Birkbeck, University of London: Winners Announced In Birkbeck’s Public Engagement Awards 2022

Birkbeck’s annual Public Engagement Awards recognise and celebrate researchers undertaking innovative and exemplary public engagement activities. Last week, on Tuesday 12 July, Birkbeck held its first in-person Public Engagement Awards ceremony since 2019.

The ceremony was both a celebration and a recognition of the outstanding work of colleagues in engaging the public with the College’s research. In particular, research was celebrated that builds on Birkbeck’s tradition of socially engaged research and the College’s historical mission to engage with a wide and diverse range of people outside of academia.

Winners of the awards were announced in four categories: ‘Sharing and Inspiring’; ‘Innovation’; ‘Public Participation’; and ‘Public Empowerment’.

Sharing and Inspiring

This award recognises excellence in sharing research with the public via activities or media that can inspire thought, reflection and imagination.

Winner: Professor Ian Christie (Department of Film, Media and Cultural Studies)

The project, Celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Robert Paul, British cinema pioneer, tells the story of the largely unknown Robert Paul and his involvement in the birth of moving picture entertainment in the 1890s. It centres on a series of exhibitions staged at five public venues, including the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, the London Metropolitan Archives and three locations near where Robert Paul’s studio was based in North London, as well as the publication of a 28-page graphic novel aimed at young people.

Highly Commended: Ukrainian Theatre after the Euromaidan Revolution by Dr Molly Flynn (Department of English, Theatre and Creative Writing); and Mathematics and the Arts by Professor Sarah Hart (Department of Economics, Mathematics and Statistics)


This award recognises the challenges people faced in engaging the public with research in the absence of in-person events during the pandemic.

Winner: Dr Simone Wesner (Department of Film, Media and Cultural Studies)

The project, Dataweave, documents the lifecycle of hand-crafted products. Initially intended as an in-person collaborative endeavour, Dr Wesner successfully navigated the pandemic restrictions to virtually bring together handcraft producers from several countries to co-create a participatory database, with input so far from farmers, spinners, weavers as well as users of hand-woven materials.

Highly Commended: Centre for Innovation Management Research Debates in Public Policy Series, led by Professor Helen Lawton Smith and her team

Public Participation

This award recognises projects that involve the public as an important part of their programme.

Winner: Catherine Heard, Helen Fair and Professor Jessica Jacobson (Institute for Crime & Justice Policy Research)

Through a comparative analysis of ten jurisdictions: Kenya, South Africa, Brazil, the United States, India, Thailand, England & Wales, Hungary, the Netherlands and Australia, the project, Understanding and reducing the use of imprisonment in ten countries, aimed to draw transferable lessons on how to reduce resort to imprisonment and thereby improve rehabilitation outcomes for prison populations. It was based on innovative collaborations with a range of partners including criminal lawyers, academics, national and international civil society organisations, prisoners and ex-prisoners and their loved ones.

Highly Commended: Dr David Tross (Department of Geography) and Laura Bradnam (Access and Engagement) for the Birkbeck Community Leadership Programme

Public Empowerment

This award recognises outstanding projects based on the active sharing and development of research with the public which empower those involved and wider society.

Winner: Professor Joanna Bourke and the Sexual Harms and Medical Encounters (SHaME) project team (Department of History, Classics and Archaeology) in collaboration with the women’s and girls’ empowerment charity, The Women of the World (WOW) Foundation

The winning entry was the project Shameless! Festivals of Activism Against Sexual Violence. Together they have designed festivals that bring together academic research with arts, activist and survivor communities to confront and change attitudes to sexual violence, share ideas, and work towards a rape-free world. The first Shameless! Festival took place in London in November 2021 and attracted a diverse audience of 600 people with over 100 speakers and facilitators contributing to the programme. Festival activities and a code of conduct were co-developed with the different audience groups and organisations such as the Survivors Trust to create a safe and supportive space.

Highly Commended: Dr Camillia Kong, Professor Penny Cooper and Rebecca Stickler (Institute for Crime & Justice Policy Research), for the project Judging Values and Participation in Mental Capacity Law