About UNTEACH 2021

UNTEACH was a free, one-day festival hosted by Shadow Heroes, SOAS World Languages Institute and the Institute for Modern Languages Research. Its aim was to explore pathways towards education that is free from prejudice and discrimination by:

Facilitating productive exchange between teachers, educators and artists

Prompting thinking and critical reflection which continued beyond the festival.

The focus of the festival was on language as a proxy for knowledge, the role language plays in creating plural spaces, and also how language is often obscured as a vehicle for discrimination.

Supported by:

141 people attended UNTEACH and 252 registered for the day

100% of audience members rated the content of the festival either 5/5 or 4/5

100% of speakers rated both the festival content and their overall experience 5/5

I found the panel discussion the most interesting and exciting part of the day, where the most pressing questions were discussed by speakers who had obviously given a great deal of thought to it.”

– E, Teacher

2021 Highlights

Part 1: keynote by John Agard hosted by Yansé Cooper

John Agard was hosted by school leader and Shadow Heroes board member Yansé Cooper, who rounded off the session with questions from students at Totteridge Academy in Barnett and Frederick Raymer Academy in Walthamstow.

Part 2: panel discussion

Valuing a plurality of languages and ways of knowing in the classroom. What needs to be unlearned?

The UNTEACH panel brought together Amina Yaqin, a Reader in Urdu and Postcolonial Studies at SOAS; teacher, author and commentator Jeffrey Boakye; poet and educator Raymond Antrobus and writer and activist So Mayer. Chaired by Kavita Bhanot, each offered a powerful provocation, questioning the ideas that govern classroom environments and highlighting how far we have to go before education becomes truly inclusive of all identities and languages.

Part 3: workshops by Shadow Heroes and Literature Must Fall

In the Shadow Heroes session, introduced by workshop curator Nariman Youssef, collaborators Mohini Gupta and Katharine Halls gave participants a taste of the workshops they had developed as part of the Shadow Heroes’ recent Arts Council funded project exploring race through translation. They explored questions of linguistic hierarchies, the relationship between race, religion and language, as well as outlining practical steps for adopting these methods in the classroom.

Part 4: performances by Preti Taneja, Khairani Barokka and Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan

The festival ended with performances by Preti Taneja, Khairani Barokka and Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan. The profoundly moving readings carried the emotion of the day: from Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan presenting poems that show something of “the different ways in which language navigates me and I try to navigate it,” to Preti Taneja voicing the joy that comes from a celebration of language and its possibilities, and the “solidarity that can come not from having to explain or apologise or contextualise for majority.”

“I am the Literacy coordinator at my school, leading a whole school project on raising the reading age of all students so that it matches or surpasses their chronological age and creating a healthy culture of reading within KS4 when reading for pleasure is rendered secondary to revision.”

– G, Teacher

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