What We Looked At: Pictures from the Exhibition at Sydney Cooper Gallery


What We Looked At – CCCU and Astor College, Dover Exhibition in the Sidney Cooper Gallery


“Kindness”,“the ability to change” and “my beard” are written in large chalk lettering; a man has glitter make-up lovingly applied to his face; on the other side of the room a pair of pink, nippled bean bags invite you to “get comfy and consider how you view breasts”. Over the weekend of the 9th and 10th of February, the “What Are You Looking At?” exhibition at the Sidney Cooper Gallery in Canterbury invited members of the public to love themselves, build perfection, dress up and distort their body image through play as work by young artists from Astor College for the Arts, Dover, presented a fascinating exploration of exploitation, marginalisation and social class.

The exhibition officially launched phase 2 of Canterbury Christ Church University’s contribution to the Tate Exchange project with a provocative and thoroughly enjoyable weekend of live art. The theme for this year’s Tate Exchange is “production” and the project has developed around the themes of otherness and abjection. The young artists, FE students from Astor College, have put together a show with six pieces which confronted visitors to the gallery with questions of how we view ourselves and how others view us. Autonomous spaces were created to explore if make-up culture is an oppressive ideology. One young artist created a provocative piece where visitors are invited to make themselves comfortable on large beanbags shaped like breasts and debate the commodification of women’s bodies. A particularly arresting piece confronted visitors with a life-size image of themselves and challenged them to ‘spot one fault and many positives’, which were then literally chalked up on the surrounding walls.

The show was a great success, bringing in a range of visitors including members of the public, academics and students from the Canterbury Universities, and even a visit from the Rhondda valley in Wales. The response from the public was positive and helped in the development of the pieces. The project has been developed by Christ Church Director of Politics and International Relations Dr David Bates; Live Artist Kelly Green; Dr Licia Cianetti, Royal Holloway, and the young people of Astor College, Dover, led by June Bates. The project develops work from Canterbury Christ Church University’s Activism ResearchNetwork.

The show will move up to the Tate Modern in London in May and will be joined by contributions from partner groups People United (Kent), University of Kent and Valleys Kids (Rhondda Valley). Building on last year’s show Fairground, which attracted over 4,500 visitors at the Tate Modern, the work produced for the Sidney Cooper will continue to evolve with more hard work from the young people at Astor and creative assistance from Kelly and June.

Reflecting on the success of the weekend live artist Kelly said: ‘I had a fantastic weekend at the Sidney Cooper Gallery for our exhibition “What Are You Looking At?”. The artists from Astor College have worked incredibly hard to create their thought-provoking and challenging pieces commenting on gender and class. I couldn’t be prouder of them and our team.’

Exploring Parliament: New Publication by Mark Bennister

a43792be25e33138c120cbf7a74be9d93b0d0edfDr Mark Bennister, Reader in Politics has contributed to an important new textbook on the UK Parliament. The book is a unique collaboration between those who research parliament and officials who work there. The book has nearly 60 contributors and over thirty case studies to provide an extensive and topical exploration of parliament in the 21st century. Dr Bennister contributed the chapter on accountability with Dr Phil Larkin and the case study on the Liaison Committee which he is currently researching during his parliamentary academic fellowship. The book will be the new core textbook for the Parliamentary Studies module which Dr Bennister leads in the politics programme.

The book, published by Oxford University Press is available herehttps://global.oup.com/ukhe/product/exploring-parliament-9780198788430?cc=gb&lang=en&


Canterbury’s Sidney Cooper Gallery will host an innovative research project today exploring how live art can be used a s a tool for political education.


Dr David Bates, Director of Politics and International Relations at Canterbury Christ Church University, has been working with the Live Artist Kelly Green, Dr Licia Cianetti of Royal Holloway, University of London, and young people from Astor College for the Arts, Dover on a project exploring social class, marginalisation and exploitation.

The project, which uses the work developed in the University’s Activism Research Network, gives young people and participants the opportunity to explore the production and reproduction of abjection, which crosses between class, sexuality, ethnicity, body image and ideology. It also explores how contemporary capitalism could be argued to have cast aside those (sometimes whole communities) that it does not regard as productively useful.

The live art performance at the Sidney Cooper Gallery sets out to destabilise and unsettle oppressive ideologies through the creation of autonomous spaces for political expression and debate.

It builds on the show Fairground which was at the Sidney Cooper Gallery and the Tate Modern last year. The Tate Modern component (working in partnership with the University of Kent, People United (Kent), Valleys Kids (Rhondda Valley), Astor College for the Arts) attracted over 4,500 members of the public.

Dr Bates said: “This project uses live art to create moments of contention and disagreement around key narratives within our society. Our young people have produced a radical challenge to contemporary politicians such as Donald Trump, to racist politics on migration, oppressive ideological forms of body image structured through patriarchal relations, and ‘classist’ forms of prejudice through which subjects come to be formed as ‘chavs’. Through the project we open up spaces for resistance and artistic exploration of our role in the creation of others identities and the production of values.”

The opening public performance of the live art component of this research was yesterday at the Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury and will continue today from 11am until 5pm. In late May the project will move to the Tate Modern as part of the projects continuing involvement in the Tate Exchange programme.

For more details visit here

In Memoriam – Professor Dr Michael Burgess (1949-2018)

I first met Michael when I started my Masters’ degree at the University of Kent in September 2005. I had just arrived in the UK, my English was poor, and I was very uncertain if the choice to come to the UK (and Kent) was the right one for me. As part of my Fresher’s week at Kent, we met all academic staff one evening at a drinks reception. Michael was always surrounded by students, and what surprised me was how easily accessible and approachable he was. Of course, back then I did not know how senior of an academic he was, I just really liked him as a person. He was speaking to all students, he was interested in their background, and what touched me most – he was passionate about his own work on federalism, and strongly promoted his modules on federal theory and federal countries. I did a Masters’ degree in International Relations, so choosing Michael’s two classes on Comparative Federalism and Comparative Federations was not a natural choice. I chose them, because I found him so open, friendly and motivated. The classes did not disappoint and before long, I became deeply interested in the field of federalism, decentralisation and devolution.

The conditions of studying at Kent at the time were great. Michael arrived in January 2005 after many years at the University of Hull to set up a new James-Madison Trust funded Centre for Federal Studies. This Centre would turn into an elite research institution, and it would produce many fine scholars (and myself of course).

What Michael did during the years I worked with him is guide me in the direction of the kind of academic I wanted to be. His ability to take his work extremely serious, but not take himself too seriously in the process, remains an inspiration until today. His motivation and inspiration in his Master classes resulted in my decision to write my MA thesis on federalism in Bosnia. A topic widely ignored in the substantial academic literature on post-war Bosnia, it would take me an additional three years and a PhD thesis under Michael’s guidance before I had at least some clue of understanding Bosnia as a federal model. But these three years were some of the best of my life. Working as a PhD student on a scholarship, teaching as a seminar leader for Michael’s undergraduate EU class, and using every opportunity I had to discuss aspects of federalism, daily politics and general life with him contributed to my thorough enjoyment of my PhD years. What is more, I got to study with some great people, friends who became academics and scholars in their own right. And I got to see the Centre for Federal Studies grow, as a research centre with many publications (between 2006 and 2012, Michael published a book every year or two), and as a training centre for the next generation of Federal Scholars (and again, myself). Michael and his wife Marie-Louise, who worked as an Administrator for the Centre, made every student’s life at the Centre enjoyable, fun and rememberable.

When I graduated in 2010, I had already left the Centre – and academia – to work with asylum seekers, something Michael supported (he knew how tough it was to get a job in academia at the time), but something that he always said should be time-limited and he pushed me to keep applying for academic jobs, always referring to “the right time, the right place and the right person”. When I finally got my first academic job at Canterbury Christ Church University, he was delighted. With his career coming to an end, and the Centre winding down with Marie Louise leaving and him retiring shortly afterwards, he was thrilled for me.

And I was thrilled to be able to include him in some of my work at Canterbury Christ Church University. He taught in our summer school on federalism for many years (and always got the best student evaluations – not that he cared!), he spoke at an event about federalism and populism in Europe that we organised, and he met and discussed with many of my own PhD students.

There is no doubt that his academic legacy will live on. His 2006 book on Comparative Federalism remains probably the leading study in the field, and his 2012 book on the Federal Spirit has opened up a whole new research agenda on new federal models and the role of federal political culture in established federations. His work on European federalism, particularly when first started in the 1980s in Thatcher’s Britain, remains second to none, and everyone who wants to understand the deeper meaning behind the evolution of the European Union must read his book on Federalism and the European Union.

I was lucky enough to show my admiration for him when I edited the book “Understanding Federalism and Federation” together with Alain Gagnon, his long-term friend from Montreal, and Sean Mueller, another former PhD student of Michael, which was published in 2015. In it, we collected papers from some of the finest minds on federal scholarship, and the appraisal they had of Michael’s work at times brought me close to tears. The good news is that the book brought Michael close to tears as well, I remember when Alain, Sean and I told him about the project and how surprised and honoured he was about it. Funnily, we could only tell him about the book once we had signed the contract and all authors were on board, because we were afraid he would not let us go ahead with the project otherwise (and he indeed tried to convince us that it was not necessary).

In recent years, both his health and the political developments have taken their toll. He has been ill for most of the last three or four years, but he was a fighter. He fought prostate cancer, despite a terminal diagnosis, he fought a severe lung infection, he fought internal bleeding as a result of the radiation from the cancer treatment. He truly was a fighter.

One fight he did not win was with his own country. Michael was more than an academic, when it came to examine the British relationship with the rest of Europe. He saw it as his mission to educate the British about the EU as a federal peace project, a Kantian utopia that came to life. That battle he lost, but he did not lose his humour, as the picture demonstrates.

He will be remembered for this, as a fighter, as an inspiring academic, teacher and mentor. And as a funny and joyful friend.

Michael Burgess passed away on the 4th of February 2018. He is survived by his wife Marie Louise, his son Adam, and a whole generation of scholars that he trained, motivated and inspired.

Farewell my friend. Farewell my mentor, Farewell my professor!

Dr Soeren Keil completed his PhD under Michael Burgess’ guidance between 2007 and 2010. He is now a Reader in Politics and International Relations at Canterbury Christ Church University.