Director Katy Shaw at English Shared Futures conference

Prof Katy Shaw, Director of Creative Communities, spoke to around 300 delegates at this celebratory cultural conference hosted by Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Manchester and the University of Salford.

Katy Shaw participated in three panels across the conference, first speaking on ‘The Public Humanities in the 21st Century’ with Zoe Bulaitis (University of Birmingham), Sarah Churchwell (SAS, University of London), Sarah Dillon (University of Cambridge), and Bambo Soyinka (Bath Spa University). Hosted as a roundtable, the session considered the work and role of the humanities in the UK, and specifically the subject of English, in contemporary civic life. Speakers were invited to reflect on the potential for the concept of a ‘public humanities’ which will develop and move beyond the well-established ‘value of the humanities’ debate and the critique of the marketization of university.

On the same day, Katy joined ‘A Writing Chance: Class, Writing and Publishing in Contemporary Britain’. Speaking alongside Katherine Stanton (Northumbria University) and Shaun Wilson (Northumbria University), this session considered how, in twenty first-century literary industries, social class remains the most persistent and pervasive barrier to opportunity, talent and representation. Identified as a major challenge by UK government and international publishing houses, the under-representation of working class people in writing and publishing has been the subject of a series of strategic interventions in recent years, as diverse groupings of creative and commercial organisations have come together in an attempt to make change happen. In particular, discussion focussed on two major initiatives: Common People, an Arts Council funded writing development programme, and A Writing Chance, a grouping of experts led by Michael Sheen, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, The Daily Mirror, The New Statesman, New Writing North and Northumbria University.

On day two of this event, Prof Katy Shaw spoke alongside Christopher Smith (AHRC), Claire Malcolm (New Writing North), Cheryl Martin (Culture Word) and Jess Edwards (Manchester Metropolitan University). This plenary session, The Case for Culture: English Studies and the Levelling Up Agenda, touched on themes directly relevant to Creative Communities and the broader work of this interdisciplinary panel.

The English: Shared Futures conference aims to celebrate and explore the discipline’s intellectual strength, diversity and creativity and explore its futures in the nations of the UK and across the world. Each year, hundreds of delegates attend cross-sector panels and cultural fringe events that in 2022 were celebrating the diversity of Manchester’s writing, publishing, performance, libraries and projects beyond schools and universities, including talks from members and partners of Manchester City of Literature Festival.

Full details of the academic programme of events is available online and the event organisers have provided a detailed reflection on the conference via their website.


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