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Donna Bevan delivers the first of our staff spotlight sessions delivered by the Public Engagement Network

10th February 2022

Public engagement is undertaken across the University by staff and students and in 2021 we signed the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement's (NCCPE) Manifesto for Public Engagement. Since then, our staff and students have formed the University’s Public Engagement Network, enabling our community to share best practice and insights to their work. Donna Bevan, Course Leader for BA (Hons) Fashion Journalism and a senior academic at Solent University delivered the first of our staff spotlight sessions delivered by the Public Engagement Network. Donna contributes to a range of courses delivering creative styling, design history and cultural theory at the University while also actively driving public engagement activity.

One of Donna’s most recent examples of public engagement activity saw her work as co-curator alongside award-winning hairdresser Andrew Barton and curator David Sinclair for the exhibition ‘Beehives, Bobs, and Blow-dries'. The exhibition, held at The Civic in Barnsley during 2018, celebrated the creation of iconic hairstyles and showcased hair artistry and the meaning of hair as a form of self-expression. It also charted the cultural and economic shifts which have influenced significant hair styles since the 1950s onwards and the hairdressing salon being the pillar of the community.

Charting the cultural and economic shifts which have influenced key hairstyles, Donna was able to partner with external clients using archival photography, advertising graphics, ephemera, and historical objects from the archives, from L’Oréal, Unilever (TIGI, Toni & Guy, TRESemmé, VO5 and Brylcreem), Coty Inc (Wella), Sassoon, Dome Hair Products, Lambeth Archives, Wakefield Museums and Museum and: The National Caribbean Heritage Museum. A collection of wigs was also supplied by Banbury Postiche and exclusively styled by Barnsley-born celebrity hairstylist Andrew Barton for the exhibition.

Andrew Barton and Donna Bevan

Both students and alumni of the University were involved in parts of the archive research process using the Consumer Culture at Solent. They were engaged in the social media development for the project supporting the production of key inspirational images.

The exhibition gained international reviews and praise including a shortlisting for an international exhibition award and will be showcasing in Halifax during 2022. An updated social media campaign will be support by students from the BA Make-up and Hair Design course gaining an exclusive session with Andrew Barton to create new hair shots.

Donna is now in the process of writing a book to go alongside this exhibition and in talks with Beaulieu Car Museum around a possible new project ‘Glamourising and Accessorising the Car Interior for the female Consumer’.

Asked about what her top tip for staff and students would be looking to grow their public engagement Donna suggests “Use images. Images are better able to convey emotion. Make sure that the images that you publish have as much emotional impact as you can put into them. If a normal image is worth 1,000 words, then a truly emotionally charged image is worth a million words or more”.


You can find out more about Donna’s work by getting in touch by email or discover more about Solent’s approach to public engagement on our website.

Beehives, Bobs and Blow-dries