9 October 2011
Chris Heal, a third-year PhD student in the Department has just completed his twentieth public lecture to local history groups in the South West. His work, on the birth, growth and eventual collapse of the hatting industry in the Bristol region has had a strong local resonance. The result has been that many meetings have had record audiences, with around two thousand people having been to one or more of these events.
Public engagement is something that the University of Bristol takes very seriously, possessing its own centre to promote the activity, as well as hosting an annual conference to discuss initiatives that ensure academic work is communicated beyond the walls of the academy. As such, many members of the Department undertake public engagement work. This includes giving talks, often unpaid, about their research to adult education colleges, schools and local history groups. For a PhD student, however, Chris' outreach work has been exceptional both in terms of its scale and in the level of interest it has generated. Professor Ronald Hutton, himself a prolific public lecturer, thus notes of Chris' outreach work that 'this sort of public service is a vital part of our activity as scholars, and builds vital goodwill for our university and profession in the communities around us: Chris is setting a wonderful example.'