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  • The Uncommercial Traveller: An International Collaboration between School of Humanities and School of Communication Universiti Sains Malaysia with the British Council

The Uncommercial Traveller: An International Collaboration between School of Humanities and School of Communication Universiti Sains Malaysia with the British Council

During the recent Semester 2, 2011/2012 mid-semester break, six students from the School of Humanities comprising 5 English Studies section students (ELLS) and one Translation student (BATI) were involved in an international project organised by the British Council to celebrate Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday.

Inspired by Dickens’ The Uncommercial Traveller, a non-fiction account of his wanderings around London, this project involved a team of consultants from Punchdrunk and Arcola Theatre (two very renowned arts/theatre groups from the UK) travelling around the world to work with selected groups of local participants to craft stories based upon their own cities. These stories were then uploaded on a website for the public to download, listen to, or use as a guided audio while travelling across the cities concerned. The project was carried out in London, Melbourne, Karachi, Singapore and finally, Georgetown, Penang.

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Renukha’s recording session Photo fun with consultants Bryn, Raquel & Stephen

The students from the School of Humanities who volunteered to participate in this project were 1st year ELLS students Nurul Izzah bt Ahmad Rushdie, Renukha Devi a/p K. Anandan and Siti Fariza bt Mohd. Nor; ELLS 2nd year students Adelyn Koh Khai Lynn and Usha Janaki Mutaya, and Gary Joel a/l Paul, a 3rd year BATI student.

The students’ involvement in this international collaboration was reported in the New Straits Times on 27 April 2012 http://www.nst.com.my/streets/northern/history-of-george-town-by-ear-1.78048.

It was also reported on the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) Arts and Culture portal http://culture360.org/news/the-uncommercial-traveller-dickens-2012-melbourne-karachi-london-penang-singapore-audio-guided-journeys/ and of course the British Council’s website

http://literature.britishcouncil.org/projects/2011/dickens-2012/punchdrunk-the-uncommercial-traveller where the audio files will soon be available for download.

The British Council Global project manager Anne Dever praised the quality of our students’ efforts: "With Uncommercial Traveller Penang, we saw how creative the Malaysian participants were in putting together their accounts of the streets, sights and sounds of George Town." British Council Malaysia Arts manager Grey Yeoh similarly said he was impressed by the quality of the series produced by the students.
The students enjoyed the experience working with each other, and with the UK consultants – theatre practitioners Raquel Meseguer and Bryn Jones from Punchdrunk and Arcola respectively, as well as Punchdrunk's sound and graphic designer, Stephen Dobbie – and said that they had learnt a lot about themselves and their surroundings from the intensive 5-day exercise. Renukha (ELLS Year 1) reflected: “I opened my heart to a whole new world during the project. I realised the happiness and tragedies that surround the city of Georgetown which made me look at Georgetown from a whole different perspective. The team I worked with was supportive too and they motivated me a lot. I send my praises to God for giving me such an opportunity!”