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Award honours research on gendered experiences in engineering

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Former World Cup alpine ski racer, Chemmy Alcott is pictured with Abigail Brierley and Deputy Editor of the New Civil Engineer, Belinda Smart
Former World Cup alpine ski racer, Chemmy Alcott is pictured with Abigail Brierley and Deputy Editor of the New Civil Engineer, Belinda Smart

A Civil Engineering graduate from Northumbria University has won the Rising Star – Contribution to Gender Diversity award at the 2023 Inspiring Women in Construction and Engineering Awards.

Northumbria alumna, Abigail Brierley, was recognised at the event held in London for her work on producing a comparative study of the experiences of male and female engineers at different stages of their careers in both the UK and USA.

Abigail’s research was inspired by her awareness of the continuing struggle to attract women into civil engineering, despite drives for equality in Britain and the US. Her work collected feedback during interviews carried out with men and women in both countries, ranging from students and graduates to those with long-established careers, to understand some of the key themes around their influences, decision making and different experiences once working in the industry.

After forming part of a dissertation for Abigail’s Civil Engineering degree at Northumbria, the study was recently developed into an academic paper with support from Dr Vikki Edmondson, Head of Subject for Civil Engineering at the University, and Dr Fred Sherratt, Associate Director of Research at The Construction Safety Research Alliance, University of Colorado.

“As part of my degree I was able to take a sandwich year in industry, and spent a year working for a construction firm in California. So I suppose that’s what got me thinking about the differences for men and women doing the same job in both countries,” explained Abigail. “There may be a perception that things are levelling out and that more women are pursuing a career in civil engineering than there used to be, but we’re not quite there yet. There’s still more to be done in terms of outreach and inspiring young people at the right age.

“It was a real honour to receive the award and fantastic to see something I’ve worked on recognised.”

The awards, which celebrated the role models and organisations empowering women in construction and engineering, were jointly hosted by New Civil Engineer and Construction News. In total, 15 winners were crowned during a glittering ceremony, recognising the women and teams that stand out as exceptional while showcasing both individual and organisation-wide initiatives.

Having graduated in 2021, Abigail now works as a Graduate Construction Manager with the international engineering and construction company, Laing O’Rourke.

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New era for tennis in Kazakhstan as juniors reach international level

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Amir Omarkhanov is first Kazakh player to ever reach the Australian Open Junior Championship quarterfinals
Amir Omarkhanov is first Kazakh player to ever reach the Australian Open Junior Championship quarterfinals

Elena Rybakina’s victory at Wimbledon in 2022 was a milestone for tennis in Kazakhstan. Her success caused a mixed reaction, however, raising questions among many observers.

Where were all the tennis players who had been developed in Kazakhstan? Would any of the juniors trained at tennis centres across the country be able to play for national teams, and did Kazakhstan even have a pool of homegrown talent?

To answer these questions, you just need to look at the world rankings. Ten Kazakhstanis finished the 2023 season in the top 100. While some of the players that compete for Kazakhstan in the professional rankings were born elsewhere, all the players in the junior rankings were born and trained in Kazakhstan. Amir Omarkhanov, who in 2024 became the first Kazakh player to ever reach the Australian Open Junior Championship quarterfinals, is ranked 16th in the ITF junior rankings, and Asylzhan Arystanbekova, who made it to the quarterfinals at the junior doubles tournament this year is ranked 53th.  

In 2022, Kazakhstan’s 14U team competed for the first time at a world team championship, where they reached the semi-finals. At the Billie Jean King Cup Juniors Finals in Córdoba, Spain, the Kazakhstani team finished in 9th place among the best 16 teams in the world. This was the first-ever world championship competition for Kazakhstan’s 16U girls team. Meanwhile, the 16U boys team also finished in the top 10 at their debut world championship.  Even back in 2021, juniors from Kazakhstan won a record 37 ITF Juniors tournaments in singles and doubles and reached the finals in 44 others. In Tennis Europe 14 & Under tournaments, players from Kazakhstan won 19 tournaments and reached the finals in 15 more.

These achievements would not have been possible, of course, without proper training and, most importantly, accessible infrastructure. Players who are now 14–16 years old began playing tennis about 10 years ago. Bulat Utemuratov, President of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation (KTF), played a key role in making tennis accessible to children when he became head of the Federation in 2007. Not long after taking over leadership of the KTF, Utemuratov spearheaded an ambitious effort to build state-of-the-art tennis facilities across the country. Home to only 7 tennis centres and 60 courts in 2007, Kazakhstan now boasts 48 modern facilities with 364 courts, most of which are indoors.  

According to the KTF, the average hourly cost for court rental has decreased from $50 in 2007 to $10 at present. The number of children playing tennis has grown from 900 in 2007 to 30,000 in 2023, and 3,500 of the most talented young players are given an opportunity to train free of charge and have access to the equipment they need as well as tournament support.

In addition to building the required infrastructure, the KTF has also been active at every level, starting with grassroots tennis for 5–7-year-olds.

A great deal of attention is paid to the 10 & Under Tennis project, where children learn the foundations for further growth. KTF experts attend the main tournaments for players 10 and under in order to scout the most promising players in this age group. The Federation also has a targeted programme that provides financial support for more than 100 young players aged 11–14 years old from all over Kazakhstan.

In addition, an important part of the junior development system is the Team Kazakhstan Academy, which was created in 2008 for promising juniors 14 and up. More than 300 of the country’s most talented children, juniors and young tennis players have already passed through the Academy.

The results we have seen from our junior players suggest that investments in the development of tennis infrastructure and targeted programmes for children have helped make tennis in Kazakhstan more accessible and taken it to a qualitatively new level, while also laying a solid foundation for training talented young players. They are the ones who will represent Kazakhstan at professional tournaments in the future, and the country won’t have to bring players from elsewhere.

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Netflix’s ‘The Last Kingdom’ costume exhibition returns to Bamburgh Castle

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Netflix's 'The Last Kingdom' Costume Exhibition Returns to Bamburgh Castle
Entry into The Last Kingdom exhibition costs £17 (adults) and £8.50 (children)

An exhibition showcasing costumes and props from global hit Netflix series The Last Kingdom has returned to Bamburgh Castle, UK.

 
Being displayed for the first time are costumes worn by Mark Rowley (Finan) and Arnas Fedaravičius (Sihtric), both who starred in the show from series two onwards and in the feature-length Netflix movie, Seven Kings Must Die.
 
The exhibition also includes costumes worn by Alexander Dreymon who plays protagonist Uhtred, Thea Sofie Loch Næss who starred as Skade and Cavan Clerkin as warrior-priest Father Pyrlig.
 
To crown it all, destiny is all for visitors who can become queen or king of the north and sit in the Wessex Throne from the series.
 
The Last Kingdom was produced by Carnival Films, which is part of Universal International Studios, a division of Universal Studio Group. Adapted for Netflix from Bernard Cornwell’s historical novels The Saxon Stories,the plot centres on the Anglo-Saxon citadel of Bebbanburg – Uhtred’s ancestral home – today called Bamburgh Castle.
 
“We are delighted that Bamburgh Castle is putting on this exhibition and giving the show’s loyal fans and members of the public the chance to step into The Last Kingdom. The props and costumes are such an integral part of the series, so it seems only right they stand proudly on display in Uhtred’s ancestral home of Bebbanburg,” says Nigel Marchant, Executive Producer and Managing Director of Carnival Films who have loaned the collection.

 
“Carnival Films has curated this fascinating collection of items that will be instantly recognisable to fans of the series and equally intriguing to anyone with an interest in Bamburgh’s past. The exhibition explores how the series was drawn from real life with a plotline inspired by its gripping history,” adds Kate Newman, events manager at Bamburgh Castle.
 
Alongside the exhibition, additional Follow in the Footsteps of Uhtred guided tours led by Ragnar the Viking of award-winning Lundgren Tours, compare the real history of Uhtred with the fictional version. Tours last two-hours long and include free entry into the Castle and staterooms.
 
Entry into The Last Kingdom exhibition is included with general admission (adults £17 / children £8.50. Under-fives free. Family tickets £47.00). Tickets are available on the gate or at www.bamburghcastle.com

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Applications for the Biennale College Danza open until March 8

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Applications for the Biennale College Danza open until 8 March
Young dancers and choreographers have until March 8th to apply for the new edition of Biennale College Danza

Young dancers and choreographers have until March 8th to apply for the new edition of Biennale College Danza. Applications are currently open online on the website of La Biennale di Venezia – www.labiennale.org. Following the creations of Teshigawara and Xie Xin, the revivals of works from the repertories of Crystal Pite, Merce Cunningham, Simone Forti, for the next edition of Biennale College Danza, artistic director Wayne McGregor will be working on a new creation with and for the young dancers, which will premiere on the stage of the 18th International Festival of Contemporary Dance scheduled to take place from July 18th to August 3rd, 2024.

Once again this year, 16 dancers between the ages of 18 and 28 will be selected along with two choreographers, for an intensive immersive residency in Venice: a unique three-month programme to study under the mentorship of great international masters, develop their personal artistic skills, and acquire the practical capabilities required to break into the dance market – from the creation of a portfolio to contracts, and including commissions and intellectual property rights.

From May 6th through August 3rd, the selected young artists will work daily in the Sale d’Armi of the Arsenale, attending classes in classical and contemporary technique and workshops focused on repertory, the creative process, and improvisation with an eye to developing new creations.

With the intent to expand a new generation of dance artists, Biennale College Danza’s theoretical and practical course of studies will conclude within the 18th Festival with the presentation of new choreographic works commissioned by La Biennale.

To find out more about how to apply, please visit the Biennale College Danza official page for application process here.

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