Public engagement

The School of Languages and Cultures reaches further than just the student and staff community.

Alumni chat to current students about their experiences.

We consider it part of our mission to maintain an ongoing dialogue with the wider public through projects that involve staff and students of the School. We are committed to engaging with a broad range of audiences and communities in creative and constructive ways, according to our particular strengths and interests.

Our activities are diverse; they draw on traditional academic activities of teaching and research, yet reach far beyond. Some projects involve performances for the general public or presentations of specific research, but many have a broader and more general scope and involve collaboration with cultural organisations within or beyond the City of Sheffield.

Whatever shape our activities take, they are all part of the same ambition: to foster a dialogue with and to make a contribution to local, national and international society.

Some current and recent projects:


French & Francophone Studies

The Madeleine Blaess project brings together the University of the Third Age, some of whom knew Madeleine, with current students and a filmmaker to create a film telling her incredible story. Extracts from her diary are available on the projects own Twitter account @MadeleineBlaess. Contact: Dr Wendy Michallat

Professor Julia Dobson has a longstanding commitment to external engagement and outreach activities in relation to French film. She works with film festivals, distributors, schools and diverse audiences to share and encourage engagement with French film and film in Languages education.

Recent partners include Docfest, LOCO The London Comedy Film Festival, the British Film Institute and the institut français. She curated a strand in the international DocFest programme in 2013 on the work of Agnès Varda and introduced the UK pre-premiere of the Palme d’or winner ‘Dheepan’ to London audiences in 2016. She has worked with the Showroom Cinema in Sheffield on events for schools and public audiences since 2004.

In November 2013 Furnace Park, a reclaimed brownfield site officially opened to the public. Director of the park, Dr Amanda Crawley-Jackson hopes her work will lead to the regeneration of other post-industrial sites. An article about the site can be found on the Times Higher webpage.

The French book group, set up in 2012 by Dr Karine Zbinden provides a vibrant cultural hub for any French speakers in the area. The group is always seeking new members to add to its growing group of Francophile book lovers and offers a vibrant cultural hub for any French speakers in the area.

The French Department Theatre Group staged 'Le Malade imaginaire' by Molière. This show formed part of an ongoing programme of collaboration with the TRAC theatre company in Provence.

Community Rendez-vous bring together several separate communities in Sheffield: French speakers from the refugee and asylum seeker community, students learning French at the University and other French speakers from the wider community

The project was the brainchild of Dr Audrey Small from the University’s French Department and Djoly Mpanzu from local organisation Africatime.


Germanic Studies

The Germanic Studies section, in close collaboration with Showroom Cinema, offered a series of three public film showings around the theme of Shock and Fear in German and Dutch cinema. The Shock and Fear series was put together and organised by Sandra Beer, DAAD-Language tutor in the Department. In addition to her German language teaching, Sandra Beer leads and directs the Germanic Studies Drama Group.

Dr Seán Williams (Germanic Studies) is currently working on his second major project, a cultural history of the hairdresser. This is a comparative study that starts in the eighteenth century and extends into the present. You can read the initial research article. There is also a mobile exhibition that includes both historical prints and contemporary portrait photography.

Seán has spoken to local BBC Radio Sheffield, national Radio 3 (including his own episode of The Essay), Newsday on BBC World Service as well as independent radio. He has also given interviews in German to Swiss national radio. Seán will appear on TV in spring 2017. You can find out more on his personal homepage.

Dr Kristine Horner and Sarah Muller gave a lecture on the sociolinguistics of Luxembourg, followed by a Luxembourgish language taster class, at Europe House in London on 16 December 2015. The lecture set the national language in social and historical context, focusing on the way in which the status of Luxembourgish has shifted over the past two centuries.

The subsequent taster class allowed participants to engage in language learning activities in relation to learning about the geography of Luxembourg. Among the 50+ participants at this event in London to round off Luxembourg’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union were Mr Jean Claude Kugener (Deputy Head of Mission, Luxembourg Embassy in the UK) and Mr Stephen Turkington (Language Officer, European Commission Representation in the UK).

The reception was generously sponsored by the Luxembourg Embassy in London who are one of the key partners of the Centre for Luxembourg Studies.

Final-year students from the School of Languages and Cultures, who have just returned from working and studying in Germany and Austria, are helping local small and medium enterprises to boost their profile in German-speaking Europe through a project called German for Enterprise.

Paul Heardman, an SLC alumnus and Dr Henriette Louwerse helped to provide the initial links to businesses with the project is now being taken forward by Dr Caroline Bland and Dr Giles Harrington.

Five authors, a photographer, a video artist and a group of Second Year students in Germanic Studies created a unique online portrait of the City of Sheffield that has become known as Citybook Sheffield.

Citybooks is an international project for which artists portray a city in poems, short stories, photographs and moving images.  Dr Henriette Louwerse of Germanic Studies is responsible for making Sheffield the only UK representative in this European initiative.


Hispanic Studies

The Hispanic Studies section have joined forces with FC Barcelona and Sheffield United Football Club to promote the local and international educational possibilities of sport. 'Barça, Sport, Culture and Education' attracted over 100 people to the University to listen to and debate with Sr. Ramon Pont Amenós, Vice-President of the FC Barcelona Foundation and member of the FC Barcelona Board of Directors. Contact: Dr Louise Johnson

Following her research internship at the Department for Languages, Culture and Sport of the Government of Tatarstan in the Russian Federation, Teresa Wigglesworth-Baker, PhD student at the SLC has written a report for the Tatar government giving recommendations for consideration as part of its Tatar language policy.

Mathy Selvakumaran, a PhD student in Hispanic Studies, appears on BBC Breakfast TV and on BBC Look North. Mathy is the Trailblazers Regional Ambassador for the East Midlands.

Prof. Phil Swanson, Mathy’s supervisor, says: ‘Mathy’s PhD on disability and culture in Spain is likely to be a major contribution to our field. She is an absolute star, doing incredibly well despite her own situation and contributing fulsomely to the needs of the wider disabled community. We’re all very proud of her here.’

In May 2015, the leading Spanish novelist, Belén Gopegui, was 'writer in residence' for a week at the University of Sheffield in her first ever public appearance in the UK. The visit was sponsored by the Instituto Cervantes in Manchester, Acción Cultural, the Herbert Hughes Memorial Trust and the Universities of Sheffield and Liverpool.

Among the public events held as part of the visit was the talk, 'Belén Gopegui en conversación con Hayley Rabanal', which included an interview with the author and a reading by her of passages from her latest novel El comité de la noche (2014), accompanied by an English translation.

At the Instituto Cervantes in Manchester, there was a free, public screening of the film Las razones de mis amigos (2000) - the film adaptation of Belén Gopegui’s 1998 novel La conquista del aire (1998). The film was followed by an open question and answer session with the author, hosted by Dr Hayley Rabanal, and then a drinks reception.

Undergraduate and postgraduate students from Hispanic Studies who had been working with Belén in literature and translation workshops earlier in the week, travelled to Manchester to participate in the event.

A public event to commemorate 40 years since the Chilean Coup saw several members of the Hispanic department, Prof. Phil Swanson, Dr Peter Watt and Prof. David Wood sharing their research with members of the region’s Chilean community and the wider public.


Russian & Slavonic Studies

Prof.Dobrenko (PI) and Dr.Natalia Skradol (RA) have been working on the AHRC-funded project National Revival and Cultural Unification in Post-War Eastern Europe since July 2013.

Over that time, they’ve organised 16 PE events (and counting) for the broad public in Sheffield, London and in Europe. Some of the highlights include:

  • An exhibition on 'a book prison and its inmates' (on the Sovietisation of the publishing industry in post-war Bulgaria; the Central Library in Sheffield).
  • A talk on 'hairy spiders, ugly raccoons and scrawny apes' (on early Cold War political cartoons; Sheffield’s University World Week).
  • A presentation about 'a little elephant who grew up and became an enemy of the people' (on the uses of children’s book illustrations for a politicisation of the public sphere in the Soviet zone of influence; the House of Illustration, London).
  • A one-time screening of the very first Cold War film The Russian Question (USSR, 1947; shown at the Waterstones Tottenham Court Rd branch in London).

Helga's Diary, an account of a young girl's survival in Terezín internment camp during the War has been translated by Prof. Neil Bermel.

Our research

The School of Languages and Cultures boasts a thriving research community of academic staff, postdoctoral research fellows and postgraduate students. 

Research in the School