Speakers at the LANS round table
L-R: Peter Harrison (The Rep), Symon Easton (Birmingham City Council), Muhibb Nazir (The Rep), Imogen Swan (The Rep), Jonathan Davidson (Writing West Midlands)

The Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences (LANS) Civic Roundtable Event, held on October 2nd 2023, was an overwhelming success, bringing together experts from the cultural sector to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing Birmingham and the West Midlands in 2023-24. With an engaging panel of distinguished speakers, the event proved to be a source of inspiration for the students and academic staff in attendance, aligning with the University's aims of promoting interdisciplinary learning and civic engagement.

The event commenced with Dr Betsy Porritt providing a warm introduction. The panel of speakers, consisting of actor Peter Harrison, Birmingham City Council’s Head of Cultural Development & Tourism Symon Easton, Co-Chairs of The Birmingham Rep Youth Board Muhibb Nazir and Imogen Swan, and Chief Executive of Writing West Midlands Jonathan Davidson followed shortly after. Each speaker had 5-8 minutes to present their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities facing the region. The presentations covered a range of topics, from access and participation and finance to the region's literary landscape and the need to bring the city’s cultures and communities together.

The audience, primarily comprising first and third year LANS students and academic staff from the University of Birmingham, listened eagerly and presented the panel with insightful questions following the panel discussion. The speakers' ability to connect their expertise with the issues at hand encouraged students to think more deeply about how they can contribute to the betterment of the West Midlands, and provided a brilliant insight into Birmingham, especially for the many students who had only just arrived in Birmingham a few weeks prior to start their studies in a new city.

Following the event, students shared their feedback. One student commented: ‘The panel brought things I had no idea about to my attention, and I didn’t realise how much arts and culture there was in Birmingham.’ Another stated: ‘The panel really highlighted efforts within Birmingham to help lower-privileged communities gain access to the arts, and definitely made me consider more how certain communities may not be reached by certain methods of advertisement/ may not have the means to access certain events/ certain locations.’

The success of this event underscores the University's dedication to shaping not only the academic development of its students but also their commitment to improving the world around them. Culture Forward extends a huge thank you to our partners Birmingham City Council, Birmingham Rep and Writing West Midlands for their exemplary contribution to the event.

Following the Civic Roundtable, on 25 October Cultural Forward’s Academic Director, Professor Ewan Fernie, presented as a panel member on the promise and the pitfalls of academic work in the world with MRes and Medical Humanities students in LANS – yet another example of the strength of interdisciplinary approaches to addressing and solving challenges.

Culture Forward is bringing the University, the City, and Birmingham’s cultural organisations into closer and more creative collaborations.