Kingston Connections (or KC) is a project dedicated to exploring storytelling in every way. Whether it’s through theatre, performance, poetry, writing, seminars, lectures or song, storytelling has been the foundation of communities for thousands of years and we thought it was about time we celebrated it!
KC is a three-year collaboration between four organisations: Kingston University, The Royal Borough of Kingston, Creative Youth (who put on the International Youth Arts Festival each year) and The Rose Theatre. Together we have committed to trying to help Kingston residents, and those who work here, to appreciate the wealth of interesting stuff that is going on locally.
My role is to manage the University’s contribution, as part of my wider (part-time) role as the University’s Civic Engagement Coordinator. What this means in practice is encouraging staff to share their research with a wider audience, by laying on a series of talks that are open to all. Tickets are cheap (£5 or £3 for concessions) and for university sponsored events are completely free to Kingston students, staff and alumni. Given that our Estates Department estimated recently that one in ten homes in Kingston is occupied by someone who was at KU, is now, or works here, that means we could raise a considerable audience just through the distribution of free tickets!
This year’s Festival of Stories programme is very varied, and includes workshops on the environment, writing, politics and history. Particular highlights include:
- Dr Gary Hickey will talk about how to get patients and the public involved in decision making in health and social care (Sunday 22nd June)
- Kingston’s woman in space – Helen Sharman, who now works at KU, talks about the experience of being Britain’s first astronaut (Monday 23rd June)
- Dr Korina Giaxoglou talks about her research into how mourning takes place online – her lecture will include discussion, tea and cake (Saturday 28th June)
- Dr Claudia Uller will talk about how babies understand the world, and in particular the work of the Kingston Baby Research Unit (Saturday 28th June)
- Dr Fan Carter will offer locals the chance to reconnect with their 1960s shopping expeditions into Kingston, when Bentall’s Department store had its very own Honey girl to help young women choose clothes that would suit them.
Other events sponsored by other members of the group will include The Big Sing and Bowtown, a celebration of Bollywood.
The growth of festivals over the past few years has been much remarked upon. They are popular for many reasons, but one of the main consequences is that they bring communities together. In our case, KC also offers our students the opportunity to see how they are organised and run – and get involved themselves, which of course builds both their experience and their employability. MA Publishing students will of course be part of this, but also working with students from Business and Law.
Universities today are very much encouraged to be part of their local communities, and not ivory towers. Kingston’s staff and students are already highly engaged locally, in a wide variety of volunteering ventures – but the events in June offer a unique chance to learn more about the research that is going on locally. The university’s research is already of interest nationally, and internationally – but in June will be specifically presented for the benefit of our local audience. We hope to see you there.