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Post-Grad Community PhD Interest Groups

a group of students listening to a speaker
a group of students listening to a speaker

Written by
Post-Grad Community
Published date
28 January 2020

UAL’s Post-Grad Community Programme supports a growing number of issue-specific, cross-disciplinary interest groups led by postgraduate students and academics.

​These groups connect creatives with shared research/practice interests across different specialisms and subject areas.

PhD students have launched interest groups to coincide with exhibitions and symposiums that they have organised under the same theme. Students have also used Interest Groups as a working group towards research or a standalone event or series.

We have interviewed the initiators of three thriving PhD student-led interest groups to understand how these originated and how the group has fuelled their research.

Ray: My name’s Ray Kinsella I’m in the writing up period of my PhD my research is about the post-war bebop scene in Soho London between 1945 and 1950.

Kevin: My Name’s Kevin Quinn, I’m a part time PhD student at Central Saint Martins, just starting my third year. My area of research, I’m looking at the British Music press, specifically the 1970’s and 1980’s.

So, on the 31stof October this year myself and Ray and AN other we hosted a one day symposium at London College of Fashion. It was basically about the way the media construct and disseminate the idea of subcultures and ideas around subcultures.

Kevin: So, the symposium was a resounding success and as a result a subcultures interest group has evolved from it. The first group is scheduled to meet on Tuesday the 13thJanuary 2020. I suppose I see it as a continuation of subcultures as a discussion and an attempt to identify and argue cases for potentially other alternative activities for example graffiti artists or skate boarding because there was a researcher who was at the symposium, her interest is in skateboarding, and she asked me: “do you consider it a subculture?” and I said: “well I do, but why not talk about it?”.

Ray: We will facilitate a discussion around what people perceive to be a subculture what subcultures mean to people nowadays.

Kevin: Well getting people who are younger than us to enlighten us about how they see subcultures, any subcultures that are emerging which we’re unaware of. So basically, just continually talk about subcultures.

Kevin: So, we approached the post-graduate team who’s basically held my hand all the way through it in terms of gaining finances, just being able to call on them for advice and experience.

So, three of us decided to collaborate after all attending the same conference, the three of us were able to share talking about heavy theory and basically by talking about it as a group the three of us, it just helped ease a lot of things.

Ray: We sort of fed of each other we spoke in an informal setting rather than at a conference which is more intense and formal and I think it enabled to talk about our ideas more.

Kevin: And our whole energy then fed into our own symposium and what will now lead into the subcultures interest group.

Subculture Interest Group Interview

Ray Kinsella and Kevin Quinn, UAL PhD students, on how they created a subcultures symposium and interest group around their research questions.

Hi my name is Remi Allen and I’m a part time, practice based fine art PhD student studying at Chelsea.

My research is about the construction of the British-Indian identity and the role that the mother plays in the construction of that identity.

I won an award for a residency at the British School at Rome in July 2019, that was the Mead residency. On my return I produced the report for the Post-Grad Community, and that’s the first time I met Rachael, coordinator for the community. And she read the report, she liked it, we had a conversation and I mentioned that holes would be coming up at the end of October and she got involved with the work load and helped reduce a lot of stress and anxiety.

I had my first solo exhibition at the triangle space in Chelsea. It took place from the 28thOctober through to the 2st of November, it was called Holes and it encompassed 5 years’ worth of practice all under one roof.

I think I was a little nervous at first that the attendees wouldn’t quite understand the work. But as the week ran on, and the more visitors I had, viewing them view the work was a way of me realising that what I was producing was valid and relatable and they got the gist of what I was trying to create, especially if they shared my Indian cultural heritage. So they understood the materials, they understood the process and the making, and the final art.

So with further discussions with Rachael and the Post-Grad Community, I realised that there was space for BLAME, Brown Leaders and Makers Exist. I feel BLAME as an interest group is important feedback from Holes the exhibition.

I see the diversity at Chelsea, I see the brown faces on the fine art and design course, I also realise the facts behind the scenes from the data collection.

So for diversity to exist, brown artists need to be understood by a diverse audience. They are cultural insiders, educators, and are able to push the boundaries in the art world without feeling like excluded outsiders.

So these are the reasons I think there is space for BLAME, I want brown makers to continue to make, and to make it within their chosen industry. I believe there is room for debate and discussion on how to make the invisible brown maker visible. So that’s why I think the interest group needs to exist. It needs to be a relaxed environment to be able to come and discuss your ideas come and talk about your materials, come and talk about your heritage, your cultural upbringing, but more importantly it’s to give them support and a sense of belonging, to make them feel like they are included and it is all-inclusive and diverse, but in a reality, a realistic format rather than in the context of institutional diversity.

BLAME Interest Group Interview

Remi Allen, UAL PhD candidate, on creating the BLAME (Brown Leaders and Makers Exist) interest group around her research question.

Cathryn: Hi I’m Cathryn Hall and I’m a researcher at the Centre for Circular Design, I’m writing my PhD thesis on textile recycling for a circular economy.

Laetitia: Hi I’m Laetitia Forst, and when I’m not working for Post-Grad Community on the PhD programme, I am writing my thesis on the topic of textile design for a circular economy.

Cathryn: The Circular Design Lab interest group started in 2018, it actually evolved from a symposium that we put together called There and Back Again to talk about sustainability. We basically wanted to expand some of the conversations that had started in the symposium and bring students together to discuss these topics.

Laetitia: We organise about 2 meetups a term on average as well as the symposium which will be running for the third consecutive year in May. The meetups range from one-to-one circular surgeries or informal discussions to exhibition visits.

Cathryn: We found out about Post-Grad Community through the project fund and we ended up getting way more than the financial support that they gave us. We already had a plan for the programme and for the discussion group when we started, but actually it’s really evolved and grown since then.

Laetitia: Post-Grad advertised our events and helped us gain a larger audience. We were also advised on who to collaborate with.The symposium and interest groups were also an opportunity to run workshops which feed directly into our research by testing tools we are developing with an audience of students and industry stakeholders. The symposium has been a perfect opportunity to invite researchers how’s work we are interested in to speak at UAL. Not only has that meant that we got a chance to hear them present but it also started more long-term working relationships.

Cathryn: It’s really given us the chance to share our research with other students as well as with a wider audience. In our symposium we actually open up a spot specifically for Mas to speak. And in the same way the discussion group brings Mas into the research centre to open up discussion around sustainability. The interest group and the symposium have actually evolved loads since we started, it’s getting more and more traction, and actually the CDL interest group in particular in October 2019, we had to turn people away. The interest group has been a great way to shpw hpw the research at the Centre for Circular Design could be disseminated and how we could build stronger links with MA courses across UAL. It’s also been a great way of building a community around our research that we want to keep living beyond our PhDs.

CDL Interest Group Interview

Cathryn Anneka Hall and Laetitia Forst, UAL PhD candidates, on creating the There and Back Again symposium and the Circular Design Lab interest group around their research questions.

Start your own interest group now by emailing

We will support you in reaching your audience and setting up your first meeting.

Related links

Subcultures Interest Group

BLAME Interest Group

CDL Interest Group

Interest Group Directory