Ken Russell: Perspectives, reception and legacy

Friday 14 July – Sunday 16 July 2017

Venue: Kingston University, UK


Price: to be confirmed

Speaker(s): Professor Linda Williams (Southampton University), Dr Brian Hoyle (Dundee University) and Lisi Tribble (wife of and collaborator with Ken Russell)

To attend: booking will be available soon, please check back

Ken Russell was a renaissance man whose career encompassed not only film and television but also ballet, dance, the music video, photography, opera and the written word. His pioneering early work for the BBC’s Monitor and Omnibus, from the 1950s through to the 1970s, redefined the art of the arts documentary and biographical format and he was among the first to negotiate the relationship between film and television. His major cinematic works, films such as Tommy (1975), Lisztomania (1975), Women In Love (1969), French Dressing (1964), Valentino (1977), The Music Lovers (1970), The Boyfriend (1971) and, of course, The Devils (1971) (among others) helped redefine the term ‘A British Picture’ (to use one of Russell’s own phrases). Yet this vast body of work has received considerably less critical attention than those of his contemporaries (Stanley Kubrick for instance).

During his lifetime his work polarised critical and popular opinion. Criticised by some as tasteless, transgressive, camp, outrageous (and lauded just as much for the same qualities) and praised by others for its artistry, intellect, craftsmanship and beauty. Russell’s films are considered to be among the most pioneering and important in post war arts cinema and culture (praised by Fellini himself as ‘the British Fellini’) as well as sitting comfortably among a set of cult and transgressive texts.

Russell’s work, however, is gaining new cultural currency with a range of contemporary film makers (Ben Wheatley and Guillermo del Toro for instance) citing the importance of his influence over their own. There is even an ongoing internet campaign (#FreeTheDevils) which aims to liberate the complete uncut version of The Devils from Warner Brother’s vice like grip. 

Following in the wake of the 30th anniversary of his 1986 film Gothic (and in the wake of the sad passing of the critic Ken Hanke, one Russell’s staunchest defenders), this conference hopes to be a forum to discuss and share current research in and around the field of Russell studies. It invites abstracts on all aspects of his work and in particular we invite papers which address Russell’s cultural legacy and influence in film, television and across the visual arts; which consider Russell’s place within 20th century visual culture and which discuss how Russell’s work has been (and is being) received, recuperated and culturally restored in the 21st century.

Keynote addresses to be given by Professor Linda Williams (Southampton University), Dr Brian Hoyle (Dundee University) and Lisi Tribble (wife of and collaborator with Ken Russell).

More events to be announced!

Topic for presentation may include (but are certainly not limited to):

  • Russell’s critics, defenders and collaborators
  • Russell, history, biography and adaptation
  • Music in Russell’s work
  • Censorship, genre, exploitation, cult and transgression
  • DVD, Video and Blu Ray releases
  • Marketing and promotional material
  • Festivals and Fans
  • Ken Russell and art history
  • Sex and horror in Russell’s work
  • Documentary, realism and romance
  • Russell’s own contemporaries and influences
  • Dance and the body in Russell’s work
  • Architecture, landscape and location in Russell’s work
  • Russell, television and arts programming
  • Dance, opera, photography and ballet
  • Incomplete and unmade projects
  • Russell’s influence on contemporary (global) film, tv and the visual arts.
  • Russell, experimentalism and the avant-garde

Please email abstracts (250-300) words to Matt Melia ( or Lucy Williams ( by no later than Monday 9th January 2016 (please note extended deadline) and don’t forget to include your name, email address and institutional affiliation (if you have one). We look forward to hearing from you.

For further information about this event:

Contact: Matt Melia