This event has now finished.
  • Date and time: Thursday 10 June 2021, 1pm to 2pm
  • Location: Online only
  • Admission: Free admission, booking required

Event details

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then how can we define what is beautiful in York?

Beauty will soon be defined in legislation and used to affect how towns and cities develop. An awkward term, ‘beauty’ is translated by most people as ‘pretty’ – which is something the Government is drawing us towards. But in fact beauty represents an aggregate of qualities that go far beyond 'pretty'.

Join York Civic Trust and special guests Ann-Marie Akehurst and award-winning poet Robert Powell for a lively, interdisciplinary event as part of York's Festival of Ideas. It will address questions such as:

  • How has York been understood as beautiful in the past?
  • What role did Georgians play in framing our idea of beauty in the city?
  • What are its main features and what in your eyes is beautiful in York? (And not just as the famous picture postcard aspects of the city, but the personal, intimate and potentially infinite horizons that exist.)
  • How might this beauty be represented?

Join in the conversation at a richly illustrated panel discussion from the Civic Trust's Fairfax House – recognised by many as one of the most beautiful Georgian Townhouses in England - and so a perfect context for addressing the concept of beauty!

The event shall feature a range of media, including the use of videos, poetry recital, and images.

Rather than establish definitive answers, the event is pitched as the beginning of a city-wide conversation, especially through an ongoing social media campaign to capture York's lesser known beauty - its 'HIDDEN BEAUTY’. Therefore, the event shall offer opportunities for audience interaction.


This event is hosted live on Zoom. You’ll receive a link to join a couple of days before the event takes place and a reminder an hour before. During the event, you can ask questions via a Q&A function but audience cameras and microphones will remain muted throughout.

About the speakers

Dr Ann-Marie Akehurst received her Ph.D. from the University of York where she formerly taught Art and Architectural History. She is now an independent researcher, and Programmes Officer and Trustee of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain. In partnership with the Wellcome Trust, she convenes a research seminars on Spaces of Sickness and Wellbeing at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London. She speaks internationally, (though mostly from her study now) and has published on sacred space, urban identity, and the architecture of health in early modern Britain and Europe.

Dr Sarah Burnage is Curator of Fairfax House and for York Civic Trust. Sarah is a published author, researcher and curator. She was a Henry Moore Postdoctoral Fellow based in the History of Art Department at the University York, UK, before taking up the Paul Mellon funded role of lead Research Curator at York Art Gallery for the William Etty: Art and Controversy exhibition, for which she wrote and co-edited the accompanying catalogue. She has worked for the National Trust on their Heritage Lottery Funded WW1 community research project, based at Nostell Priory. Sarah has authored a number of peer reviewed articles on 18-century art and sculpture, is the author of Fairfax House's Made in York exhibition catalogue and most recently co-edited The British School of Sculpture c.1760-1832, published by Routledge.

Dr Duncan Marks is heritage and conservation lead for York Civic Trust with a background in education and architecture. Among other recent roles, Duncan has worked as an architectural and historic researcher with Dr Jane Grenville in revising Pevsner's guide to North Yorkshire. Duncan leads the University of York's Heritage Planning Studio - a unique partnership with the Department of Archaeology at the University and York Civic Trust's building conservation and planning specialists.

Robert Powell is a well-known figure on York’s cultural scene – a writer, curator, and cultural manager with over 40 years experience in the arts, built environment, education, and media in England, Canada and Scotland. From 1997-2015 he was Director of Beam, an arts and education company based in Wakefield. In 2017 he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). As a creative writer he has published four books of poetry and his latest collection is Riverain (2018).


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