Goldsmiths’ Writers Centre Inaugural Conference: Beyond the Sheets: Sexualities in the Age of Digital Reproduction 4th April 2014

ImageFull Programme

Venue: Richard Hoggart Building, Goldsmiths College, University of London



Thursday 3rd April 2014


6pm                            LitLive Event, Goldsmiths

An evening of creative writing, music and performances about sex. Writers include: Richard Scott, Elaine Castillo, Ama Budge plus many more.

**Delegates who will be in London for the conference are warmly invited to attend, however please note that accommodation is not provided.**



Friday 4th April 2014


9.30 – 10am                          Coffee and Registration


10am – 10.15am                  Opening Remarks: Professor Blake Morrison, Goldsmiths (RHB 137A)


10.15am – 11.45am                        PANEL SESSION ONE





Panel title: Potency & Impotence

Chair: TBC

Venue:  RHB 137A



Eleanor Perry (University of Kent), ‘Mutilated Existence: Poetry as a Means of Interrogating Notions of Femininity and Female Sexuality in Mass Culture’


Joanna Linsley (Independent), ‘Impotence: An Exercise in Endurance’




Dr Justin Hunt (University of Lincoln), ‘Writing Sex: Archival Negotiations and the Erotics of Research’

Panel title: Identities


Chair:  TBC

Venue: RHB 142



Dragan Todorovic (University of Kent)

‘Avatars at an Orgy: Sex as the Malfunction of Fiction’




Grace Dugdale (Independent), ‘Sex, Science and the Two Faces of Patriarchy’




Valentino Vecchietti (Independent),

‘Sex and the Abject: TransBodies, a Semiotic Reading of Estranged Meaning in Anomalous Bodies’



Panel title: Censorship in the Digital Age

Chair:  TBC

Venue:  RHB 143



Thomas Darby (Independent)

‘Performing the Written Digital ‘





Jerry Barnett (Independent)

Censorship, pornography and bureaucracy




Will Fee (Goldsmiths)

‘Sex, Violence and the Issue of Censorship in the Arts’



11.45am – 12pm                  BREAK


12pm – 1.30pm                   PANEL SESSION TWO





Panel title: Troubling the Division of Porn and its Audience/s

Chair: TBC

Venue: RHB 137A


Bethan Jones (University of Aberystwyth), ‘Porn Audiences and Prosumption: A Fannish Space in Porn’



Sarah Harman (Brunel University) and Helen Hester  (University of Middlesex), ‘Giffing a Fuck: Non-narrative Pleasures in Participatory Porn Cultures’


Nick Kilby (De Montfort University), ‘Rethinking the Queer Response: A Reflection on Ecstatic Readings’

Panel title: Perversions  of Modernism


Chair: TBC

Venue:  RHB 142


Ery Shin (University of Oxford),  ‘Erasing/Immortalizing Race through Sex: Felix’s Death-wish in Nightwood’



Guy Stevenson (Goldsmiths), ‘Henry Miller and the ‘Remarkable Sexuality of the Twenties’





Chantal Kennedy (Goldsmiths)

‘Capitalism, Sex, and Michel Houllebecq’


Panel title: Writing about Sex I

Chair: TBC

Venue: RHB 143


Andrea Mason (Goldsmiths), ‘Prurient Abject Voyeurism: Does She Squirt? A short story’


Richard Scott (Independent poet)

Sex in Poetry





Panellist TBC


1.30pm – 2.30pm                 LUNCH


2.30pm – 2.45pm                 Afternoon Readings: Season Butler, Blake Morrison, etc


2.45pm – 4.15pm                PANEL SESSION THREE





Panel title: Teenage Kicks

Chair: TBC

Venue: RHB 137A


Heather McConnell (Independent),

Teenage girls, media and sex


Rachel Long (Goldsmiths),

‘I Blame my Mother, She Blames Me’


Henry Ivry (University of Leeds), ‘”We’ve Got a Situation”: Gender and Sexual Politics and the Transatlantic Dialogue of Jersey Shore, Geordie Shore, and The Valley.


Panel title: This is how we do it – Writing about sex II

Chair: Francis Gilbert

Venue: RHB 142


May-Lan Tan

Jennifer Nadel

Alice Ash

Ardashir Vakil

Andrea Mason

Jenny Lewis






Panel title:  Writing the Erotic

Chair: TBC

Venue: RHB 143


Dr Josie Pearse (Independent)

‘Being Angel Strand: the Experience of Being a Black Lace Author’


Richard English (Brunel University), ‘Writing Romance: Love and Sex’


Sonia Overall (University of Kent), ‘Sex in Eden: Writing, Reading and Inhabiting Fictional Worlds’


4.15pm – 4.30pm                 BREAK


4.30pm – 5.15pm                Keynote speaker: Michèle Roberts


5.15pm – 6pm                       Creative/Closing discussion


6pm – 6.30pm                       Wine reception


6.30pm – 7pm                      The Butch Monologues feat. The Drakes

The Butch Monologues uses interviews with butch-identified women living in the UK, Europe, USA, Australia and the Caribbean, and re-positions the negative, socially threatening concept of female masculinity into a place of pride.


7pm  – 10pm                                     Feelings: Venue TBC

A night of queer-friendly poetry, prose, performance, video and sad disco, curated by Sophie Robinson.


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Prize-winning novelist Michèle Roberts is keynote speaker at Goldsmiths’ Sexualities conference

Prize-winning novelist Michèle Roberts is keynote speaker at Goldsmiths' Sexualities conference.

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The advantages of writing about sex

The advantages of writing about sex.

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Pupil ranking plans are an epic fail for SEN children


Brilliant blog on how destructive pupil ranking can be for SEN students

Originally posted on Special Needs Jungle:

Oh dear.  We’ve always said communication is an issue with the SEN reforms but it’s fairly obvious that it spans education as a whole.

Can someone please let David Laws and Nick Clegg know about the reforms going through and let them have the memo about “promoting inclusion”.

When the Department for Education launched the Green Paper, two of their proposals were to give parents a real choice of a range of schools and give children with statements the right to express a preference for any state-funded mainstream or special school.

However, this morning Mr Laws and Mr Clegg have announced a consultation about plans to change performance measures for schools.

  • Pupils aged 11 would be ranked in 10% ability bands across the year group
  • Test results would be divided into bands of 10%
  • Parents will be told how their child “measures up” to their peers
  • A tougher minimum level…

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Where are the dangerous ideas in education? Go to the Dangerous Ideas Festival to find out…

The topics and speakers at the Dangerous Ideas for Dangerous Times festival, taking place this coming Friday and Saturday in London, set me wondering about where the dangerous ideas are in education.

The festival’s main focus seems to be political issues. Leading political commentators like Tony Benn, Tariq Ali, Owen Jones, Danielle Obono, and Laura Penny are talking about a whole host of vital topics: the austerity cuts, the media’s attack on benefit claimants, the Palestinian and Middle East crisis, the current direction of the Left, and capitalism’s stake in warmongering.

There’s an education panel too which is entitled “Fighting Gove from playpen to PhD: imagining a better education system”: John Westmoreland, Henry Parkyn Smith, Alex Kenny and Faduma Hassan are speaking. Gove has thrown down a gauntlet to the Left. Putting aside his inflammatory rhetoric about Marxists and “enemies of promise”, most would agree that the most radical and dangerous thing he’s done is to increase the marketisation of education, which, as has been many times discussed on this site, has exacerbated unfairness in our education system and the wider society. And yet, I can’t help thinking that the Left has possibly misplayed its hand by being overly negative in its response. Perhaps it could respond more creatively. For example, while I don’t agree with the overall policy of free schools, I can’t help thinking that if the unions did set up their own free schools this could be a place where good practice could be modelled. Or perhaps if they’re not keen on this, as Fiona Millar has suggested, a blueprint for co-operative schools could be established and put forward as a proper alternative. Is more nuance and less posturing required?

I like the way some artists have responded to the dangers of these dangerous times. The event that I’m really interested in going to is ‘Culture Shock! Artist as Activist’, at 6pm on Saturday,  which Peter KennardCat Picton Phillipps, and Season Butler are appearing in. It seems to me that these artists are responding creatively to the difficulties of our current political situation by questioning existing hegemonic structures connected with gender, money, social class, politics, privilege and, of course, education. And they’re doing it in a really thought-provoking, hard-hitting and witty fashion. I love this photograph which forms part of Season Butler’s art work:


This is a performance installation which has the sub-heading:

“Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats for a gentle disaster for two. Three courses, three times a night. It will be our pleasure to serve you.”

The humorous, oblique approach offers a powerful critique of the customer/salesperson relationship, and made me think of the ways in which teacher identity is being re-configured in these days of rampant capitalism. We are becoming like waiters to our pupils, who in the neo-liberal, free-market model of education are like customers expecting to be served up good grades on a plate. Art is unique in the ways which it can undermine the dominant ideologies of an age; I think it’s no coincidence that the current government has been so determined to downgrade its importance in the school curriculum.

I think it’s only by forging a new aesthetic way of thinking that we’ll really start to think of truly dangerous ideas about education. Education is really so much more than school. I gave a talk about this at the Goldsmiths graduate festival; as part of my PhD in Creative Writing and Education I’ve been trying to formulate a theoretical framework for developing what I call “aesthetic education”, that is an educational approach which fosters a love of life and beauty, which engages not only the intellect but the body.

You can watch the whole talk here if you’re interested.



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How Ofsted quietened its critics: by inventing the “outstanding” category

The former QCA chief Mick Waters is a fascinating commentator on education. I’ve already commented upon his new book Thinking Allowed On Schooling; it’s a really interesting read. What I like about Mick is that he is very approachable, and combines a healthy realism about schools with a desire for a more egalitarian system. He’s obviously a keen supporter of local state schools which offer a broad and balanced curriculum to all children, and clearly believes that state schools have improved immensely in recent years. However, he is suspicious of a system which produces too many perverse incentives. I interviewed him this week at the Royal Society of Arts, the RSA, and was particularly struck by the comments he made about Ofsted. Having been a head-honcho bureaucrat himself, he’s got an uncanny knack of nailing the ways in which bureaucracies promote themselves and their agendas. I think his observations about Ofsted are incisive; he sees quite clearly how Ofsted has generated a language which primarily protects itself as an institution rather than genuinely assisting school improvement. Watch him talking to me here on how Ofsted invented the category of “outstanding” in order to deflect criticism of its dubious inspection methods.

Waters’ case is a strong one; the category of “outstanding” conferred great power upon Ofsted because it enabled it to make a substantial number of schools to feel very good about themselves, while encouraging other schools to aspire to this category. What it didn’t do was genuinely assist with raising standards because as Waters argues in his book, and speaks about below, many of the judgments of Ofsted are based upon dubious data. RaiseOnline, the organisation which crunches exam data for schools and for Ofsted, base their data upon exam results which many people — from the current Education Secretary to Mike Tomlinson, a former Ofsted chief — question both the validity and reliability of. But least you think Waters is overwhelmingly negative about Ofsted and doesn’t believe in it as a concept, you need to listen to a fuller explanation of his ideas here:


For Waters, the root of the problem for schools is an affliction which affects many public services at the current time, and this is the way in which an excessive focus upon specific targets distort the practices within institutions. He cleverly uses “game theory” to explain this phenomena. It’s worth listening to him explaining this concept in his own words here:

What happened is that various institutions in education have played the game but forgotten the original purpose of the game in the first place. A few years ago, Ofsted was worried about its very survival because it was being attacked from all sides for the unreliability and unfairness of its inspection processes; its invention of the outstanding category introduced a new game into the system, the game of everyone wanting to attain “outstanding” status. Its grading category for lessons from 1 (outstanding) to 4 (unsatisfactory) fundamentally altered teachers’ lives in schools because suddenly a number was defining many teachers’ sense of self-worth and professional pride. Teachers stopped complaining about Ofsted in the vociferous way that they had been, and worried about whether they were a 1 or not. As a result, Ofsted, with the introduction of the category, altered the rules of the game for every state school teachers’ professional life. A clever move, and not one I’d really noticed until Mick Waters pointed it out to me.  

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Education expert calls for “an education spring” in this blistering attack on schools’ policy — watch the video here…

Education expert and former QCA chief, Mick Waters, has just published a new book on schools called “Thinking Allowed on Schooling”. He spoke at the House of Commons yesterday about his book, giving a blistering talk about how schools policy is heading in the wrong direction at the moment. He argued passionately for a more evidence-based approach, talking eloquently about the need for “an education spring” which he characterised as “a rising of intolerance about the way schooling is being manipulated in a piecemeal and uncoordinated way to serve too many purposes with unclear measures”. He called for a National Council for Schooling to be set up which is built upon evidence and research and has clearly defined aims for our young people. Above all, he called for a better definition of what a “rounded education” really is and clarity about where schooling fits into that picture. His comments about exams and GCSEs are particularly potent; he has already written in a previous book about how he feels the exam system has become corrupted and has led to schools “playing the game” of getting good results, rather than thinking about what is a good education for our students.

His speech and summing up of the comments made (not on the video here) really make his case very powerfully I think. He is a friendly person who is obviously utterly sincere about what he says. I’m not sure that I agree with all of his ideas such as the “licensing of teachers” — an idea mooted by Ed Balls when he was Education Secretary — but they are always worth thinking about in depth. There’s a really good Guardian article on him here.

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