Matthew Smith, Senior Fellow (Public History) in the Department of History, is organising the programme for the College's second Festival of History. We caught up with Matthew to find out more about this free family-friendly event and the activities that are taking place in Founder's North Quad on Sunday 3 June to bring to life women’s struggle for the vote and the end of the First World War.
1. Could you tell us a bit more about yourself and your role within the Department of History?
I am a Senior Fellow in Public History and Director of ‘Citizens: 800 years in the making’, a three year project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. As part of this project we are working with students and staff to develop digital resources for schools, creating online courses for adult learners with Parliament and the People’s History Museum, supporting a network of over ten museums across the South East to develop new digital content and, of course, managing the Festival of History.
2. The Festival of History is returning to campus again this year. Could you tell us a bit more about the event and the activities that take place?
The Festival of History is a great example of Royal Holloway’s strengths in the field of Public History, making history accessible and engaging for wider audiences. This year we’ll have a range of re-enactment groups setting up camps in the North Quad, representing periods from the time of King John and Magna Carta through to the end of the First World War. As this year also marks the centenary of the Representation of the People Act which extended the vote to some women for the first time you’ll also find a rich programme of women’s suffrage talks, performances and interactive displays.
3. What are you most looking forward to about this year’s Festival History?
A particular highlight this year will be Dr Fern Riddell’s talk on Kitty Marion, a militant suffragette arsonist. Fern’s talk challenges us to consider the extremes to which some suffragettes were prepared to go for the cause and why this history is not better known today. This talk is the latest in our Magna Carta Lecture series, supported by the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Commemoration Committee and Runnymede Magna Carta Legacy, a local charity.
4. What aspect of your role do you enjoy the most?
A key component of the Citizens project, and the aspect of my role directing the project I most enjoy, is providing opportunities for students to work on some great projects within the overall scope of what we’re doing. It is very important to us that students have opportunities to be involved in every stage of the project from scriptwriting and presenting videos for schools to contributing content to our online course with Parliament and creating activities for the upcoming Festival.
5. Are you working on any other research/projects currently?
A new project we have just started working on is a collaboration between the Department of History and the School of Law, working with the Citizens project team, to develop a series of short films on landmark legal cases for the UK Supreme Court. The plan is for these films to then be exhibited in the Supreme Court exhibition gallery and sent to schools planning at trip to the Court as a pre-visit introduction to the Court’s work.
6. What do you enjoy most about working at Royal Holloway?
I’ve been very fortunate to have been given a role which allows me to pursue some fantastic opportunities to work with partners like Parliament and The National Archives as well as colleagues from History, English and Law. Managing such a multifaceted project like Citizens also means no one day is like another. Finally, it is wonderful to come to work when your office is in the Founder’s Building.
7. What do you enjoy doing outside of your work life?
Spending as much time as I can with my three year old twins, Tom and Kate, who keep my wife and I very busy.