It’s Parliament Week – a national festival which aims to empower the public to get involved in democratic processes. Here, University of Reading Impact Officer Ali McAnena highlights some of the ways our academics work with Parliament.

This week (12th-18th November) marks Parliament Week, an annual nationwide festival which encourages participating individuals, communities and organisations to engage with Parliament. Over 7,800 events are being held across the UK.

Here at the University of Reading we have a long tradition in supporting Parliamentary activities. That includes our academics providing expert advice to senior officials, or submitting written or oral research-based evidence to select committees and consultations. Researchers also raise important issues across society or the environment to MPs within All Party Parliamentary Groups.

Specialist knowledge

In the last week, Professor Gavin Parker (Real Estate and Planning) was the sole academic expert to give oral evidence on his Neighbourhood Planning research at the House of Lords Rural Economy Select Committee. Professor Parker’s research includes access to affordable housing in rural areas and his evidence (which can be viewed here from 10 minutes 54 seconds) was used during the session to highlight inconsistences in local authority support for Neighbourhood Planning and concerns over social inclusion.

Astor’s legacy

Lady Astor, the subject of Dr Jacqui Turner’s #Astor100 project.

University of Reading research also plays an important part in recognising the history of British democracy in Parliament.  Dr Jacqui Turner (History) is leading a celebration of 100 years of women in parliament through the UK management of the Astor100 programme.

Dr Turner’s centenary research on the history of pioneering female MPs during the interwar period focuses on Lady Nancy Astor, the first woman to take her seat as MP for Plymouth Sutton, in 1919.

Using the Astor Papers from the University’s Special Collections, Dr Turner’s work has supported the launch of the Astor Statue Campaign. This is a crowdfunded initiative to raise a statue to Nancy Astor in her Plymouth constituency as a legacy to her influence in British politics. Dr Turner’s influence also secured backing for the statue project from Prime Minister Theresa May.

Political voices in Reading

During the festival, Dr Mark Shanahan (Politics and International Relations) is hosting two events as part of the Political Voices series. The first, taking place today at 4.15, opens up the division’s research seminar to ex-UUP MP/MLA Danny Kinahan, who will be discussing Irish politics and Brexit.

The second, on Thursday, will feature Conservative MP for Bracknell Dr Phillip Lee, the ex- Junior Minister for Justice who resigned in July 2018 over the Chequers proposal for Brexit. He will be speaking about his views on Brexit overall and its potential impact on the UK.

To celebrate Parliament week, I met Dr Shanahan to ask about the importance of parliamentary engagement and to get his insights on how to plan for working with policy makers – keep an eye on this blog to see his top tips later this week.

Danny Kinahan’s lecture on Irish politics and Brexit takes place today, 13 November. See details

Dr Phillip Lee MP’s lecture on Brexit is on Thursday 15th November. See details

Learn more about how you can engage your research with Parliament

To find out more about Parliament Week events near you visit: or #UKPW18