Category Archives: Campus

Places you need to try: Top Coffee shops around Birkbeck

Image by flickr user Alper Çuğun

Prufrock – 23-25 Leather Lane

The coffee here is infinitely better than one would expect from somewhere that also does great food. It’s a leisurely, open-plan room with more than enough space to spread out all your notes while you dawdle over the coffee menu and bookshelves of chocolate. Yes, as well as great coffee, Prufrock also sell enticing looking chocolate bars from far-flung parts of the world (although I admit I have never tried these, considering some are ten quid a pop). This has to be one of my favourite spots in London because of all the boxes it expertly ticks.

Walkability: Not so great. It would take around 20 minutes, so still very far off the Oxfam Marathon Walk (been there, done that) but making one’s way past huffing commuters is not always the most pleasant experience. The nearest stations are Chancery Lane and Farringdon.

Studyability: 10/10; most definitely would recommend.

 

The Espresso Room – 31-35 Great Ormond Street

By flickr user Ricardo

 

The coffee here was (as the youth nowadays say) off-the-hook, fire, peng, dank whatever term you want to insert, you insert it baby! The view on the other hand wasn’t so dank; the hospital is right in your eyeline; turn away from the coffee shop towards the street and BAM there it is. To be fair I don’t recall this bothering me too much at the time, but I guess instead of rose-tinting my memories, my brain has the effect of making them seem so much worse than they were. My mother had the most delightful cappuccino, so creamy and smooth it felt like jumping into a pool of whipped cream, instead of just taking a sip of coffee in the horrendous hustle and bustle that is London. As for my americano, I truly have nothing bad to say about it. Now onto the rest of the rankings…

Walkability: 10 mins – so very easily done

Studyability: 1/10 – unless you have a penchant for awkwardly balancing a laptop on your knees while precariously holding your coffee in your free hand, this is not the study spot for you. Come here for a quick coffee after you hop off at Russell Square and before you enjoy your walk to Birkbeck. Take your coffee and go before you’re late for class; chop, chop.

 

 

Kaffeine – 66 Great Titchfield Street; 15 Eastcastle Street

By flickr user Bex Walton (modified)

I arrived at Kaffeine (yes, that’s really the name – blame the hipster Aussies) dead on twelve, and it was packed. Walking past an appetising and enticing food counter, I was greeted by a cute, smiling little blonde. The coffee this time was an americano; full of flavour and slightly fruity, with just a hint of acidity; not always a bad thing, in this case it complemented the other flavours nicely. The only downside was that on the walk to Birkbeck, I had to pass what I could only presume from the noise to be a jungle of wild children kept hidden behind high walls.

Walkability: only 13 minutes, and apart from the aforementioned wildlings, it was a pleasant route that took me down some back streets offering a mix of independent art galleries and impressive graffiti.

Studyability: 5/10; possible only if you precisely figure out the best time to get there and grab a spot. Then figure out the most convenient time to leave before people fill it up like bees gathering to a queen.

Places you need to try: Bloomsbury farmers’ market & the Petrie Museum

Image by Matt Brown (flickr)

Bloomsbury Farmers’ Market – Torrington Square

Walking into the midst of this market was like attempting to get through the world’s worst airport security. No chance for a stroll, I tried to speed walk through all of it, but kept getting stuck behind people goggling the artisan pasta or stopping in their tracks when taken away by a hot dog stand. I have to admit, I most likely ended up as one of those people.

I settled on a burger and pie stand with a queue almost round the block (well, actually just a couple times the length of the stall). It was a wild boar and red wine pie for me, with mash and gravy (I feel bad, I really do, as I have been trying to be a vegetarian recently – I console myself with the fact that the meat was organic and farm-bred; I’m sure the boar had a ‘happy’ life).

The pie crust was divine, flaky on the outside but not too soggy on the inside. The meat itself proved too much for me, and I have a feeling this pie is going to last me for a couple of days. I’ll definitely try the market again, but perhaps next time, go for something a little less ‘lunch for the miners’.

The Farmers’ Market is open every Thursday from 9am to 2pm

 

Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology – UCL, Malet Place

By User:LordHarris, via Wikimedia Commons
This place is quite the little hide-out. Whilst the nearby British Museum is undeniably impressive and houses many grand pieces, the Petrie sits on the more minute side of things. I guess what they say is true, opposites do attract. Considering it is just around the corner from Birkbeck, located within UCL, it is most definitely worth a visit or two. It feels like stepping back in time to an eccentric old English home full of wonderful collections.

Open 1pm to 5pm, Tuesday to Saturday

places you need to try: Dillons Coffee & SOAS’ Public Lectures

Image by poeloq (flickr)

Dillons Coffee (in Waterstones, Gower Street)

I admit it may not be for everyone, but bear with me a moment. The coffee itself could be worse, but I have also had better. The latte art on my choice (a soy flat white – I’m lactose-intolerant, not on a Gwyneth Paltrow style diet) was more abstract than I would normally expect, though to be fair, Dillons is located in the university heart of London. Such reservations were easily overlooked when I took my first sip of coffee right before a six o’clock lecture; strong, robust and not at all subtle. Precisely what I needed. However, a few more sips revealed an equally unsubtle lingering bitter flavour. I could hardly care less at that point – I’d just ordered a coffee from one of the most hipster-looking places I had seen, and must now be in with the ‘cool’ kids. Well, perhaps not.

The reason Dillons is on this (very subjective) list is that firstly, it’s close to Birkbeck so ideal for a pick-me-up right before your eyes roll into the back of your head and your body starts shutting down. Also, it’s something of an entertaining place; go there to combine work with a socialising, be amazed by the diversity of London university life, and take a break from the monotony of the library. On the subject of the latter, has anyone else noticed it smells weird, or is that just me?

If anyone has any other coffee shops they would like to recommend, I would be more than happy to visit them for a future review (independents only please – Costa and Starbucks don’t need my support). Suggestions in the comments please.

SOAS (public lectures)

There’s a part of my heart that harbours quite the soft spot for SOAS; it was the university everyone expected me to go to, and the university I did not get into. Even when I was taking my A-Levels I would wander every so often (or more like once a week) into this corner of London to attend one of the evening lectures that SOAS held for the public. I can’t remember when it was that I first fell in love, perhaps during the talk on the conflict in Palestine, or possibly the one on the remnants of the Arab Spring. Either way, I was hooked and there was no way back. My teachers and mother found it amusing I would spend my spare time on even more education, but I was never the ‘normal’ kid in my family.

I would more than recommend attending one of their lectures; you’ll most likely find something that will interest you, whether your field is finance or nuclear weapons. I know it can be difficult to find time for more lectures what with work during the days, studying during the evenings and not really having time to even take a breath; but it would really be the cherry-on-the-top of all the great things you’re already managing to do in your day.

A One To One With… Pete Williams of Birkbeck Libraries

Pete Williams is the Assistant Director for User Support, Academic Liaison and Collections across the Malet Street and Stratford Campuses of Birkbeck. Here, Pete explains some of the challenges faced to support students across the libraries:

Birkbeck Library provides three main things: collections (print and online); a space to study; and practical support to our users.

My advice to new students would be go to your library introductory talk but if you miss that, or need more help, you can always make an appointment with your Subject Librarian – the purpose of their job is to support you!

Our Subject Librarians meet with academic staff all the time but we’d really like to improve our communication with our students, either through the Student Union or through other channels including social media.

There is a Library Advisory Group, consisting of staff from each department, which meets twice a year usually in March and November. Its remit is to offer advice on library policy and to monitor our performance.

Birkbeck students studying in Stratford have full access to UEL’s Stratford Campus Library. They can borrow any of the books housed in that library and their Birkbeck ID card automatically lets them in through the turnstiles. We have dedicated members of library staff based out there and they work both in the UEL Library and also in the USS Building, where there is a study area with PCs called the Weston Learning Centre. Stratford-based Birkbeck students can also use all the Malet Street facilities.

Compared to taught postgraduate students, research students need a greater range of library materials as there is no reading list for a PhD. To really succeed, they also need to understand the wider information landscape by which I mean a greater knowledge of the information resources available and the different ways scholarly work is published and disseminated.

There are plenty of challenges but perhaps the main one is limited space. We are constantly balancing the need to provide an adequate number of study spaces with the fact that our collections are crammed into a relatively small amount of space. We realise that the Library is still becoming completely full up in the afternoons, and that this is a highly unsatisfactory situation, and we are currently exploring options for creating significantly more study spaces in summer 2017.

We’re currently reorganising the way we staff the Library at evenings and weekends to make sure students coming in at these times get as good a service as possible. We have a ‘back to the floor’ policy and all library staff (including the Director) work on the helpdesk at least once a week. In October, the library opened a new group study area.

Like all Birkbeck departments, we receive an annual budget which covers everything we do, including all the information resources (books, journals) we purchase. However, for more substantial one-off refurbishment work, such as the creation of the new group study area and the Accessibility Centre that happened this summer, we have to make a business case to Birkbeck’s Estates Committee for additional funding.

We hope to develop better links with the SU, but we are also trying out other methods, including focus groups, greater engagement through Twitter and Facebook and making sure we attend any student/staff forums in individual departments.

In February we will be conducting some ‘ethnographic’ research into how students use the library. In September 2016 we received about £4,000 from the Birkbeck Alumni Fund to do this. We will be employing Birkbeck students to help us, so look out for people with clipboards observing you when you use the Library!

For other upcoming developments, please take a look at our annual Operational Plan which lists in full the various projects we are currently engaged in.  Our mission is “to put students at the heart of everything we do”.

I think Birkbeck has a strong identity as London’s Evening University, which both its students and staff buy into.’

Images courtesy of Birkbeck Library and Wikimedia Commons

The Birkbeck Centre For Contemporary Theatre

Dr Fintan Walsh & Dr Louise Owen are the co-directors of The Birkbeck Centre For Contemporary Theatre.  Situated at 43 Gordon Square (The School of Arts), the BCCT is a thriving, multi-disciplinary platform where theatre professionals come together to create and research pieces on cultural politics and identity, new writing, contemporary theatre and early modern theatre and performance.  Here, Dr Walsh & Dr Owen explain some of the exciting developments which have evolved over 2016.

Please can you describe the structure of the BCCT programme?

We usually have some kind of event – such as a workshop or conversation – planned each week. Some involve centre fellows (we appoint twenty who are attached for three years) pursuing research and development towards their projects.  Others include people working in the theatre industry, or with other academics.  Many events will be open to staff, students and the public, and will address some aspect of contemporary theatre. We also run a number of symposia a year, which arise from our research interests, and fellows sometimes host their own workshops or talks here too.

When did BCCT form, and what do you consider its key objectives?

The centre was founded in 2006 by Professor Rob Swain, who runs the MFA Theatre Directing, as a space for hosting conversations between academics and theatre artists. These objectives have evolved over the years depending on shifts in research focus and staff, and when we took over the Centre in 2014 we had a chance to refine them again ourselves, to reflect our own interests and ambitions.

Can you explain more about the work and involvement of BA, MA and PhD students in Theatre and Drama Studies, Directing, and Creative Writing? 

Theatre and performance lecturers are involved in teaching on the BA Theatre and Drama Studies and MA Text and Performance (run in conjunction with RADA). Rob Swain looks after the MFA Theatre Directing. Some of the Creative Writing lecturers are also professional theatre and screen writers, and students have the chance to take their courses too. A lot of our practical classes take place in G10 studio space in 43 Gordon Square, which is where we also stage final performance projects. Students are welcome to attend many of the events run within the Centre too. And last year, along with the University of Winchester and the University of Kent, we collaborated with Camden People’s Theatre on two festivals entitled Being European, exploring the moments before and after the EU referendum.

With fellows ranging from playwrights to theatre directors, can you please discuss some of the themes and highlights of 2016, and beyond into 2017?

We invite a wide range of people involved in theatre to participate in centre events as it’s such a diverse discipline. The centre’s goals shift slightly year- on-year depending on the research focus of academics and Fellows, and we try to integrate these by working to a research theme, which this year is ‘transmission’. We have many events coming up in 2017, but three symposia we’re currently working on include Politicians & Other Performers in January, Twofold: the Particularities of Working in Pairs in March, and Theatres of Contagion in May. When we can, we podcast our talks on the Centre for Contemporary Theatre website. The centre runs events every day during Arts Week – discussions, symposia, performances. In May 2016, we welcomed Tassos Stevens (Artistic Director of Coney), who talked about digital media and social life with Birkbeck academics Seda Ilter, Scott Rodgers and Joel McKim.  We run a Scratch Night every year for students at all levels to show work in progress.  The MFA Theatre Directing students will create an original piece of performance in collaboration with an academic.  Last year, they worked with Gill Woods to create a brilliant short interactive piece exploring ‘part scripts’, widely used in early modern theatre.  We also support artists to show longer pieces of work in progress in the context of Arts Week too (for example, the work of Theatre North).

What would you like to see introduced?

The Centre is ten years old this year, so we’re hoping to mark that by running a range of events that reflect upon its achievement next year.

What have been the challenges faced by the theatre?

Time! There is so much we would like to do, and with limited time…

Would you consider arranging a society through Birkbeck SU for Drama?

Students have expressed an interest in forming a Birkbeck drama society, and we would fully support the activities of such a group. As an SU activity it’s not for us to initiate it.

And finally, what do you consider the chief mission of the theatre?

The Centre’s mission is to host conversations between all those interested in theatre – academics, artists and audiences – and to be responsive to contemporary concerns and issues. This aim, above all else, informs the work we do, and will guide future developments

theatre

Images: Courtesy of The Birkbeck Centre For Contemporary Theatre

For further information, please follow:

http://www.bbk.ac.uk/english/our-research/bcct

New digital donor wall goes live

A new digital wall acknowledging the support of donors and volunteers to the College has been unveiled in the main Malet Street building, comprising of two monitors that are continuously updated. One screen will acknowledge the support of volunteers and donors, including those who have bequeathed money to Birkbeck.  The other will use engaging animations to provide information on past projects and the latest fundraising efforts.

A forthcoming project set to feature is the annual Telephone Campaign. Around 4,000 alumni will be called over four weeks this Spring, and the running fundraising total will be on displayed at the end of each calling night.

Caller

The purpose of the wall is to raise awareness among students and staff of the importance of philanthropy to the College. Birkbeck has a long and proud relationship with its alumni based on goodwill and commitment. In the last financial year donations exceeded £5 million, with individual gifts ranging from £2 to £1.4 million, and over £1m was left in legacies.

Donors who give £1,000 or more not only have the pleasure of seeing their names on the wall, but will also become members of one of three giving circles, where they can enjoy additional rewards of recognition, including exclusive event invitations and an annual update report detailing how their funds have been used.

Donations to the College – no matter how large or small – have helped to support students in all disciplines and at all levels of study.  Contributions have also helped to facilitate world-class academic research and have contributed towards the improvement of teaching spaces and equipment.

Besides cash donations, some former students choose to support the College by volunteering their time and expertise. Opportunities to interact with current and prospective students include mentoring, speaking on employability panels, giving advice or just sparing the time to talk and share experiences at networking events.

One such event was a new initiative, Careers Clinic: a collaborative program between the Alumni Relations and Birkbeck Talent teams, that pairs students with a qualified volunteer alumnus to receive one-to-one, bespoke CV and careers guidance to help raise their career aspiration and grow their confidence.

As Birkbeck approaches its bicentenary in 2023, it is scaling up its ambition to establish itself as a world-class research and teaching institution, whilst staying true to its core mission of breaking down barriers and providing evening university education to all.  The ongoing support and generosity of the alumni community are vital factors in helping the university achieve its aims.  Visitors stopping by the new digital donor wall will be able to see and reflect on the impact that donors have had, and current students may be inspired to continue their connection through giving, after their time in the classroom has ended.