Photo of Dr Ellen  McWilliams

Dr Ellen McWilliams

Public engagement

Ellen has been active in lifelong learning since the beginning of her academic career. As a PhD student and Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at the University of Bristol, she developed a number of lifelong learning programmes on nineteenth- and twentieth-century women’s writing to coincide with BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Watershed Fiction project.

More recently, she has developed a series of outreach and community projects that have involved working and consulting with community groups, agencies, and research initiatives concerned with the welfare of Irish elders in Britain and the U.S., including: the Federation of Irish Societies, the London Irish Women’s Centre, and the health charity Mind Yourself in London, as well as the Aisling Irish Community Centre and the Gallagher Initiative (Coordinators: Professor Elaine Walsh, Hunter College, CUNY, and Professor Brenda McGowan, Fordham University) in New York.

In addition to funding research towards the monograph Women and Exile in Contemporary Irish Fiction, her AHRC Fellowship (2011-2012) supported a conference on 'New Perspectives on Women and the Irish Diaspora' (March 2012), which included a roundtable discussion with charity-based organisations that work closely with the Irish community in Britain. Proceedings of the conference were published as a special issue of Irish Studies Review in 2013 (co-edited with Professor Bronwen Walter, Anglia Ruskin University).

The AHRC also provided funding for a seminar series on 'Women and Exile in Irish Literature and Culture' that she developed in collaboration with the London Irish Women’s Centre in autumn-winter 2011. The seminar series led to the Rian Art Project coordinated by artist Sarah Strong in 2012 and was one of the subjects of Sarah's short film 'I Hear Fish Drowning' (2014).

While on a Fulbright Scholarship to Fordham University in New York in 2012, Ellen ran a lifelong learning reading group in collaboration with the Institute of Irish Studies at Fordham and the Aisling Irish Community Centre in Woodlawn. She gave a number of talks on the writing of Edna O'Brien at the Merriman Summer School dedicated to Emotional Life in Ireland in Co. Clare in 2014.

She has written for The Irish Post and served as an academic consultant for the Federation of Irish Societies, as well as contributing to research for the documentary Breaking Ground: The Story of the London Irish Women’s Centre (Toy Factory Films, 2013). In 2013 she featured as a panellist on an RTE Radio 1 Book Show programme dedicated to the life and work of New York writer Maeve Brennan and in 2017 coordinated a series on Women Writers and Irish America for The Irish Times to celebrate the centenary of Brennan's birth (fellow contributors included Angela Bourke, Claire Bracken, Patricia Coughlan, and Sinéad Moynihan). 

She appeared in the 2017 BBC1 documentary 'Imagine... Margaret Atwood' (directed by Katy Homan and presented by Alan Yentob).