Cultural Programme

Liberal Arts and Sciences students have the opportunity to experience a range of thought-provoking visits and events as part of our Cultural Programme.

Henry V'Henry V' at the Royal Shakespeare Company (photograph: Keith Pattison)

We will bring poets, writers, academics and scientific specialists to speak to you on campus, whilst also organising trips beyond the University to theatres and exhibitions.

Our Cultural Programme aims to deepen your understanding of the relationship between the University, the wider community, and significant cultural organisations. We believe our diverse and provocative suite of activities is crucial to your development as intellectual pioneers and creative learners, encouraging you to draw together different disciplines to form new ways of thinking.

Culture in Birmingham

Birmingham has always been at the heart of cultural and scientific innovation in Britain, ranging from Shakespeare through to the Industrial Revolution and English Enlightenment, as well as our University's unique foundation as a civic institution. Our Cultural Programme hopes to reflect this history by offering activities with regional organisations, such as:

  • The Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon
  • A wide range of theatres across the West Midlands, such as the Hippodrome and The REP
  • The Black Country Living Museum
  • Soho House
  • The Ironbridge Gorge Word Heritage Site

Since the Cultural Programme was introduced, highlights have included a guest lecture from Mervyn Morris, the Poet Laureate of Jamaica; a performance of Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, a gothic romantic ballet; Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro performed by the Welsh National Opera; and the RSC’s Doctor Faustus.

Iphigenia in SplottIphigenia in Splott at The Birmingham REP (photograph: Burning Red)

Café Culturel

Our Cultural Programme is complemented by Café Culturel, a series of events co-organised by staff and students of the Liberal Arts and Sciences. Café Culturel offers a relaxed environment for discussing thought-provoking issues with experts from a wide variety of fields. You can share a drink and debate with fellow students, academics and non-university experts on topics such as:

Cultural Programme 2015-16

The full list of Cultural Programme activities for the 2015-16 academic year is below. We hope this gives you an idea of the exciting and diverse events that you can expect as a Liberal Arts and Sciences student at the University of Birmingham.

  • Hecuba at the Royal Shakespeare Company – gender studies, international relations and war crimes are all explored in this reimagining of Euripides’ Greek tragedy – October 2015.
  • Relatively Speaking at the Crescent Theatre – Alan Ayckbourn’s comedy is about a man who believes his girlfriend’s older lover and his wife are her parents. This prompts a play of hilarious and spiralling misunderstanding – October 2015.
  • Henry V at the Royal Shakespeare Company – Shakespeare’s history play is a coming-of-age story concerned with identity politics – October 2015.
  • Nosferatu at the Midlands Art Centre – Nosferatu explores the psychological relationship between a group sailors as they journey with an unknown cargo. Inspired by the German Expressionist film of the same name and Bran Stoker’s Dracula, the production focusses on the themes of fear and the unknown – October 2015.
  • Orpheus at The Birmingham REP – a reimagining of Orpheus’s ill-fated descent into the underworld, set against a live score of hot club jazz, opera and French chanson – October 2015.
  • The Invention of Space – as part of our Distinguished Lecture series, Professor David Wootton discusses the world before science, what constitutes the ‘scientific enterprise’ and how language shapes scientific thought – November 2015.
  • The Evolution of Complexity – organised by Café Culturel, Dr Jeremy Pritchard explained how complicated natural structures, such as eyeballs and feathers, are the result of slow, cumulative changes, despite some believing these complexities defy the theory of evolution – January 2016.
  • The Imitation Game – the Liberal Arts and Sciences Film Club showed a screening of The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as mathematical genius Alan Turing, who cracked the Enigma Code to aid the Allies during World War II – 1 February.
  • Broken at Warwick Arts Centre – an adrenaline filled multi-media spectacle which combines athletic contact work, spectacular acrobatics and digital imagery that melds with the performers as they move. Broken examines our precarious relationship with the Earth – 5 February.

Broken'Broken' by Motionhouse (photograph: Katja Ogrin)

  • Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty at the Birmingham Hippodrome – the second of Tchaikovsky’s three ballets, Sleeping Beauty transports audiences the halcyon days of the late Edwardian era through to the modern day via a world full of magic, fairies, vampires, love and romance – 10 February.
  • When Sciences Meets Culture – organised by Café Culturel, Professor Deborah Lynn Steinberg discussed how the language of genes is reshaping our culture – February 2016.
  • The Lord of the Flies at the Warwick Arts Centre – William Golding’s 20th century classic is adapted for the stage by the award-winning Regent’s Park Theatre. A group of school boys crash onto a desert island and discover a darkly sinister world of superstition and immorality – February 2016.
  • The Marriage of Figaro at the Birmingham Hippodrome – Mozart and his librettist da Ponte allows us to eavesdrop into a day in the life of Count Almaviva’s household. Over the course of the opera, performed by the Welsh National Opera, we discover each character’s agendas, flaws, wit and strengths – March 2016.
  • Gravitational Waves in the News – Dr Ilya Mandel spoke to Liberal Arts and Sciences students about how the University announced its discovery of gravitational waves – March 2016.
  • Samuel Pepys Exhibition at the National Maritime Museum – the largest ever exhibition about the famous diarist who witnessed many of the great events that shaped Stuart Britain and brought them to life in his famous and candid diary – March 2016.
  • Doctor Faustus at the Royal Shakespeare Company – Christopher Marlowe’s tragedy tells of Faustus, a brilliant but embittered academic, who sells his soul to Mephistopheles for twenty-four years of absolute knowledge and infinite power – March 2016.
  • Iphigenia in Splott at The Birmingham REP – Gary Owens powerful drama is inspired by the enduring Greek myth, themed around the high price people pay for society’s shortcomings. It won the UK Theatre Award for Best New Play in 2015. – March 2016
  • Neurobiology of Aesthetic Experiences – as part of our Distinguished Lecture series, Professor Semir Zeki discussed how neurobiological experiments have shown that the experience of beauty, whether sensory or cognitive, correlates with activity in the same part of the brain, which suggests there is an abstract quality to the experience of beauty - March 2016.

Semir ZekiProfessor Semir Zeki taking questions after his Distinguished Lecture in March 2016

Students are invited to suggest events themselves, so future Cultural Programme activities may encompass your own personal passions and intellectual pursuits. We also organise events open to the public, including our Distinguished Lecture series.