These events were free and arose from partnerships between the Modern Languages Department at the University of Birmingham and local arts and cultural organisations.
The events are led by my colleague Dr Claire Peters, a Teaching Fellow in French and Francophone Studies, who was awarded funding from the AHRC Cultural Engagement fund to carry them out. Claire recently completed an AHRC thesis on Francophone Postcolonial culture.
I’m her mentor, which is a very worthwhile experience for me and allows me to share lessons learned from my own public engagement events in the UK, metropolitan France and Martinique.
My AHRC Midlands3Cities PhD student Antonia Wimbush is also part of the team as an assistant at the events, as part of her own training in public engagement.
The screening of Sugar Cane Alley / Rue Cases-Nègres [dir. Euzhan Palcy, 1983] took place on Wednesday 16th March 2016 at 4-6.30pm MAC Birmingham. We knew that the afternoon timeslot might be tough, but as this event is part of a wider University of Birmingham Arts and Science Festival, we had limited choice over the timing. That said, being part of the Festival was a wonderful opportunity, and ensured that the event was widely publicised.
Antonia did a great job of introducing the film (see photo above!), and afterwards Claire hosted a Q&A session with me on my own research into Zobel. I was delighted to have so many brilliant questions from the public, which included questions on adapting the novel into a film, Palcy’s career, Zobel’s wider works (and whether there were other film adaptations… not yet…!), the influence of Fanon and wider influences such as Negritude and the Harlem Renaissance. Our colleagues at the MAC had to politely but firmly eject us from the room at the end, as the next screening was due to begin!
The following night, Thursday 17th March 2016 from 7pm-9.30pm, Claire gave a fantastic introduction to the film Black Skin, White Mask [dir. Isaac Julien, 1996] at The Drum. The film was followed by a lively comments session with the public audience, which gave rise to some excellent reflections on issues such as race, gender, identity, intersectionality and Negritude.