With a General Election around the corner, politicians this week will find out what we really think of them.
Filmmakers, writers, academics and political figures will gather in London for a conference on fiction and British politics, hosted by the Centre for British Politics, based at The University of Nottingham.
'From King Lear to In the Loop: Fiction and British Politics' will be held at the British Academy on Friday 11 December 2009 - in association with Parliamentary Affairs and the PSA Art and Politics Specialist Group.
From Shakespeare to Sherlock Holmes; Yes Minister to The Thick of It, the perception of politicians in theatre, film and books will be debated by the experts and those they write about.
Professor Steven Fielding, Director of the Centre for British Politics explained why this is not only a topical subject, but also a key one for the future of politics and our feelings towards it: ‘Whether on stage, screen or page, fictions about politics are more important than you might think. They are the stories we tell ourselves about politics and politicians — so they can tell us what we really think about those who govern in our name.
“But they can also construct how we think about them — especially as the stories often involve the same plots, of corrupt, self-seeking men obsessed with office and little concerned to represent the people that elected them”.
There was a time when it was thought that fiction simply reflected political attitudes, but there is a strong case for believing that it now shapes those same political attitudes.
Recently Hazel Blears even blamed the negative portrayal of politicians for political indifference among the electorate; going as far as to suggest a British West Wing might overcome public suspicion of and aversion to politics.
Speakers at the event include former MP Joe Ashton (Grassroots; Majority of One), James Graham (Toyboyz), Maurice Gran and Laurence Marks (The New Statesman and Mosley), Chris Mullin MP (A Very British Coup) and Tony Saint (Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk to Finchley).
Academic discussions on the subject will also take in Shakespeare, the Sherlock Holmes stories, the novels of Ellen Wilkinson and Winifred Holtby as well as more recent examples like Yes Minister, The Thick of It and The Amazing Mrs Pritchard.
So why do politicians write fiction and why do dramatists write about politics? These and other key questions require an answer.
A book arising from the discussions is due for publication in 2011.
— Ends —
Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings.
More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.
The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.
Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.