Sarah Gifford is a Community Engagement Officer working with the Centre for Public Engagement and the Life Sciences Initiative. She is working with researchers and the local community, residents and organisations to establish new collaborations. She is also leading on the organisation of the Festival of Communities, QMUL's first community-focused festival.
Tell us about yourself. What is your background? What’s your role at QMUL?
I've actually been at QMUL for a long time! I studied Modern and Contemporary History here, and after graduating in 2007 I applied for a role in the Students' Union on a temporary contract and have been here ever since. I moved to the Centre for Public Engagement last summer moving away from student community engagement to community engagement with research. I'm really enjoying the new challenge, and I still love being at Queen Mary after all this time.
I hear you’re working on something pretty big at the moment? What is it?
Yes I'm leading on the organisation of the Festival of Communities taking place from 21 May to 4 June. The festival is fast approaching and we've now finalised the programme of everything happening over that period. It's going to be a very busy and exciting time! We've been working with local community organisations to help plan what the Festival looks like - it's been a real collaborative effort to combine topics and themes that our local residents are interested in and linking these to specialisms at QMUL.
What can we look forward to during it?
There's so much happening - so many QMUL staff and students want to be involved which is great to see. Everything is listed on the website, and we’re updating this daily when new activities get confirmed. We have a big launch event on 21 May in Stepney Green Park full of games, inflatables, give it a go sports, charity showcases and QMUL researchers bringing hands-on activities to explore. We've then got a two week period of Fringe events, with everything from walking tours to a singing workshop, Centre of the Cell family activities to a debate on the impact the Olympics has had in our local community to a volunteer fair for all who would like to explore getting more involved in the local area with 50 charities showcasing different opportunities. There really is something for everyone!
We bring the Festival to a close on 4 June bringing everyone onto the Mile End campus to explore QMUL in more depth. We have the Carnival of Lost Emotions, the Floating Cinema moored on the canal, inflatable laser tag and much more! It'll be great for everyone to experience campus in a different way.
Any plans to celebrate once it’s finished?
I'll be busy evaluating the Festival once it's over and starting to think about the next one! We would like this to be the start of something sustainable so we will be thinking about next steps and making that happen. I've also just booked a long holiday in New York and Mexico in August - so definitely looking forward to that once the Festival is over!
Finally, tell us something about you outside of work?
I like to spend time with my family, so I travel back to Bristol quite often. Volunteering has been constant during my time at QMUL and I like to continue these opportunities when I can. Unfortunately I don’t have the time to commit to something regularly anymore, but I do volunteer at a variety of one-day charity events in London.
Find out more about the Festival of Communities on our website or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or our #towerhamlets hashtag on Twitter.