Spotlight on...Tim Beasley-Murray

A selfie of a man wearing a grey jumper
A selfie of a man wearing a grey jumper
This week we meet Professor Tim Beasley-Murray, Vice-Dean for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities and Director of the BA Creative Arts and Humanities. Here, he chats to us about designing a brand-new degree and his involvement in the Disagreeing Well series at UCL.

What is your role and what does it involve? 

I am Vice-Dean (External Engagement) for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities and Director of the BA Creative Arts and Humanities in the UCL Arts and Sciences Department. My Vice-Dean role involves making the case for the importance of what our Faculty does in a world that doesn’t always value the arts and humanities as much as it should. My motto for this role is a line from Star Trek: ’survival isn’t sufficient’. It’s the arts and humanities that help us really understand life and make it worth living! Meanwhile, the BA CAH is a new degree programme that combines critique and different forms of creative practice: performance, writing and moving image. We’ll be starting with our first cohort of students this Autumn at UCL East. 

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role? 

27 years! For many years, I was part of the School of Slavonic and East European Studies where I taught things like political philosophy, a module on the revolutions of 1989 and even, a long time ago, Slovak literature. 

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of? 

Well, when the BA CAH gets off the ground, I hope I’ll be able to be proud of that. It has been quite something designing a degree, getting it approved, putting together a team, and recruiting our first students. I also led the team that put together the UCL Introductory Programme, an online environment that aims to inspire and engage new students with UCL.  

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list 

Right now, I am working with colleagues at the UCL European Institute on an interactive, online and collaboratively created European Literary Map of London. We are using this project to engage with Embassies and with students, with secondary schools and with communities. I am also getting involved in the Disagreeing Well at UCL series. Here I am interested in exploring the special role of fiction and the arts in disagreeing well. Maybe these are places where we can approach difficult subjects and ideas in a playful manner, where we can encounter characters and positions that are alien to us in ways that the seriousness of the ’real’ world does not afford us. 

What is your favourite album, film and novel? 

The Blue Nile’s A Walk Across the Rooftops; either The Seventh Seal or Point Break; Dostoevsky’s The Idiot.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)? 

The Aristocrats, a famous joke and a comedian’s favourite. Look it up online! 

Who would be your dream dinner guests? 

It would be fascinating to have dinner with a cross-section of Athenian democracy of the 5th Century BCE. Pericles and Socrates would have to be there, but I would also like to talk with enslaved people, women and foreigners - like Aspasia of Miletus - to find out what it was really like. 

What advice would you give your younger self? 

Listen more. 

What would it surprise people to know about you? 

I was born in Eastern Congo (DRC) and occasionally play the accordion, normally late at night with friends. 

What is your favourite place? 

Essaouira, Morocco.
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