing from our perspective is that we have been through this before, in a previous version — back in…

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The Time Traveller’s Guide to British Theatre: An Interview with Aleks Sierz & Lia Ghilardi

Interview with theatre critic Aleks Sierz and cultural geographer Lia Ghilardi on their history of British theatre.

The Oxford Culture Review

Theatre critic Aleks Sierz and cultural geographer Lia Ghilardi have combined forces to write ‘The Time Traveller’s Guide to British Theatre‘, a creative mapping of British theatre and its audiences from 1558 to 1954. I spoke to them about navigating the mammoth task of documenting nearly 400 years of dramatic history, approaches to non-fiction writing, and possibilities for future theatre audiences.

Where did the idea for ‘The Time Traveller’s Guide to British Theatre’ come from?

Aleks: I have written a number of books about British theatre, both in a journalistic format and in an academic format, but I was looking for a more inspiring way of talking about the subject. History and current historians becoming media stars is a contemporary phenomenon: history is everywhere these days. You can’t switch on your TV without seeing a talking head, an actor playing a historical figure, a recreation of time past… So…

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The Unaccompanied: An Interview with Simon Armitage

Interview with poet Simon Armitage, the newly appointed Professor of Poetry at Oxford University.

The Oxford Culture Review

Simon Armitage is a multi-award winning poet, playwright, and novelist. In light of his recent nomination for the post of Professor of Poetry at Oxford University, I spoke to him about what he would hope to bring to the role, writing collaboratively, and creating poetic voices.

How did you get into writing poetry?

Reading, really. When I was at school, about age 16, I started reading Ted Hughes. It was really from that point on that I wanted to be involved with poetry. I saw it as a way forward. I don’t think I knew then that I wanted to write, but I knew that I wanted to read and acquire books. The BBC are making a radio documentary about a book of Ted’s called Poetry in the Making, which is a published version of some talks he gave on radio on how to write poems. I remember…

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Gamelan in Oxford: An Interview with Pete Smith

Interview with Pete Smith, director of Oxford Gamelan.

The Oxford Culture Review

Pete Smith directs Oxford Gamelan Society, an Oxford-based group dedicated to performing on these traditional Indonesian instruments. Ahead of their next concert at St John the Evangelist Church on the 14th February, I spoke to him about what the Gamelan is, the traditions that surround it, and its influence on Western composers.

What is the Gamelan?

The Gamelan is an Indonesian orchestra of bronze metallophones. It is a percussion ensemble made up predominantly of gongs, metallophones, and chimes, all hand-forged in bronze and mounted on exquisitely carved frames and beds with snakes, tropical plants, and other decorative embellishments.

The Oxford Gamelan comes from central Java. It’s been part of the university since 1983, and we are the country’s oldest established community Gamelan group. We meet regularly on Wednesdays in term time to play and learn on the heirloom gamelan ‘Kyai Madu Laras (‘The Venerable Sweet Harmony’) by kind permission of the

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Poetry, Technology, Creativity: An Interview with Leo Mercer

Interview with poet Leo Mercer.

The Oxford Culture Review

Poet Leo Mercer is currently President of the Oxford University Poetry Society. He regularly blogs and tweets both about poetry, and his own poems. I spoke to him about the relationship between creativity and technology, developing language, and poetry’s place in society.

Who are Oxford University Poetry Society, and what do they do?

The society’s been around since the 1950s and has been running consistently since then. At the moment my conception of it is that it does a number of things. We try and cover all bases, so various aspects are represented by the society. There are reading groups, writing workshops, and open mics where you can read your work, and if you like listening you can come to both the open mics and to readings by established poets. If you’re interested in reciting poetry then we’re trying to start a group where people walk down Broad Street…

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An Interview with Ian McEwan

Interview with novelist Ian McEwan.

The Oxford Culture Review

Ian McEwan is one of Britain’s foremost contemporary writers, and is speaking in Oxford on the 4th September after the release of his new novel, ‘The Children Act’. He won the Man Booker Prize for ‘Amsterdam’ in 1998 and many of his books have been made into films, most recently ‘Atonement’. I spoke to him about his latest book, researching for novels, and literary audiences.

What is the premise of ‘The Children Act’, and how did you come to choose this topic?

More than one premise, in fact. Firstly, (much neglected by crime fiction), to investigate the character of the judge, and how that influences the course of a case.

Secondly, to explore an encounter between the courts, whose assumptions are generally secular, and deeply held religious belief. A stark example of this is the Jehovah’s Witness refusal for themselves and for their children, of blood transfusion.


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Twelfth Night: An interview with Max Gill

An interview with director Max Gill.

The Oxford Culture Review

Inviting the audience to ‘experience Illyria as you have never seen it before; an iridescent and perilous realm’, Oxford University Drama Society’s summer tour production of ‘Twelfth Night’ promises to revitalise Shakespeare’s comedy of misadventure and false identity. I spoke to director Max Gill about interpreting the fantasy world of Illyria and its inhabitants, the practical challenges of staging a touring show, and the importance of music and design in this production.

Why did you choose to stage ‘Twelfth Night’?

Because I think it’s one of Shakespeare’s most difficult plays to direct and conceive of. It teeters all the time between an overt comedy with lots of ridiculous situations, while at the same time there are elements of tragedy and quite troubling psychological portraits of people. As a director it makes you have to make quite bold decisions in what you’re doing, which is quite scary and potentially risky, but…

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The Rain Suggested Poems: An Interview with Nick Hennessey

Interview with storyteller Nick Hennessey.

The Oxford Culture Review

Nick Hennessey is a professional storyteller and musician, and winner of the 2000 World Championship in epic singing with his performance of the Kalevala (the Finnish national epic). I spoke to him about interpreting the Kalevala, the relationship between landscape and stories, and what makes storytelling so uniquely compelling as an art form.

What first drew you to storytelling?

I grew up in Alderley Edge, South Manchester, in the shadow of a hill about which there is a legend. And I grew up in the shadow of Alan Garner and his first book The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. In its opening pages, it had in it the legend of this hill, and so from a very young age I felt that landscape and stories were basically connected, and we only know a place by knowing its stories. That was the only traditional ‘story’ I ever knew – nobody told me stories as…

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