Annual lecture

‌The BIRTHA lecture takes place yearly and a leading figure is invited to give a lecture on a theme relating to research in the Arts and Humanities.

Below is a list of past lectures:

The Annual BIRTHA Lecture 2016

L.A. Paul - 'Transformative Experience and Big Life Decisions'
April 2016

Listen to the lecture here:


The Annual BIRTHA Lecture 2015

Ian Bostridge - 'Humanity in song: Schubert's Winter Journey'
March 2015

The Annual BIRTHA Lecture 2013

Paul Gough - '"Running out of memory": Inscribing the city in the cause of commemoration'
November 2013
 Paul Gough

The 2013 BIRTHA Lecture (part of Inside Arts) was given by Professor Paul Gough on 11th November 2013 in the Reception room of Wills Memorial Building, which featured as part of the InsideArts Festival.

On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War this lecture will reflect on the underlying issues behind public commemoration, drawing on examples from the mass mourning for Diana, Princess of Wales, and the recreational grief that many feel has become part of the British zeitgeist, to other less reverential forms of remembering – urban graffiti, rogue artworks, guerrilla gardening. We will look at preparation for 2014 and this city’s history of civic protest and intervention, at its official and unofficial markers of memory, and at the legacy of remembrance and the duty of care that some feel is being imposed on fresh generations.

Professor Paul Gough is the Royal West of England Academy Professor of Fine arts and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) at the University of the West of England, Bristol, UK. Educated at the Royal College of Art in London he is a painter, broadcaster and writer. He has exhibited widely in the UK and abroad and is represented in several art collections, including the Imperial War Museum, London; the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa; and the National War Memorial, New Zealand. His most recent exhibitions have been in Melbourne, London, and New Zealand. Gallery pages are available on

The Annual BIRTHA Lecture 2012

A.N. Wilson - 'Dante in Love'
October 2012

The celebrated novelist, academic and columnist for The Independant will be giving the talk 'Dante in Love.'

InsideArts - October 2011 University's Festival of the Arts and Humanities

BIRTHA was happy to have supported the University’s first festival of the Arts and Humanities – which engaged a large University (faculty and beyond) and public audience. Please see InsideArts for further details.

The Annual BIRTHA Lecture 2010

David Crystal - Internet Linguistics
October 2010

David Crystal

One of the world’s foremost experts on language and English language, and arguably the most accessible and entertaining writer and lecturer in this area.


What influence is the Internet having on language, and what is happening to language as it comes to be used on the Internet? The talk explores the Internet as a linguistic revolution, illustrating from its six major domains - e-mail, the World Wide Web, chat groups, virtual worlds, blogs, and instant messaging - and reports the way the Internet is being increasingly used by languages other than English.

The Annual BIRTHA Lecture 2009

Marina Warner - 'Present Enchantments: Magic after the Arabian Nights'
October 2009

Marina WarnerMagic helped make the modern world and still shapes the ways we think today, and magical thinking structures many features of Western civilisation, while the literature and entertainment draws more and more deeply on the tradition of enchantment and transformation supremely represented by the Arabian Nights, or Tales of 1001 Nights. Yet this history and perspective have been constantly disavowed as irrational and superstitious. Through a reading of several of the stories in the Nights and an inquiry into their population of magical talismans and objects (such as the flying carpet), Marina Warner will explore a different approach to fantastic fictions and the illuminating and poetic narratives about modernity and civilisation which they enfold.

Warner is a novelist, critic and cultural historian. Website:

The Annual BIRTHA Lecture 2008

Griselda Pollock - 'Catastrophe and the Aesthetics of Resistance'
October 2008

Professor of Social and Critical Histories of Art
Director, Centre for Cultural Analysis, Theory and History (University of Leeds)

Griselda Pollock's lecture will draw on aspects of two major research projects, one on a little known German-Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon who created a massive single work between 1941-1942 in the face of personal and communal catastrophe and the other addresses the creation of concentrationary memory in what Joshua Hirsch has called post-traumatic cinema. Both  key 'texts' involved image, sound, music, words and the duration, deploying aesthetic strategies to create and state memory as a critical and even political gesture.

The Annual BIRTHA Lecture 2007

Quentin Skinner - 'How Many Concepts of Liberty?'
October 2007

Regius Professor of Modern History, University of Cambridge

The Annual BIRTHA Lecture 2006

Elaine Scarry - 'Beauty and Social Justice'
October 2006

Harvard English Professor

The Annual BIRTHA Lecture 2005

Stefan Collini - 'Specialisation and its discontents: Intellectuals in Britain'
October 2005

The first BIRTHA Lecture was given by Stefan Collini, FBA, Professor of English Literature and Intellectual History, University of Cambridge:

Stefan Collini was educated at the universities of Cambridge and Yale, he has held visiting appointments in Canberra, Caracas, Paris and Princeton, and he has taught at Sussex and Cambridge, where he is Professor of Intellectual History and English Literature in the Faculty of English. He has written widely on 19th and 20th-century intellectual history and literature; his books include Public Moralists: Political Thought and Intellectual Life in Britain 1850-1930 (1991), Matthew Arnold: A Critical Portrait (1994), and English Pasts: Essays on History and Culture (1999); he is also a frequent contributor to journals such as The Times Literary Supplement and The London Review of Books. His Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain will be published by OUP in Spring 2006.

Details of lecture