Award-winning broadcaster speaks to packed audience at Keele

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Posted on 05 September 2017

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Keele University welcomed journalist and broadcaster Samira Ahmed onto its campus last week to explore how local novelist Arnold Bennett speaks to modern Britain.

Samira, who presents Front Row on BBC Radio 4 and Newswatch on BBC1, gave a free public lecture entitled “What Can Arnold Bennett Teach Brexit Britain” and was welcomed by the Vice-Chancellor Trevor McMillan.

The lecture was part of a two-day conference on Arnold Bennett, which is a joint venture between Keele University, Staffordshire University and the Arnold Bennett Society. The conference also marked the 150th Anniversary of the birth of Bennett, a novelist, playwright, journalist and politician.

Samira spoke of her time filming BBC Radio 4 documentary Arnold of the Five Towns, admitting then to a lifelong admiration for Bennett's work.

Samira was presented with an Arnold Bennett bust, and commented: “It’s very humbling to be a southerner talking about your great Arnold Bennett. Thank you for inviting me - it's been a lovely year thinking about coming here and rereading some of his great novels.

“What's great about Arnold Bennett is that once you find him he's with you for life. He’s a Londoner as well as a Stokie so I think he is a great bond. We have been talking about the future of a united Great Britain and who better than Arnold Bennett to unite the North and South.”

After her lecture Samira welcomed questions and was asked whether she believes that Stoke-on-Trent can win the City of Culture 2021 bid. Samira answered: “I am thrilled that the area is on the shortlist and I think there are amazing cultural things going on, and there is a case for here, especially after walking around Burslem today and looking at the development going on. I think it is an exciting time to be on the shortlist. I think it is looking like a very interesting bid for all kinds of reasons, politically as well as culturally I think Stoke-on-Trent is in a really good position this year.”

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Samira, with John Shapcott - Vice-President of the Arnold Bennett Society - presented a £500 Book Prize to winner John Lancaster for his collections of poems Potters: A Division of Labour. The judging panel were welcomed on stage, including Sentinel columnist Jenny Amphlett, together with English lecturer Dr Catherine Burgass, and professor of journalism Mick Temple, both from Staffordshire University.

Left: John Shapcott present John Lancaster with his prize.

For more information about free public lectures at Keele University please visit Arts Keele, 01782 734340 or