Lifting the lid on Edinburgh Spy Week
English Literature PhD student Huzan Bharucha gives us an intern’s perspective on our annual celebration of espionage in literature and film.
Uncovering the history of secrecy and spying in culture, Edinburgh Spy Week (ESW) is a fantastic opportunity for academics and creative practitioners to explore their ideas with the public and bring some of the best contemporary spy writers to Edinburgh for talks, film screenings, discussion panels and more.
Now in its sixth year, it was established by colleagues in English Literature at the University of Edinburgh and has long-standing collaborations with some of the city’s most respected cultural bodies, including the Filmhouse cinema and the National Library of Scotland.
ESW intern Huzan Bharucha, an English Literature graduate and current PhD student, came to Edinburgh in 2013, completing an MA Hons degree in English Literature and an MSc in Book History and Material Culture before beginning her PhD in 2018. She’s been attending Edinburgh Spy Week since 2016 and was so fascinated by talks such as ‘Women in Spy Fiction’, ‘Writing Spy Lives’, and ‘Distinguishing Fact from Fiction’ that she ended up writing her undergraduate dissertation on the Socio-political Evolution of James Bond.
As a postgraduate student, she’s continued studying and writing about espionage fiction (her PhD, for example, examines the works of Agatha Christie), motivating her to apply for the ESW internship. As she explains: “I wanted to use the expertise I had developed to contribute to creating another memorable Spy Week. The events this year also line up rather perfectly with my research interests including a series of Bond screenings at Filmhouse, a round-table discussion on the evolution of the franchise, and a discussion with author Anthony Horowitz.”
Reaching students and the wider community
Asked what the internship involves, Huzan says: “My primary duties involve managing Edinburgh Spy Week’s social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter). I post regular updates about events, inform followers when bookings open, and find well-followed pages that share similar interests to help us reach a wider audience.”
“English Literature at Edinburgh has recently introduced a new course, ‘Fiction and Espionage’, available to both undergraduate and postgraduate students. As the course complements ESW, I’ve also been in contact with undergraduate groups and societies like LitPALS (the Literature Peer-Assisted Learning Scheme) and LitSoc to reach more students and get them involved in Spy Week.”
Improving skills and developing new ones
“My internship has definitely helped me improve my social media skills by giving me the opportunity to interact with a wide range of people within and outside academia, particularly when they are people or pages I have looked at in my research over the years.”
“To be able to promote and attend events featuring people I have studied and respected is very exciting: for example, I’m really looking forward to an event with authors Val McDermid and Adam Brookes where they explore the differences between detective and spy fiction.”
“Working with academic and Professional Services staff at the University has also given me a better understanding of the challenges you encounter when organising a week-long series of activities. I am more aware of the amount of work that goes into conceptualising such an event - not to mention bringing together speakers, liaising with other organisations and attracting an audience - and am more appreciative of the hard work of all the individuals who contribute”.
“The staff I have worked with have also been very supportive and I am glad I was able to form the working relationships that I did as I believe they will help me throughout my PhD as I continue to work in public outreach.”
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Based in the first UNESCO City of Literature, we are home to the oldest department of English Literature in the UK, one of the longest established in the world. Study with us and you'll explore the varying and vital roles that literary writing plays in our lives and societies. We offer a range of single and joint honours undergraduate degrees, taught postgraduate degrees, and research-led pathways, including MSc by Research degrees and PhDs.