Pro Bono work: a win-win for students, businesses and society

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Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) are involved in Pro Bono work as far afield as Kenya and Uganda, the United States, as well as in the UK. Law and business students – both undergraduates and postgraduates – provide all manner of unpaid assistance to businesses, and individuals who have limited access to legal help. This is a win-win for companies, students, and some individuals who have limited access to help. 

“In this day and age, with the lack of governmental help, Universities who can assist are expected to do so,” explains Marcus Keppel-Palmer, who is Associate Head of Department – Pro Bono, and a Law lecturer. “We have a repository of knowledge, expertise, and students who are keen to acquire experience,” he adds. The numerous voluntary activities, which are led and developed by the students themselves, include the following:

Courts

Offered to individuals with no legal representation, the Law Court Clinics involve Bar students providing on-the-spot assistance to those with no prior knowledge of court proceedings. For two days a week, the postgraduates provide the service alongside a charity at the Bristol Civil Justice Centre. In the same vein, LIP Service (referring to ‘litigants in person’), which UWE Bristol is a part of, raises awareness for those representing themselves, in advance of their hearing. Undergraduates offer training on what to expect in court, what defendants can and cannot ask/do during proceedings, and how to present a case.

Welfare/ Benefits support

Such volunteering also assists those making disability claims. In collaboration with a number of charities and organisations, student volunteers help individuals with the wording in their claims forms to maximise success in receiving or retaining benefits. Legal advice is also provided if an appeal is required,  following an unsuccessful claim. “If your disability benefits are cut, then you can’t afford a lawyer to challenge that, let alone access legal aid because it’s been cut in this area,” says Keppel-Palmer. This work on appeal claims yields almost 100% successful.

Mentoring and Street Law

With a view to helping school pupils learn more about studying Law, first year students from the Law department provide mentoring at schools and colleges in the Bristol area. Pupils can also attend mock trials held at the Bristol Business School’s court rooms. “This Pro Bono activity provides UWE students with additional skills such as public speaking or team work,” says Keppel-Palmer.

Private clients – Elder Law

Teaming up with charities such as Paul’s Place, undergraduate students from Bristol Business School’s law department offer assistance on matters concerning wills, probate and power of attorney.

Businesses

The business school’s Business Advice Clinics involves students providing basic one-to-one accountancy, marketing and legal support for graduate start-ups in Launch Space, UWE Bristol’s graduate incubation space. One accountancy and four law firms assist with this activity. “This provides top quality advice to the Launch Space incubators and, for students, networking opportunities with the firms,” says Keppel-Palmer.

Pro Bono business activities also extend to helping musicians get a foothold in the music industry, where legal knowledge carries weight. BMAS is a system of clinics and one-to-ones run by law students who meet with budding musicians and other creatives from all over the world. The free legal service includes advice on publishing deals, contracts etc.

Crime

Pro Bono work has also enabled volunteers to work with countries in East Africa. With a focus on Kenya and Uganda, the African Prisons Project encourages prisoners to study Law to understand their legal rights. The service enables inmates to be in a stronger position to challenge their cases.

The Anti Death-Penalty Group is aimed at students interested in crime and criminology. This activity enables them to raise awareness about death row by working with a law firm in Virginia (US), where undergraduates can also attend a five-week summer placement. Some have worked on cases involving Guantanamo Bay. “They often come back transformed after meeting death row inmates,” says Keppel-Palmer.

Community Asset Transfer

Closer to home, postgraduate law students offer free legal assistance in projects involving the takeover of public assets by charities. These are long-running projects and the University usually takes on one a year.

Win-win

Bristol Business School’s Pro Bono work provides multiple benefits for all involved. “All these activities provide incalculable benefits for students,” says Keppel-Palmer. “Many find themselves more confident and find that they get jobs out of them. There are also massive amounts of good will generated through the work that is done and that makes people feel good in themselves.”

Launch Space will receive up to £2,000,000 of funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is the programme’s Managing Authority. Established by the European Union, the ERDF helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects that support innovation, businesses, job creation and local community regeneration.

Linking iconic British writer Angela Carter to Bristol by way of an art exhibition

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It comes as no surprise that Dr Marie Mulvey-Roberts’ shelves house an abundance of books, given that she is a Professor in English Literature at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), and specialises in Gothic literature. Included in the works nestled on her bookshelf are many books by a star of contemporary British literature: Angela Carter.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Carter’s death and earlier in 2017, Mulvey-Roberts co-curated an exhibition at Bristol’s Royal West of England Academy (RWA) art gallery entitled ‘Strange Worlds: The Vision of Angela Carter.’ The exhibition proved extremely popular and highlighted through the display of a variety of art exhibits, Angela Carter’s links with Bristol.

“This was important because I wanted to identify Angela Carter with Bristol, as she is often seen as a London writer,” says Mulvey-Roberts. Carter’s most productive time as an author, says the Professor, was when she lived in Bristol for a decade in the 1960s, where she wrote best part of five of her nine books. Three of the novels are set in the city and it is still possible to visit sites frequented by characters appearing in Carter’s works.

PIC1

Co-curated by artist and writer Fiona Robinson, the exhibition featured film, illustrations from Carter’s books and paintings that related to Angela Carter’s ethos or writings. Other exhibits included historically significant works by William Holman Hunt, Paula Rego, Dame Laura Knight, Leonora Carrington and John Bellany, on loan from major national collections.

A Marc Chagall painting was borrowed from London’s Tate Gallery. The work, entitled The Blue Circus features a trapeze artist surrounded by animals. “Angela Carter said she wanted her writing to be like Chagall’s paintings as she writes visually,” says Mulvey-Roberts. “In her book The Nights at the Circus, there is a trapeze artist called Feathers who has real wings, so this painting seemed to evoke that.”
One of the particularly striking sculptures featured was The Banquet by Ana Maria Pacheco, depicting four dark-suited men around a dining table on which lies a nude man.

Impact

Critics have often described Angela Carter as one of Britain’s finest writers. The Times has ranked the novelist, short story writer and journalist tenth in their list of the 50 greatest writers since 1945. The Telegraph described her as “one of the most important writers at work in the English language.”

The three-month exhibition at the RWA was therefore crucially important to raise awareness about Carter. It had a lasting impact on visitors, of which there were over 11,000, and cemented recognition of her links to Bristol. Marie Mulvey-Roberts took part in a number of interviews for the media, including on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row show.

The exhibition also had a huge impact on the local community. School children came in to undertake creative writing exercises, inspired by the paintings. The exhibition also attracted young composers from the New Music in the South West (NMSW), a Bristol based non-profit organisation running a music and education project serving the south-west of England. The sixth formers attended the exhibition and wrote music, inspired from the works on display.

But Angela Carter’s influence is not limited to Bristol and the UK. The author still has a huge following around the world and interest in and awareness about her increased thanks to the exhibition.

Mulvey-Roberts has received many enquiries about Angela Carter from universities and art galleries around the world. She was invited to attend a special event at the Estoril Higher Institute for Tourism and Hotel Studies, based some 25km outside of Lisbon, where a banquet was prepared by students in gastronomy. “The university’s MA students in culinary design organised a gastronomic experience: a banquet around the theme of Angela Carter,” says Mulvey-Roberts.

As a result of the exhibition, the academic was also invited to the Universities of Lausanne and Bern in Switzerland, as well as the Light house Media Centre for an event organised by the University of Wolverhampton, where she gave presentations showcasing the Bristol exhibition. Her talks in Switzerland were arranged through Angela Carter scholar Professor Martine Hennard Dutheil de la Rochère, who is contributing to Mulvey-Roberts’s next book called The Arts of Angela Carter: A Cabinet of Curiosities.

Along with Charlotte Crofts, Associate Professor in Filmmaking and Caleb Sivyer, visiting lecturer in English at UWE Bristol, Mulvey-Roberts is founding an International Angela Carter Society, dedicated to the promotion of the study and appreciation of her work and life, which will involve a newsletter and bi-annual conferences.