Accessibility statement

Beauty Will Save the World: Reimagining the everyday

A beautifully decorated ceiling

Tuesday 13 June 2023, 7.30PM to 8:30 PM

Speaker(s): Panel discussion: Nicholas Dunn-McAfee, Penny Spikins, Taryn Bell, Anthony Tomkins and Ben Gibb-Reid

Event details

What can be beautiful about cherished objects, football shirts, slang and busy coffee shops?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, conventional centres of beauty such as galleries, museums and theatres had to shut their doors. Cut off from family, friends and conventional social and cultural life, millions of people had to ‘make do’ with the everyday, the pedestrian, the seemingly ordinary and often taken-for-granted.

But can something in our everyday lives be considered ‘beautiful’ in the way that Titian’s paintings or Keats’ poems are? Why should beauty matter in ordinary objects and activities? And how can we uncover a little more of it?

Join us for a wonderful panel discussion with a variety of speakers who, together, will engage with this idea of finding beauty in the everyday, in seemingly ordinary items, actions and relations.

Rebuilding after the pandemic actually means retaining some of the aspects discovered during the lockdowns and restrictions. That is: enjoying the small things and finding beauty in the everyday.

Refreshments will be provided.

About the speakers

Nicholas Dunn-McAfee is a doctoral researcher and Arts and Humanities Research Council Scholar at the University of York’s Department of History of Art. His thesis explores the relationship between desire, image and text in the works of the major Victorian painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-82). His work has been published in The Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies, Vides, Aspectus, and Yellow Nineties 2.0. Nicholas previously worked in public policy and communications in Westminster.

Penny Spikins is professor of the archeology of human origins at the University of York. She is fascinated by issues of how our human pro-social motivations evolved, and interested in the complex relationship between vulnerability and care in the distant past. For over a decade, she has worked on the broader area of diversity within human origins, from neurodiversity to disability, illness and injury. Her recent book, Hidden Depths: The Ancestry of Our Most Human Emotions, considers the evolution of human compassion, tolerance and emotional sensitivity.

Taryn Bell is a researcher at the University of York. Her PhD thesis analysed our ability to become emotionally attached to objects. She is interested in the links between people, emotions and the objects we use every day, and her current research focuses on how archaeologists may be able to look for emotional attachments in the past. She has published on the subject in Time and Mind, and is currently co-editing a volume for Springer titled Attachment in Archaeology.

Anthony Tomkins is a doctoral researcher and Arts and Humanities Research Council Scholar at the University of York’s Department of English and Related Literature. His thesis explores narratives of addiction and neoliberalism in sports literature.

Ben Gibb-Reid is a doctoral researcher and Arts and Humanities Research Council Scholar at the University of York’s Department of Language and Linguistic Science. His thesis explores phonetic and interactional variation of discourse-pragmatic variables (e.g., ‘like’, ‘yeah’, ‘just’) with a view to aid forensic voice comparison.

This event is part of the Festival of Idea and tickets can be booked via the event page.


Location: Ron Cooke Hub, Campus East, University of York

Admission: In-person only. Free admission, booking required