University of Northampton's Café Scientifique returns with talk about representation in Doctor Who

The open session was led by feminist academic Dr Lorna Jowett, an expert in inclusive media representation

Friday, 5th November 2021, 3:47 pm
While the Doctor may be female now Dr Jowett says there is more to be done behind the scenes.

After 18 months of remote meetings, the University of Northampton (UoN) has hosted their latest Café Scientifique in person, marking the return with discussions of female representation both in front of and behind the silver screen.

The café, which took place at the Beehive on Thursday (November 4), is part of an international collection of Café Scientifiques. Their goal is to freely share knowledge that is often reserved for paying students or other academics.

Each event hosts a different expert speaker, covering a wide breadth of topics. Past subjects have included the use of tech to support people with Alzheimer's, understanding Dementia, even a talk on pollinators and pollination.

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Allison Ward, Associate Professor at UoN and organiser of the café, said meetings like it have been held since the late 1990s. Yet the goal has always stayed the same.

She said: "We run the Café Scientifique as an opportunity to share scientific knowledge, research and innovations with the general public. We are providing this knowledge in an informal space, for no cost at all, or the price of a tea or coffee if you're so inclined.

"It's about the university sharing that knowledge with the general public and engaging our local communities. So why not make these things open and accessible so that everyone can benefit?

"With the experience we've gained during our time online, we'll be looking into providing live streams alongside the in-person talks so that anyone who can't make it physically can do so virtually."

The university chose to mark this return with a talk by UoN's own Doctor Lorna Jowett, who researches Television Studies at the Center for Critical and Creative Writing. The Doctor's talk focused on diversity and inclusion, fittingly in the context of Doctor Who.

Special focus was paid to the people working behind the camera, like producers and directors. In that context Doctor Jowett suggested, mainly using statistics from the US, that very few women make it to the top spots, despite making up close to half of media students. She argued this was part of the structure of the industry and limits the show's appeal.

She said: "There's a tonne of television out there. So it isn't just about getting the largest audiences, but getting loyal ones. So underserved audiences are looking for that perspective and that understanding, which has been so far lacking in media.

"Hollywood could make up to $10 billion extra if they only increased the representation behind the scenes and let people tell their stories."

Daniel Blight, a UoN student of politics and drama who attended the talk, said the 'restrictive structure' of the media portrayed by Doctor Jowett posed a difficult conundrum for him as a creator.

He said: "What I struggle with is whether I should enter, perhaps conform to this system for a time, so I can help reform it from within, or whether by doing so I might take a space that could be used by an underrepresented voice."

With three more talks coming up - dates to be confirmed - it is hoped that the café will continue sharing its service well into the future.