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Forthcoming events and conferences

The Eccles Centre for American Studies regularly organises and supports conferences, seminars, lectures and other events on North American and transatlantic themes, often in partnership with other institutions and organisations.


The Folio Academy Sessions

When Saturday 18 - Sunday 19 June
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price Various Book via the BL Box Office

For the third year running, the Folio Prize Foundation and the British Library host some of the world’s finest writers and their guests

At a weekend devoted to the art of storytelling, over eight sessions each programmed by a different member of the Folio Prize Academy, the weekend will explore how stories have the power to transform us: how they can impact individuals and effect social change. Tickets can be purchased for individual events or day and weekend passes are available.

Utopia: The Impossible Dream

When Saturday 18 June, 13.45- 15.00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £10 / £8 / £7 Book via the BL Box Office

Paul Mason, Richard Francis, Nikita Lalwani and Rupert Thomson

Taking their cue from the Library’s Visions of Utopia display, our panel will explore the narrative power of the Utopian ideal, and whether it can act as an effective agent – in writing, philosophy and art – for social change. Paul Mason, the award-wining journalist and, most recently, author of PostCapitalism, is joined by novelist, historian and utopia-expert Richard Francis, and by two acclaimed writers whose work has offered up both utopian and dystopian perspectives on our world: novelist and Liberty trustee Nikita Lalwani, and novelist and memoirist Rupert Thomson.

Not Even Past: Historical Narratives

When Saturday 18 June, 15.30-16.45
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £10 / £8 / £7 Book via the BL Box Office

Tracy Chevalier, Jane Harris and Tom Holland

‘The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.’ William Faulkner understood why so many of the stories we tell are rooted in history. Whether creating fiction or interpreting fact, is 'writing history' more about defining where we came from or understanding who we are now? Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl With a Pearl Earring, and Jane Harris, author of The Observations, are both acclaimed, best-selling writers of historical fiction. Tom Holland is an award-winning historian of works including Rubicon and, most recently, Dynasty. Together they investigate the challenges and rewards of looking forwards by looking back.

A Place Called Home

When Sunday 19 June, 13.30-14.45
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £10 / £8 / £7 Book via the BL Box Office

Caryl Phillips, Penelope Lively, Glyn Maxwell and Maya Jaggi

Robert Frost wrote that ‘home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in’. What constitutes ‘home’ - who decides what it is, how we create it, who is welcome - has long been a source of fascination for writers and artists; but now, as our world shrinks and people move around it more freely and often less willingly, it has also become an urgent political matter. The multi-award-winning novelist and playwright, Caryl Phillips, is joined by three others who share his interest: Booker Prize-winner, Penelope Lively; poet, playwright and librettist, Glyn Maxwell; and writer and cultural critic Maya Jaggi.

Ezra Furman: The Velvet Underground, Punk Pioneers

When Thursday 23 June, 19.30-21.00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £12/£10/£8 Book via the BL Box Office

An intimate evening with genre-fluid American singer-songwriter Ezra Furman reflecting on the Velvet Underground’s influence on punk and their musical legacy.

In his words, Lou Reed was “radically ambiguous and radically free.” Ezra will be in conversation and performing covers of their hits.

Punk 1976-78 is part of Punk London, a year of events, gigs, films, talks and exhibits celebrating 40 years of punk heritage and influence in London.

Hey! Ho! Let's Go!: The Day the Ramones Ignited Punk

When Monday 4 July, 18.30-22.15
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £15/£12/£ 10 Book via the BL Box Office

Join Ramones Manager Danny Fields looking at the moment the US collided with the UK and Punk was born

Forty years ago, on 4th July 1976, the Ramones played their debut UK concert at London’s Roundhouse, followed the next day by another at Dingwalls. The shows that long hot summer have achieved legendary status. For many – including members of the Pistols, the Stranglers, the Clash and the Damned watching on – the band’s thrilling, fast, rebellious, New York sound blew open the possibilities of music and gave sudden acceleration to the styles that would become Punk.

The Ramones manager on those nights was Danny Fields, a man with a pivotal role behind some of the great American music of the 20th century. He makes an exclusive appearance, in conversation with Barney Hoskyns, to tell the story of the moment the US collided with the UK, and is joined by other special guests who were there.

The event will also feature a book signing of My Ramones (published this summer by First Third Books), followed by a screening of Danny Says. This acclaimed documentary, directed by Brendan Toller, tells the story of Danny Fields remarkable musical and cultural journey since 1966 working for the Doors, Cream, Lou Reed, Nico, Judy Collins and managing ground-breaking artists like the Stooges, the MC5 and the Ramones. Danny Says is a story of marginal turning mainstream, avant garde turning prophetic, and looks to the next generation.

Punk 1976-78 is part of Punk London, a year of events, gigs, films, talks and exhibits celebrating 40 years of punk heritage and influence in London

The Sex Pistols and America

When Tuesday 5 July, 18.30-20.00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £10/£8/£7 Book via the BL Box Office

Hear the story of the Sex Pistols tour of America

The Sex Pistols notorious 1978 tour of the southern US was one of the more surreal moments in music history. Banned from the radio and venues at home, the rapidly disintegrating band played places like Memphis, Baton Rouge, San Antonio and Dallas, in a move calculated by manager Malcolm McLaren to generate maximum culture clash. Bob Gruen was one of the acclaimed photographers on the tour and he is joined by US music specialist Brian Ward.

Punk 1976-78 is part of Punk London, a year of events, gigs, films, talks and exhibits celebrating 40 years of punk heritage and influence in London

Summer Scholars

When Mondays and Fridays from 4 July - 26 August, 12.30-14.00
Where Check individual listing for room location
Price Free, no booking required

The Eccles Centre sponsors numerous Visiting Fellowships and Postgraduate Research Awards each year. The Summer Scholars programme highlights the work that they have done during their residency in the British Library, bringing the latest research related to the North Americas collections to a public audience.

MONDAY 4 JULY Conference Centre Chaucer Room
Conjure Women and 'Coolie' Women
Gaiutra Bahadur, author of Coolie Woman, the Orwell Prize-shortlisted narrative history of indentured women, speaks about her strategies for overcoming elisions and biases in the archives that document the migration of bonded labourers from the Indian subcontinent to the West Indies.


MONDAY 11 JULY Conference Centre Chaucer Room
Representation and Participation in Progressive Era World's Fairs
Emily Trafford explores the activities of Chinese and Chinese-American people at world’s fairs, examining the ways in which world’s fairs became key sites of battle over the representation of the Chinese in America.

“The Low Growl of the Lion:" Black Activists in Britain 1830-1895
Hannah-Rose Murray discusses the impact of Frederick Douglass and other black activists on British society and her creation of the world's first digitised map of their speaking locations in Britain.


FRIDAY 15 JULY Conference Centre Chaucer Room
The Lies of Summer
Chris Birkett looks at the 1998 Lewinsky scandal that plunged America into cultural turmoil, and explores how the Home Run Race of the same year deployed baseball mythology to reaffirm beliefs in idealised American values of morality, masculinity and confession during a time of political and moral crisis.


MONDAY 25 JULY Conference Centre Chaucer Room
Cabin-Fever: deconstructing the log-cabin myth of Appalachia
Kevan Manwaring explores the iconic ‘log-cabin’, synonymous with the pioneering spirit of North America. Tracing influences back to Scots-Irish and Scandinavian settlers, this illustrated talk will show log-cabins in a new light.

MONDAY 1 AUGUST The Centre for Conservation Foyle Room
The Poetics of Reticence: Emily Dickinson and Her Contemporaries
Eve Grubin discusses Emily Dickinson’s poems and their characteristic style against the backdrop of poetry written by other American women during Dickinson’s time.

The Modern Consuming Housewife
From feminine vice to essential feminine interest, Rachael Alexander explores changing attitudes to makeup and fashion as seen in, and encouraged by, the Ladies' Home Journal and Canadian Home Journal of the 1920s.


FRIDAY 5 AUGUST The Centre for Conservation Foyle Room
America, Britain, and the 'Islamic Bomb'
Malcolm Craig explores the intersections between America, Britain, Pakistan's nuclear programme, and political Islam's rise in the 1970s. Was Pakistan building an 'Islamic bomb' or was it all just a media scare?


MONDAY 8 AUGUST The Centre for Conservation Foyle Room
‘What Irish Boys Can Do’
Catherine Bateson analyses more than two-dozen American Civil War songs held in the British Library’s U.S. archives, and explores how ballads sung the story of Irish involvement in the conflict.

Dreaming of the Orient during the War on Germs
Bianca Scoti discusses oriental rugs in middle class homes and discourses on domestic hygiene in American magazines and periodicals at the turn of the twentieth century.


FRIDAY 12 AUGUST The Centre for Conservation Foyle Room
Selling Black History: from Margins to Mainstream
James West examines the content of EBONY magazine as a case study into the production, dissemination and marketisation of popular black history during the second half of the twentieth century.

About Trauma - Constructing Medical Narratives of the Vietnam War
Nicole Cassie examines how medical Vietnam veterans have engaged with the evolving psychological and social understanding of post-war trauma. It also explores why they often identify as 'resilient' as opposed to 'traumatised,' despite having experienced some of the worst of the war.


MONDAY 15 AUGUST The Centre for Conservation Foyle Room
American Genre Painting and Magazine Illustration
In 1910 Leila Mechlin argued that Edmund Tarbell’s paintings controvert the fallacy that “all American genre painters have become illustrators.” This talk explores the fluid boundary between these artforms.


FRIDAY 19 AUGUST The Centre for Conservation Foyle Room
How to Blow Up an Oil Rig...
Harry Whitehead’s third novel concerns the oil business. Big subject, overwhelming research. So when to go ‘shallow’, when ‘deep’? And just how do you blow…?

Reading Don DeLillo in the Archives
Rebecca Harding shares how the materials in the British Library’s collections have helped her to see beyond common critical frameworks in her research, a study of the role of the body in the fiction of Don DeLillo.

MONDAY 22 AUGUST The Centre for Conservation Foyle Room
'Put all to fire and sword'
Nicola Martin compares and contrasts the experiences and encounters of various groups of ‘others’, and considers pacification in the eighteenth-century British Empire from Culloden to Quebec.

Britain and the Anglo-American War of 1812
The 1812 Anglo-American War may be the most overlooked conflict in British history. Peter O’Connor explores the domestic impact of the war with a particular focus on the response of radical democrats within Britain who had held up the USA as a model political system since the Revolution.

FRIDAY 26 AUGUST The Centre for Conservation Foyle Room
The Great American Desert
Eccles Centre Writer in Residence William Atkins is working on a cultural history and travel book about the world’s deserts, with a particular focus on the US southwest. He discusses his use of the America’s collections in researching the evolution of the US’s perception of its desert regions, from John C. Frémont’s account of his exploration of the Great Basin in 1843, to the development of an American ‘desert aesthetic’ in the seminal writings of John C. Van Dyke, Mary Austin and Edward Abbey in the twentieth century.


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