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Centre for Public Engagement Large Awards 2014

The CPE judging panel considered a range of excellent applications in our 2014 large grants award, and are pleased to have awarded funding to eight outstanding projects.

These are all examples of the exciting work being done at Queen Mary to engage people with our research, demonstrating creativity and passion in their planning. We look forward to seeing the results of each of them.

For more details about the successful applications take a look below.

Globe Road Festival: World Poetry in East London

Dr Andrea Brady

Globe Road Festival Logo

Building on the success of the ‘Archive of the Now’, and the recently-founded Centre for Poetry, the Globe Road Festival will be a celebration of the diversity of poetry in East London.

In an innovative programme, traditions and new developments in local poetry will be showcased and explored through readings, performances and roundtables, as well as through new forms of engagement such as hack days, translation slams, and gamification. Exploring the central themes of translation and technology, the activities will bring new understandings of poetry to the audience, and explore new ways of understanding poetry with those who perform it.

Highlighting the diversity of local poets, as well as the international networks that they represent, the festival will be a meeting place for local, national and international communities, with a focus on interaction, dialogue and opportunities to build collaboration. While giving local poets a meeting place and a forum for their work, it will also give the public a chance to experience and become part of it.

From mapping East London poetry ‘scenes’ to observing how listening to poetry affects mind and body, Globe Road Festival will offer local communities an opportunity to experience and contribute to the work of the university, and for the university to amplify the living presence of poetry in the world around us.  

The initiative is from the multi-disciplinary Centre for Poetry, the only national poetry centre to connect work in poetics across disciplines and language areas. This diversity of approach will be represented in the Festival’s central themes of translation and technology, giving a platform to showcase the Centre’s distinctively interdisciplinary and international approach.

An initiative of the Centre for Poetry, the festival will take place in Autumn 2015. All readings and performances will be recorded and made available free via the Archive of the Now, which will also host the programme and calendar running up to the event.


Dr Federico Carpi


PauseInMotion will capture a flock of migrating butterflies resting in the middle of a long flight as they gather together, wings flapping gently. However, despite their lifelike movement, these are no ordinary butterflies. Made of plastic and exciting new ‘smart materials’ that produce the beautiful, natural motion of their wings, this installation will serve as a moment between the natural and technological worlds where the two briefly merge.

Biomimicry materials, structures and systems modelled on natural entities is an emerging field in engineering and design, and functional smart materials are examples of technology inspired by nature. So far unknown outside academia, these smart materials are set to dominate future engineering systems, and a growing role for them is also anticipated in art and design. Queen Mary, a leading institution in this field, has the ability to bring it to the public.

The installation will be enclosed in a display case, much like a butterfly exhibition in a museum, with a branch in the centre holding dozens of ‘butterflies’. The positioning in a glass case will allow them to be appreciated and enjoyed from all angles.

Using butterflies as the point of departure makes the piece accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds. However, by using functional smart materials, these specific butterflies become magical objects. They move and behave like real butterflies, but upon closer inspection they are obviously made of plastic, powered by electricity. The aim is to engage visitors with this moment of realisation: that the butterflies behave like living things, but are entirely man-made.

It is this moment that will beg the question: So what are they made of?

The installation will be open for the public to view in Autumn 2015. For updates on the project and further information on the work of the School of Engineering and Materials Science visit their website.

The Bioengineering Experience

Dr Tina Chowdhury and Professor Martin Knight

Virtual Lab

Bioengineering is an exciting area of research, combining disciplines across engineering and the life sciences. The ‘bioengineering experience’ initiative aims to help scientists share their expertise and passion for this subject with a wider audience.

Through interactive, hands-on events in real lab surroundings with school children, the project will facilitate a meaningful engagement process between the Institute of Bioengineering (IOB) and the audience. By giving the children access to actual research facilities, the events will create an environment where they can engage in a two-way exchange with real scientists and students passionate to enthuse a new audience with what they do.

The activities will spark the intrigue of science at an early age and give school children an opportunity for hands-on experience with real and virtual environments not normally available elsewhere. The questions they ask can lead them to new understandings that drive curiosity, and in return the children’s questions or ideas might inform or stimulate the way the Institute does research.

On a wider scale, activities will be integrated as educational online games into programmes such as the Learnexx 3D virtual science lab, to be used by children and as a resource for teaching professionals. This, matched with videos featuring children’s perspectives on the subject, will help teachers to enthuse children about the subject and find new ways to get a young audience excited about Biochemistry.

For more information on the exciting work that Queen Mary University of London does in this area visit the Institute of Bioengineering webpage.

Engaging Older Adults with Bioengineering

Ms Elena Di Mascio, Dr Corinne Hanlon and Professor Martin Knight

Medical Implant x-ray

The UK has an ageing population, with 10 million people aged over 65 years old. Staff in the School of Engineering and Materials Science are looking to engage this audience by developing a talk and activity that reflects research taking place in Queen Mary around medical implants.

Medical implants are of real interest to the general public, attracting huge attention at events such as the School’s ‘Bionic Man’ stall at the 2013 ‘Big Bang festival’; the subject also has a particular resonance for older adults. This project will celebrate people’s knowledge and curiosity by providing rich academic content that is able to engage, inform and challenge.

Real implants will be on show during events, with the research behind them explained by experts who are able to answer any questions. These will be matched with specialist talks where researchers go into more depth in subject areas, and more informal sessions allowing staff and students to discuss ongoing projects with the audience in a relaxed atmosphere, creating an environment where meaningful conversations flow easily.

The project is expected to have an impact on two sides. The audience will leave events better informed and in return researchers will benefit from their interaction with the public giving them a new understanding of the impact of their research on potential patients.

Through the links forged in these activities, Queen Mary will be able to develop further links with groups of older residents, allowing for other Schools and subjects to work with these groups, building on the relationships established here. The materials developed in these sessions will also be updated to continue to have relevance and will be used by the Institute of Bioengineering in a range of applications.

For more information on the exciting work that Queen Mary University of London does in Bioengineering visit the Institute webpage.

Sound Out

Dr Paul Edlin and Paul Heritage

Magnetic Resonator Piano

Using bold, uncompromising programme choices, Sound Out is a two stranded project that will deliver a range of music events and engagement activity through a site-sensitive performance along with a series of workshops and performances by artists in residence.

Inside Out Performance

The Autumn performance, part of Inside Out Festival, will act as a showcase of Queen Mary’s work in contemporary classical music. It will be a journey of exploration and discovery, celebrating the human race's desire to understand itself and the world around it, through science, technology and medicine - not to mention music and theatre!

Based in the Great Hall of the People’s Palace, the concert will take inspiration from its surroundings, creating original pieces based on the sound of the tube that passes below, as well as showcasing the exciting C4DM magnetic resonance piano. Pieces will also be performed in the Octagon, transformed into an ethereal aquarium through light and sound then merging into a planetarium before the audience’s eyes, inspired by the work of Queen Mary scientists into Chaos Theory.

This concert will celebrate the work that Queen Mary does through an innovative and exciting programme of music, as well as providing a sense of wonder to inspire audiences, fostering awareness of and appreciation for recent musical innovation and cross-disciplinary connections between music, other performance arts and science.

Resident Artists Workshops

In a 14 workshop / 3 performance series on campus and in local schools, two artists in residence, Soumik Datta and Duda, will explore contemporary developments from traditional Bangladeshi and Brazilian musical styles, bringing them together in a mass summer jam for community participants.

Soumik Datta’s work will be a bridge for Queen Mary research into the British Bangladeshi community, building local school links. Duda’s move to the UK enables the University to work for the first time with a renowned leader in socially-engaged arts practice from Brazil; building on existing research.

These workshops will continue the work of the People's Palace Projects (PPP) into the difference people make in their lives through art, exploring themes around this with local school children, and families from two specific cultural groups. These will be linked with current research in Geography and Linguistics into diaspora and multi-lingual communities that PPP will continue developing in a 2015-16 samba project with Horniman Museum in South London.

The Inside Out performance, featuring Queen Mary’s magnetic resonance piano, will be showing on Saturday 25th October 2014, tickets are free but must be booked. For more information on music at Queen Mary see their

. The school workshops will be taking place through the Autumn/Spring terms at local schools.


Science-Driven Turtle Conservation in Cape Verde

Dr Christophe Eizaguirre

Research team with turtle

The Cape Verde Archipelago, just off the Western African’s coasts, is home to the third largest nesting aggregation of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) in the world. Despite protecting laws, these turtles face multiple threats: an intense slaughtering of nesting females for meat consumption, combined with the emergence of infectious diseases and accidental entanglement in fishing gear.

The undeniable success of recent actions have led to a strong decrease in the number of killed turtles, reducing from 3000 in 2008 to less than 100 found over the programme’s study range last year. It is now time to change gear and establish longer term programmes based on education and innovation.

This involves communicating the role of the loggerhead sea turtle in maintaining the integrity of the local ecosystem, for instance by feeding on invasive Jellyfish which would otherwise devastate fish stocks, impacting on local fisheries. Combining state-of-the-art technology with high level, hands-on, education the project will engage with local communities and students at Cape Verde Universities, with the local students acting as ambassadors in their communities to raise awareness of the consequences of small turtle populations.

Eventually, the project aims to expand towards a broader audience, increasing media attention as well as developing their own mechanisms publicising the effort through social media and their website. Exposing the success of the project will contribute to spreading knowledge and expertise, helping to reduce the devastating threat to loggerhead turtles worldwide.

For more information on this and his other work, please visit Dr Eizaguirre’s website or Queen Mary profile.


Dr James Upton and Miss Supatra Marsh

artNEURO logo

artNEURO is an interactive event and exhibition based in London. It will bring together the visual arts and neuroscience through an exhibition of original artworks, talks and workshops, using an innovative approach to engage the public with exciting QMUL research.

The focus will be split between ‘Anatomy and Physiology’, ‘Cognition’, and ‘Pathology’. The artworks are to be collaborative pieces, where each scientist communicates their research to a partner artist, who in turn develops a creative representation of the research. Both scientists and artists will be present at the exhibition to excite and engage attendees with the art.

Audiences will be able to take part in a screen-printing workshop focused on brain evolution and a ‘knit a neuron’ workshop looking at cell biology. The scientific motivation for each will be presented by an expert in the field, and during the activity they will be available to answer questions and promote discussion. A third workshop will give attendees the opportunity to take part in a live experiment led by a psychologist, exploring the cognitive processes governing sensory input, memory and judgement.

The event will also feature panel discussion to promote discussion about mental health, involving experts from different backgrounds presenting their distinct opinions on this sensitive topic.

The event hopes to use the art exhibition setting to reach those who would not normally seek out popular science events. Patient groups will also have the opportunity to discuss research into their respective conditions.

The hope is that artNEURO will be applied to other areas of research in the future reinforcing the legacy of this project and that the art will be toured at various science festivals.

artNEURO is currently underway, and progress on the work of the project can be followed on their website, Twitter or Facebook page. The exhibition will be open later this year.

How we Read

Dr Matthew Rubery

How we read image

How much do you think about the way that we do something as simple as read a book?

How We Read will be a free exhibition of assistive technologies designed to help blind people read, presented at ‘Being Human’, the UK’s first national festival of the humanities. A variety of books and reading materials will be on display in the form of embossed print, braille, talking book records, screen magnification systems, and optical character recognition reading machines.

Books come in many different shapes and can be read using senses besides sight. Giving the public a chance to see, hear, and touch different types of books, “How We Read” incorporates the history of books made for blind people into lively dialogue with today’s reading technologies. In this, it aims to expand conceptions of what it means to be human, by exploring the many ways in which we do something as simple as read a book.

The exhibition will bring together historic artefacts from several collections, accompanied by tactile reproductions to allow visitors to experience the different qualities of each. These will be matched with a series of hands-on activities, interactive workshops, and live performances encouraging the public to try out for themselves alternative ways of reading with their eyes, ears, and fingers.

The exhibition will reach a broad audience including people with disabilities, creative industries professionals, voluntary sector representatives, academics associated with the medical humanities, and the wider public. Special effort will be made to reach visually impaired people, with aids on the day such as descriptive tours by a curator with experience of delivering events for visually impaired audiences.

After the exhibition, the project will have legacy through an interactive website linked to the School of English and Drama’s webpage.

The exhibition will be presented at the London venue of the national ‘Being Human’ festival, between 15 and 23 November 2014. For more information on the exhibition and the School of English and Drama please go to their website.

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