The Institute is committed to enriching the cultural life of the region. The appointment, annually, of Institute Laureates, supports this endeavour, by providing access to new work for our members and visitors, by supporting artists, writers, poets, scientists and historians in the region, and by offering workshops and lectures by the laureates.
Our Laureates for 2021-22 are listed below:
Roy is a Poet, Playwright and former Youth & Community Worker born in Birmingham of Jamaican parentage spending most of his years living in Wolverhampton and the Black Country, now residing in Brighton. A well-loved and established poet, he’s held the role of Birmingham Poet Laureate, Starbucks Poet in Residence and is currently the Birmingham & Midlands Institute Poet in Residence. From Amsterdam to Philadelphia, Roy has shared his passion for social justice, equality, identity, love and the healing power of poetry as a witness to our times.
He is on the advisory board to The Verve Poetry Press, a vibrant festival and publishing press challenging the imagined divide between the stage and the page and also trustee for the Poetry Exchange award winning podcast. His debut collection, Beginning With Your Last Breath, was followed by The Healing Next Time, (Nine Arches Press 2018) nominated for the Ted Hughes award and Jhalak Prize. He has an MA in Writing Poetry from Newcastle University and the Poetry School and is presently working on his third collection coming out Autumn 2022. In it he’ll be looking at creating a series of erasure poems drawing on hidden narratives of women and the African diaspora found in newspapers, letters, diaries and journals in the Caribbean, Canada and North America post 1807.
Ruth is an art historian, writer and critic. After studying art history during an MA at the University of Oxford, Ruth spent five years working for museums and galleries across the UK, including the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art and renowned modern art dealership Connaught Brown.
She is an art expert on radio and TV, including BBC Breakfast, Woman’s Hour, ITV News, BBC WM Radio, Radio 4’s Today programme and in a Sky Arts documentary on Cold War Steve, entitled ‘Cold War Steve Meets the Outside World’. Ruth has had writing featured across national newspapers, including the Telegraph, the i, The Sunday Times, Daily Mail and Express.
In 2019, Ruth wrote a catalogue on the artist Eric Tucker to accompany a major show at Warrington Museum and Art Gallery, achieving national press coverage. In 2021, she has 2 books coming out: ‘Art Brum’ will celebrate Birmingham’s rich art history, while ‘Muse’ will uncover the hidden figures behind art history’s masterpieces.
Alongside her writing, Ruth lectures on art history, and has spoken at Coventry University, the University of Oxford and Sotheby’s Institute of Art, where she is Head of the Careers Service.
Galen is a professional physicist and R&D engineer at the BBC, with enthusiasm for inter-disciplinary collaboration and a range of research interests spanning acoustics, machine learning and signal processing. He was awarded his doctorate from the University of Birmingham for research into biologically-inspired radar and holds varied publications covering diverse topics from human echolocation to cognitive robotics.
Galen has been an organiser of the UK Pint of Science festival since 2016, running and co-ordinating scientific outreach events in pubs, cafes and exhibition spaces across Birmingham and the West Midlands. He has also spent time teaching A-level Physics at a Midlands school, volunteering at the British Science Festival, and running public demonstrations of cutting-edge radar technologies.
Jeffrey Skidmore OBE
Jeffrey Skidmore’s reputation as one of the UK’s leading choral directors and an ardent advocate of the importance of singing in people’s lives today is rooted in his work with Ex Cathedra, the ensemble he founded over 45 years ago.
Jeffrey’s driving passion has been to refresh and reinvigorate the choral repertoire and to make it accessible to as many people as possible. He and Ex Cathedra have long been known for exciting and innovative but always attractive programming, underpinned by thorough research and preparation.
Jeffrey is a pioneer in the field of research and performance of choral works of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, both in the old and new worlds, and has won wide acclaim for his recordings of French and Latin American Baroque music with Ex Cathedra.
As far back as I can remember I’ve always wanted to create images. I was educated in Ireland, studied illustration and animation in Wolverhampton, and now live and work in Birmingham, running my own art courses for adults.
My work is traditional based, with an emphasis on technique and capturing mood, or a sense of drama. I value the basic principles of drawing and painting, like building up simple shapes, form, layering tone, and adding mass to achieve a look of weight and volume. Although I have worked as a freelance illustrator, and continue to do so occasionally, my main focus these days is tutoring and my more personal work.
I’m influenced by many avenues of art, including literature, film, and history, but if I was forced to give specific examples, I would say the imagery of Goya, the Vienna Secession, and the principles of the Pre-Raphaelites, hold particular meaning.