BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) have unveiled the 10 academics who will be turning their research into radio and television programmes on the BBC.
The New Generation Thinkers scheme 2016 is a nationwide search for the brightest minds who have the potential to share their academic ideas through broadcasting. This year their ideas include the significance of bear grease in hairdressing; what aubergines tell us about the changing tastes in food consumption; and the impact of key historic events including the Biafra War and the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan.
There is also the search for Alexander the Great’s missing tomb; research about the telephone including why Sigmund Freud detested it; the complex relationship between the USSR and its historic churches; and explaining what the process of recreating an astronomical instrument, the ‘equatorium’ teaches us about early scientific instruments.
Despite appearances at the Hay Festival in the past, this is the first year that the winning academics have been unveiled in a public event that will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking tonight, Tuesday 31st May at 10pm, with further programmes about their research broadcast in June.
The 10 New Generation Thinkers 2016 were selected from hundreds of applications from academics at the start of their careers, who demonstrated their passion to communicate modern scholarship to a wider audience. After a four-month selection process involving a series of day-long workshops at the BBC in Salford and London, the final 10 were chosen by a panel of BBC Radio 3 and BBC Arts producers, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
The scheme has been a successful first step for many academics, with previous thinkers going on to appear across television and radio.
The 2016 New Generation Thinkers are:
Leah Broad, University of Oxford
Leah Broad’s research is on Nordic modernism, exploring the music written for the theatre at the turn of the 20th century, taking her to Finland and Scandinavia to search out scores which have not been heard since the early 1900s. As a journalist Leah won the Observer/Anthony Burgess Prize for Arts Journalism in 2015. She is the founder of The Oxford Culture Review, a website communicating arts and humanities research and arts reviews.
Katherine Cooper, University of Newcastle
Katherine Cooper is working on a project exploring the ways in which British writers including H.G.Wells, Graham Greene and Margaret Storm Jameson helped in the escape of fellow writers facing prosecution and imprisonment under fascist governments in the period between WW1 and WW2..
Victoria Donovan, University of St Andrews
Victoria Donovan’s is a historian of Russia whose research explores the complex and contradictory relationship between the Soviets and their religious heritage including between the USSR and its historic churches. Her new project is looking at the significance of patriotism in contemporary Putin’s Russia. She has worked on topics including Soviet and contemporary Russian cinema, socialist architecture and the connections between South Wales and the Eastern Ukraine.
Louisa Uchum Egbunike, Manchester Metropolitan University
Louisa Uchum Egbunike’s research centres on African literature in which she specialises in Igbo (Nigerian) fiction and culture. Her latest work explores the child’s voice in contemporary fiction on Biafra. She co-convenes an annual Igbo conference at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London) and delivers a workshop, ‘Rewriting Africa’ in secondary schools across London. She is curating a ‘Remembering Biafra’ exhibition to open in 2018.
Seb Falk, University of Cambridge
Seb Falk is a medieval historian and historian of science whose research centres on the scientific instruments made and used by monks, scholars and nobles in the later Middle Ages. His research has led him to make wood and brass models of the instruments he studies. His new project will be an investigation of the sciences practised by medieval monks and nuns including what recreating the ‘equatorium’ tells us about early scientific instruments.
Sarah Jackson, Nottingham Trent University
Sarah Jackson’s current research explores the relationship between the telephone and literature from the work of Arthur Conan Doyle to that of Haruki Murakami and why Sigmund Freud detested the telephone. The project involves research at the BT Archives which hold the public records of the world’s oldest communications company. She is also a poet whose collection Pelt won the prestigious Seamus Heaney Prize in 2012. She reads her poetry and fiction across the UK and USA.
Christopher Kissane, London School of Economics
Christopher Kissane is a historian working on the role of food in history exploring what we can learn about societies and cultures through studying their diets, including what aubergines tell us about the changing tastes in food consumption. His book, which will be published later this year, examines food’s relationship with major issues of early modern society including the Spanish Inquisition and witchcraft.
Anindya Raychaudhuri, University of St Andrews
Anindya Raychaudhuri is working on the way nostalgia is used by diasporic communities to create imaginary and real homes. He has written about the Spanish Civil War and the India/Pakistan partition and the cultural legacies of these wars. He co-hosts a podcast show, State of the Theory, and explores the issues raised by his research in stand-up comedy.
Edmund Richardson, University of Durham
Edmund Richardson is working on a book about the lost cities of Alexander the Great and the history of their discovery by adventurers and tricksters rather than scholars. His first book was on Victorian Britain and the ‘lowlife’ lived by magicians, con-men and deserters. His latest project is on Victorian ghost-hunters and their obsession with the ancient world which led Houdini to fight against the con-artists making a fortune from fake ‘spirits’.
Sean Williams, University of Sheffield
Sean Williams is currently writing a cultural history of the hairdresser from the 18th century to the present day exploring their role as ‘outsiders’ in society. As a lecturer at the University of Berne in Switzerland he taught German and Comparative Literature and wrote articles on flatulence in the 18th century and contemporary satires of Hitler.
Matthew Dodd, Head of Speech programming at BBC Radio 3 commented: “Working with the Arts and Humanities Research Council we can connect our listeners to the freshest academic thinking from across the UK. In turn we develop broadcasters of the future – part of our role as a cultural patron. We think it’s vitally important that the latest research and ideas from universities can be communicated to the wider public because, at their best, these ideas help to shape our understanding of the world around us. I’m delighted we’re able to provide that platform and support. ”
Peter Florence, Director of Hay Festival, added: “We are thrilled to be welcoming these talented BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinkers to Hay festival once again – their thinking changes the way we view the world and that’s an exciting thing to be a part of.”
Professor Andrew Thompson, Chief Executive of the AHRC, said: “Over the last decade we’ve seen a golden age of dramas and documentaries on our screens and airwaves, underpinned by high quality research, communicated by passionate academics.
“Working with the BBC on The New Generation Thinkers Scheme feeds this huge appetite for experts to share their specialist knowledge that helps illuminate our lives and stimulates our curiosity.
“This year’s ten are a superb example of the broad range of subjects and insights that the arts and humanities give to our lives, helping us to understand the past, the present and the future.”