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Successful PEALS 20th Anniversary Symposium and Celebration Reception

PEALS celebrated 20 years of world-class research, teaching and engagement with a day-long Symposium attended by past and present PEALS staff and colleagues.

PEALS celebrated 20 years of world-class research, teaching and engagement with a day-long symposium and evening reception on November 21st 2019.  These events, in the Great North Museum, brought together current and former PEALS staff and a number of colleagues who have had long associations with the Research Centre. 

Timed to coincide with the main events, an exhibition of PEALS’ collaborations with artists and engagement with genomic science opened in the same venue and will run until 14th Feb 2020.  The exhibition includes a timeline of PEALS activities and some original artworks by local artist Dr Marianne Wilde.

The symposium attracted around 50 participants from the UK, Europe and North America.  The opening session was chaired by Professor Tom Shakespeare, who introduced Peals’ Founding Executive Director Professor Erica Haimes as the first speaker.  Erica and Tom were the original members of PEALS and their thoughts on its creation and the context within which the need for such a research centre had arisen set the tone for subsequent presentations.  All the speakers had connections to PEALS and reflected on that relationship before turning to discuss their current work.  The full symposium programme (PDF 1MB) lists all the speakers and participants in attendance.

Two sessions in the day broke from the academic focus and showcased PEALS’ involvement beyond academia.  In one, Marilyn Longstaff discussed her part in a writing project, ‘Stemistry’, and read some of her poetry that resulted.  In the other, Canon Rachel Mann discussed her work with former PEALS Director Professor Jackie Leach Scully resulting from the ‘Faithful Judgements’ project.  This collaboration led to Rachel writing prayers useful to people of faith who are considering or undergoing fertility treatments.  In a further artistic collaboration, the prayers have been collected into a ‘chapbook’ (a type of street literature common until the 19th century) designed by Marianne and launched at the symposium.

The symposium was followed by an evening celebratory reception at which the day’s participants were joined by another 25 people with close connections to PEALS.  The evening opened with a welcome by the current Executive Director, Dr Simon Woods.  A performance of ‘Embryo Music’, a composition by Mark Carroll that resulted from Simon’s work on human developmental genetics research, was followed by a few words from Professor Alistair Balls and all the previous directors of PEALS.

The day was a fitting celebration of the many facets of PEALS’ engagement in serious academic debate, innovative artistic collaborations and hospitable welcome to friends old and new.




PEALS 20th Anniversary Symposium at the Great North Museum 21 November 2019
PEALS 20th Anniversary Symposium Speakers and Participants, Photograph by Simon Veit-Wilson ©

published on: 12 December 2019