Arts Matters

The 'Arts' sign from outside the University of Birmingham Arts Building

At the College of Arts and Law, we explore what it means to be human – in historical and cultural contexts, within ethical and legal norms and through languages and communication.

Arts Matters is a series of lunchtime lectures from across the College’s wide range of research disciplines. Each week our researchers discuss their work, sharing the concepts and ideas that matter to them - and why these matter to all of us. 

From 27 October 2021, a new lecture will be broadcast on the University’s YouTube channel, every Wednesday at 1pm – or you can catch up on all previous lectures in the series below.

Dr Jimmy Packham

Dr Jimmy Packham explores a British literary tradition that has, at its heart, an abiding preoccupation with the coast. This talk examines in particular the important work undertaken by gothic fiction in articulating the rich, yet fraught, cultural history of this region: Britain’s literature of terror is a literature not of haunted castles or ruined abbeys, but of shorelines.

Dr Asha Rogers

Dr Asha Rogers asks whether a historical perspective on state literary support– which evolved from particularly innovative acts of writing, to the category of “black British literature”, and literary activism in the wake of the Rushdie Affair – strengthen the case to “bring the state back in” today.

Dr Sebastian Mitchell

Dr Sebastian Mitchell considers the extent to which we should regard the Covid-19 pandemic as being dystopian, and whether circumstances are now propitious for the emergence of new forms of utopianism, as expressions of hope and optimism for the third decade of the twenty-first century.


Dr Peter Auger

Dr Peter Auger explores what we want in translations, what feminist translation is, and why we need it, by looking back four centuries to the earliest Englishwoman to have a poetry collection printed under her name.

Dr Joe Spencer-Bennett

Dr Joe Spencer Bennett asks how British politicians and institutions have imagined the ordinary English to which they have aspired, and what their motivations for idealising it have been. Looking especially at the mid-twentieth century, it asks us to reflect on their own impressions of political and linguistic change.

Dr Rona Cran

Dr Rona Cran considers the role of the poet in a pandemic, focusing on the HIV-AIDS crisis as it unfolded in New York City during the 1980s-1990s. New York’s poets engaged in complex and varied processes of revising, negotiating, re-imagining, and making meaning out of narratives about HIV-AIDS, asking pressing questions about disability, racism, gendered injustice, and love in the context of a pandemic – questions that echo meaningfully in our present moment.


Dr John Kendall

Dr John Kendall discusses his research into the Independent Custody Visiting Scheme, which enables people to make unannounced visits to police stations and to check on the welfare of detainees. Dr Kendall’s work shows that as a result of government policy and the power of the police, the visiting scheme is not independent, makes no impact on the behaviour of the police, and urgently needs reform.

Professor Sara Jones

  • 15 December 2021
  • Creative Selves: Testimony, Authenticity and Engaging Others

Professor Sara Jones explores testimony, and considers in particular the ethical implications of this practice and the boundaries between fact and fiction, drawing on her experience of collaborating with artists, producers of theatre and writers who produce and reproduce testimony in their work.

Dr Berny Sèbe

  • 22 December 2021
  • Rethinking Britain and Europe after the End of Empire: Decolonisation in the Metropoles

Dr Berny Sebe argues that decolonisation did not ‘happen’ at one point in time; rather, it marched on throughout, in the form of ebbs and flows of cultural exchanges between ex-colonies and metropoles in flux, influencing undulating cultures marked by shifting memories of the colonial past and its changing place in public debates.