Professor Robert Beckford joined the University of Winchester in 2021 as Director of the new Institute of Climate and Social Justice.
An educator for most of his life, Robert first taught adult literacy at Bournville College in Birmingham in the early 1990s. Then, he became the first-ever tutor in Black Theology at Queens College, Birmingham (1992-8), where he taught trainee priests and ministers for the Anglican and Methodist churches. He began teaching at the University of Birmingham in 1999, working first as a Research Fellow with black offenders at Birmingham Prison and then moving to the faculty staff in 2001. In addition, he has taught at Aston University and held Visiting Professorships at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and Kings College, University of London.
He is the author of seven monographs in the field of social criticism and theology, including a study of Rastafari (Dread and Pentecostal 2002), Gang Culture in Birmingham (God and the Gangs 2004), The politics of Reggae Dub (Jesus Dub 2006), the politics of documentary film production (Documentary as Exorcism, 2014) and contemporary Gospel Music (Decolonizing Gospel Music 2021).
Robert has presented a plethora of documentaries on television and radio but made his debut in Trevor Phillip's series 'Britain's Slave Past.' He quickly moved on to work on several documentaries with BBC 4, including 'Ebony Towers' (2001) and presented his first mainstream feature-length documentary in 2002 for BBC 2 on the story of Jamaican Independence ('Blood and Fire'). Robert earned a BAFTA for diversity in educational broadcasting for a six-part series for BBC Religion ('Test of Time' 2002).
He began working with Channel 4 in 2003 and struck up a dynamic partnership with the commissioning editor, Aaqil Ahmed. Between 2004-16, Robert made 15 television documentaries, including cutting edge films on reparations for Slavery ('Empire Pays Back' 2005), corporate malfeasance in Africa ('The Great African Scandal,' 2007), the religious underpinning of the message of the American president ('God Bless You Barack Obama,' BBC2 2010) and the future of Christianity in Britain (The Battle for Christianity, 2016; Is the Church Racist? 2021).
Robert has also produced several radio dramas and numerous documentaries. 'Father Son and Holy Ghost' (BBC Radio 3) starred Hollywood actor David Harewood, and 'Jesus Piece' (BBC Regions 2017) was led by international Jazz artist Soweto Kinch. Robert's numerous radio documentaries traverse many themes from ethics in sports ('Doping, Diving and God,' BBC World Service 2014) to linguistic theory ('The Jamaican Bible Remixed', BBC World Service 2018). Robert's foray into theo-musicology in the form of studio-produced political gospel music ('The Jamaican Bible Remix) is available for download.
A firm believer in teaching for social change, Robert has retained a commitment to teaching outside traditional contexts, including community groups, care homes and male prisons. An extension of his organic approach to intellectual matters led him into broadcasting in 1999.
Robert is actively engaged with climate care issues in urban communities and has convened several training courses, including the 'Black, Green and Christian' Environmental Course (2021).
In addition, Robert is currently working with Christian Aid and other NGOs on various local political interventions.
Areas of expertise
Activism, Scholarship and the ArtsStaff Directory