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In difficult times, humans start thinking about what a perfect world - a utopia - might look like. Many have explored the concept, some have even tried to build it. We’re exploring how different thinkers have approached the idea of utopia.

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DatesAvailable to watch on-demand now
Talks structure30 minute lecture20 minute Q&A

4 talks in this Garden Series



Society & Politics
Why did WW1 inspire so many utopian experiments?

A century ago, the world was reeling in the wake of the First World War and the Spanish Flu pandemic. How did these catastrophic global events motivate people to live in new ways? Read more

Dr. Anna Neima

University of Warwick

When Anna Neima's grandfather retired from farming, set up a small eco-commune. He ran it until he was 94, aiming to show it was possible to live a good life at net-zero carbon. Conditions were squalid and he did not convert many people! But this example of someone dedicating themselves to turning ideals into practice sparked Anna's interest in practical utopias.

Anna is a writer and historian who strongly believes that linking the past and present is a vital way to make sense of and improve the contemporary world. She completed PhD at the University of Cambridge in 2019. Since then, she's written two books about the experimental communities that sprang up around the globe in the aftermath of the First World War. Anna is currently a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the University of Warwick, where she is researching communities of a different kind, looking at the experiences of white families in Barbados and Trinidad from the 1930s to the 1980s.

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Society & Politics
Could the metaverse perfect our imperfect world?

When people talk about the metaverse, they mean a future where there's a seamless connection between physical reality and the virtual world. But will that future be better than the world of today? Read more

Prof. Andy Miah

University of Salford

Professor Andy Miah is Chair of Science Communication & Future Media at the University of Salford, where he directs The Science Communication Space. Andy's research and writing looks at the ways in which humanity is moving beyond conventional evolution through technology, including drones, artificial intelligence, esports, digital health and social media. His work has appeared in Fortune, Vogue, BBC, The Guardian, the Washington Post and over 300 other publications.

Andy puts his transdisciplinary approach down to being a child of a modular degree system, where he studied a range of sciences, social sciences and humanities subjects. He believes we cannot make sense of our world by looking at it from just one scholarly perspective, so he has worked hard to find patterns and learnings across disciplines. As a very dedicated father of an 11 year old, Andy also spends a lot of his time thinking about what younger generations are experiencing in these times of high technological change and how this shapes their perspective on the world.

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Literature & Language
Society & Politics
What does fiction say about the world we wish we had?

Imagining new worlds in speculative fiction and sci fi doesn't just help us envision possible futures; it also gives us a way to think about our world as it is now. What do our fictional worlds tell us about the world we want to live in? Read more

Prof. Matthew Beaumont

University College London

Matthew is a Professor of English Literature at University College London in the UK, where he is Co-Director of the UCL Urban Laboratory and runs the Cities Imaginaries strand of the project.

Matthew's work focuses on representations of the metropolitan city, particularly at nighttime. He also studies nineteenth-century literature, film, crime fiction, utopian and dystopian literature, and many other genres of English literature and literary theory.

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Art & Entertainment
How do artists depict paradise?

Humans have always speculated about what a perfect world might look like, whether as a reward in the afterlife, part of an origin story like the Garden of Eden, or a real place on Earth. How do we see these ideas play out in the art we create? Read more

Dr. James Fox

University of Cambridge

James Fox is a Cambridge art historian, writer, public speaker, curator and award-winning, BAFTA-nominated, broadcaster.

James fell in love with art at the age of six and hasn't looked back since. The first person in his family to go to university, he graduated with a starred first in History of Art at the University of Cambridge in 2004.

After completing an MPhil and PhD in the subject, as well as stints at Harvard and Yale, James took up a Fellowship in Cambridge in 2011. He specialises in modern art, British art, and the cultural history of colour.

He is currently Director of Studies in History of Art at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, Director of Education at the Jeffrey Rubinoff Sculpture Park in Canada, and President of the Friends of the Stanley Spencer Gallery.

Convinced of art's huge social importance, James works with museums, schools, charities and the media to engage broader audiences in this most life-enhancing of subjects.

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