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Dr Martine Rouleau from UCL Culture on Knowledge Night: Migration

Knowledge Night: Migration is an interactive evening of talks designed to get the curious minded talking about the hot topic of migration after listening to a series of experts have their say. Set to take place on Friday 8th March, the event is part of UCL Culture, an ongoing programme of public events run by University College London. We spoke to Programme Manager Dr Martine Rouleau to find out more.

Elin: Why did you choose the subject of migration for the event?

Dr Martine Rouleau: It’s a very topical subject and one that I think is widely misunderstood. I think at the moment we’re getting a lot of media coverage that is negative; migration has varied consequences on people’s lives both individually and as a community, and I believe those are not really being addressed. Knowledge Night: Migration aims to offer a diverse range of multidisciplinary perspectives from experts in the subject to offer an alternative to some of the ideas being perpetuated by the media.

Elin: What do you hope that you’ll achieve through the event?

Dr Martine: Over the past year or so people who know I work at UCL have regularly asked whether we have someone knowledgeable about a particular issue and whether they could ask their opinion on it. So, I think the focus of having access to this expertise is for people to be able to get the information from the horse’s mouth. The information that comes to us through the media has often been gleaned from these experts but interpreted in a way that suits their bias. It’s a case of having access to that expertise and being able to ask questions or have a discussion – ideally an informed discussion. Seven academics from across disciplines will be at the event, all experts in migration in some form or other. They will present their informed perspectives and offer people an opportunity to engage with them, to have a discussion, to confront their ideas. But also, at the beginning of the night, the audience will answer a question to do with the impact of migration on their lives. Then, after listening to the seven experts, they will have the chance to ask them questions before voting again. The idea is that they’ll be able to see whether their ideas change when they engage with a broad range of expert opinions.

Elin: Where did the inspiration for the format of the event come from?

Dr Martine: UCL is a ground-breaking university in the sense that it was the first university to welcome everybody on equal terms: that is women, men without property, dissenters, and people of all religions and races. I think because of that UCL Culture, has been inspired to make research that is accessible to all in formats that are not too intimidating, and instead immersive and participative. We’ve done salons before where we’ve had ‘human library’ type events, in which people come and meet researchers, have conversations and challenge their ideas, and that really comes from embracing the historical ethos of UCL.

Elin: Are you planning on any similar events in the future, and what can people expect to see on the UCL Culture calendar?

Dr Martine: The theme of migration is part of a wider set of programmes: there is an exhibition in the Octagon Gallery called Moving Objects, which embraces the displacement of people and the impact of that displacement. There is a writing workshop on March 19 at the Petrie Museum called Migrating Words, and then we also have a dance piece called Divided on the March 28 devised by young choreographers, directors and performers from Central Saint Martins. Also, in the summer, we will have a sculpture season where you will see public art popping up, and there will be a lot of events, discussions and workshops around that, so keep your eyes peeled.

Knowledge Night will take place on Friday 8 March between 6-8.30pm at the Octagon Gallery, Wilkins Building, UCL, Gower St, London WC1E 6BT. For further information and booking details please visit www.ucl.ac.uk/culture