BU helps host face blindness roundtable event at House of Commons


A roundtable event at the House of Commons has called for greater public and professional awareness of the condition prosopagnosia, also known as face blindness.

The event was hosted by Dr Sarah Bate from the Centre for Face Processing Disorders at Bournemouth University (BU) and Tobias Ellwood, Bournemouth East MP and Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Health.

Prosopagnosia is a cognitive condition which means people find it difficult to recognise familiar people from their faces – sometimes leaving them unable to identify even their closest relatives or their own reflection in the mirror.

Although it is thought to affect around 1 in 50 people it is not a formally recognised condition, and so people often find it difficult to access support and guidance.

The breakfast roundtable event called for measures to promote greater public and professional awareness of prosopagnosia – especially in schools, workplaces and the healthcare system.

Dr Sarah Bate, a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at BU, said: “The roundtable was a fantastic opportunity for us to present our awareness campaign to key influencers, and we are very grateful to Tobias Ellwood for hosting the event.

“We demonstrated whDSC_8746at it is like to live with face blindness and why awareness needs to be raised, and are now looking forward to working with the roundtable attendees to progress our campaign.”

The event was supported by a Public Engagement Grant that was awarded to Dr Bate by the British Psychological Society (BPS), and further assistance was provided by the Encephalitis Society.

Representatives from both organisations attended the roundtable, and continue to support the awareness campaign.

Members of the London Faceblind Group also spoke at the event, talking about their experiences with the condition and the need for greater awareness and support.

Hazel Plastow, who has a developmental form of prosopagnosia, said: “The impact is physical, social, emotional – it’s huge.

“But those more formal forms of support aren’t available to people with face blindness.

“Thousands of people out there struggling on a daily basis, wondering why they find things difficult when other people seem to sail by, so these are the people we need to reach.”

Jo Livingston from the group spoke about the impact that the condition can have on children at school – including problems socialising or being incorrectly diagnosed with behavioural disorders.

She said: “Children are growing up with it and teachers are most unlikely to have heard of it.

“Even the smallest primary school will have one or two face blind children but most are growing up with no knowledge of the condition and have no help or support.”

She added: “It would be of great help if face blindness could be included in teacher training courses and career courses to alert teachers to the fact that this is a real condition and they will already know many children who are affected by it.”

The awareness campaign has a number of aims, including formal definition and classification of prosopagnosia; the development of a national face blind organisation; and promoting awareness and key guidance in a top-down manner in schools, workplaces and the healthcare system.

Tobias Ellwood MP, who later blogged about the event, said he was keen to support the campaign.

“I’d be delighted to be part of that in any way that I can,” he said. “It is something that is very important and affects a lot of people.

“It is not hard to provide that assistance and make their lives far more simple in terms of education, and understanding and practical guidance.

“But the first thing is to get recognition so those who do have it know what it is and aren’t shy in coming forwards about it.”

The roundtable event featured the premiere of a face blindness awareness video, created by the BU Centre for Face Processing Disorders, the British Psychological Society (BPS) and the Encephalitis Society and funded by the BPS’s Public Engagement Grants scheme.

Watch the video


Prime Minister highlights success of Bournemouth University graduates


Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood took the opportunity to promote the work of Bournemouth University graduates during Prime Minister’s Questions.

Over 50 Bournemouth University graduates worked on the visual effects for the film Gravity, which picked up the Achievement in Visual Effects Oscar at the 86th Academy Awards on Sunday night.

During the session at the House of Commons, Mr Ellwood said, “In recognising British success at the Oscars, would the Prime Minister join me in congratulating Bournemouth University and the Arts University Bournemouth, as over 50 of their graduates helped with the design effects for that amazing British film, “Gravity”?”

The Conservative MP continued, “Does that not prove that Bournemouth leads the way in digital media, is a great tourism destination, and does amazing party conferences as well?”

Prime Minister David Cameron responded by saying, “As ever, my honourable friend is right about all those things. Bournemouth University has excellent courses that have helped to build up the British post-production and facilities industries, which are busy helping to create blockbuster films. It is very good news not only that are we winning Oscars for British films but that British studios are full to bursting point making movies.”

The conversation concluded with the Prime Minister saying, “The facilities and post-production industries are leading the world. We need to go on backing that industry, which is why my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has taken steps with things like helping the computer games industry, helping high-end television, and continuing to back the very important film tax credits that have worked so well.”

Gravity was not the only Oscar-winning film to have involvement from a Bournemouth University graduate as Vanessa Salas Castillo was part of the Disney team that worked on the film Frozen, which picked up the Best Animation award.

At least one BU graduate is also currently working on visual effects for The Hobbit trilogy – which was nominated alongside Gravity in the visual effects category at this year’s Oscars.

You can listen to the Prime Minister’s Questions session for 5 March 2014 again on the BBC website or watch the clip as it happened.

Star students win prestigious tourism awards


By Dean Eastmond

On 18th July 2013, BU students Barbara Neuhofer (PhD in Travel and Tourism) and Charlotte Young travelled to Westminster where they were both presented with prestigious awards.

This year’s Institution of Travel and Tourism Chairman’s Summer Cocktails took place at Terrace Pavilion, in the House of Commons.

Dame Tessa Jowell MP (former Shadow Minister for the Olympics and London) attended the annual event to present the awards to both prizewinning students.

Sponsored by Leeds Metropolitan University, the annual event hosts the ITT Student Awards and is a true celebration of a select few students’ efforts in their own work and research at their universities.

Charlotte Young received one of three awards for CoE (Centre of Excellence) Students of the year.

For Barbara, ITT PhD Student of the Year comes with great delight and her work in Travel and Tourism is of great credit to not only herself but Bournemouth University.

“I feel truly proud and honoured to receive this prestigious award by the Institute of Travel & Tourism,” she said.

“It is a great recognition for my PhD research and I am extremely grateful to Bournemouth University and to all the people who have supported me in my studies, in particular to my supervisor Prof. Dimitrios Buhalis.

“It was a privilege to celebrate this achievement in such a fantastic location, the House of Commons of the UK Parliament. It was a truly memorable evening for all of us.”

Barbara’s Supervisor, Profess in Technology and Tourism Dimitrios Buhalis, continued: “This is a great recognition of the great progress that Barbara is doing in her PhD and the contribution to knowledge she is producing as evidenced in her publications and her community service through IFITT and other communities.

“I am particularly happy that this is the second student after Dr Andrew Spencer who won the ITT award last year.”

Dean is a student at Budmouth College in Weymouth, who is working at Bournemouth University in the Press and PR Department. He joined BU on a Sir Samuel Mico Scholarship, which provides 10 students from his college with essential work experience for four weeks over the summer.