Being Human festival launches 2015 programme

Wednesday 23 September 2015

More than 260 free events showcased in new brochure

What does it mean to be human, and how does the latest humanities research add to our understanding? Find out at the UK's 2015 Being Human festival, with more than 260 public activities – a 60 percent increase on 2014 – led by some 60 universities and cultural organisations.

This 11-day festival aims to highlight the richness and vitality of humanities research and the ways it benefits society. With just eight weeks to go – Being Human runs from 12–22 November – the full programme of events taking place across the UK has been published online today

Activities will be hosted in all manner of weird and wonderful locations - cemeteries, sewing cafes, museums, pubs, markets  cathedrals, and in hidden spaces beneath city streets  – and cover a broad range of topics from the politics of migration to gender issues, science and health to education and the arts, culture to technology.

The public's imagination has already been kindled by media talk of ’shanty mobs’, zombie walks and Bristol bus stop poets, but there is a lot more on offer. The 2015 programme offers a range of experiences from an attempt to rebuild the architecture of Hull using a video game (University of Hull), pop-up historians breathing life into London's Hunterian Museum (King’s College) and black British civil rights courtesy of the Black Cultural Archives and the National Archives.

‘Being Human allows people to engage with and influence big ideas, big debates and cutting-edge research in the humanities,’ said festival curator Dr Michael Eades. ‘From talks and lectures featuring the likes of author Sarah Waters, veteran BBC journalist Kate Adie, cartoonist Martin Rowson, reggae poet Linton Kwesi Johnson and Professor Marina Warner, to genuinely innovative activities incorporating comedy, film, music, theatre and performance, our 2015 programme is an incredible celebration of the humanities and their place at the heart of the UK’s national culture.’

In the Being Human 2015 programme you will find no-holds barred performance artist Bird la Bird exploring the intersections between LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) class, and colonial history with a 'queer people's knick-knack emporium' armchair tour of the V&A Museum's seven miles of galleries. Events in Norwich, Bristol, Manchester and Portsmouth explore the UK’s rich cultural history, migration and asylum, while in Scotland, Terry Waite, who was captured by Hezbollah militants in Lebanon and subjected to five years in solitary confinement, will share how he retained his humanity and draw some conclusions for living in the so called 'normal' world. 

‘The festival’s wide range of activities, taking place all over the UK, reflects the rich diversity in the humanities subjects. Research and understanding in these subjects are vital in helping us analyse and overcome the global challenges we face today – from climate change to Ebola, from ageing to tackling the challenges in the Middle East today,’ said the British Academy’s Chief Executive Alun Evans.

‘The 2015 Being Human programme features some excellent examples of the role humanities play in our lives - whether it’s asking audiences to share stories from their teenage diaries or giving people the chance to share their experiences of migration. Never have the humanities had more to contribute to society than they do today.’

Activities will also cover topics as eclectic as: biodiversity in London (London College of Fashion); a ‘digital’ Dickensian voyage of discovery (University of Buckingham); sleeplessness in the modern world (Lancaster University); the anarchic British history of visual satire (University of Kent); the secrets of our teenage diaries (University of Sussex); Shakespeare through a black, Asian and minority ethnic prism (University of Warwick); radicalism in story and song (Northumbria University). This year there are also a number of designated ‘hubs’ for Being Human activity outside London. Universities in Aberdeen, Northumbria, Nottingham, Sheffield and Swansea will coordinate activities while putting forward regional ambassadors to champion the festival. 

Being Human, now in its second year, is led by the University of London’s School of Advanced Study (SAS) in partnership with the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the British Academy and the Wellcome Trust, and is the only UK-wide celebration of the humanities. In 2014 it involved over 60 universities and cultural organisations hosting more than 160 events. Extending beyond face-to-face interactions in the UK, the festival crossed borders on the web, reaching more than 2.2 million people across Twitter and website visitors from around the globe.

Find out more about the festival at www.beinghumanfestival.org and follow the latest news on Twitter at @BeingHumanFest.
 
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Notes to Editors:
1. For further information, please contact: Maureen McTaggart, Media and Public Relations Officer, School of Advanced Study, University of London +44 (0)20 7862 8653  / Maureen.mctaggart@sas.ac.uk.

2. Being Human: a festival of the humanities 12–22 November 2015
 
Led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, in partnership with the Arts & Humanities Research Council and the British Academy, Being Human is a national forum for public engagement with humanities research. The festival will highlight the ways in which the humanities can inspire and enrich our everyday lives, help us to understand ourselves, our relationships with others, and the challenges we face in a changing world, and foster world-class knowledge that is vibrant, vital, and accessible to all. For more information, please visit www.beinghumanfestival.org or follow the festival on Twitter at @BeingHumanFest 

3. The School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London, is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and support of research in the humanities and celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2015. It was officially opened on 15 March 1995, by Sir Anthony Kenny as a federation of the University of London’s research institutes and, since then, has established itself as the UK’s national humanities hub, publicly funded to support and promote research in the humanities nationally and internationally. SAS and its member institutes offer unparalleled academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. In 2013-14, SAS: welcomed 743 research fellows and associates; held 2,081 research dissemination events; received 26.4 million visits to its digital research resources and platforms; and received 202,891 visits to its specialist libraries and collections. The School also leads the UK’s only nationwide festival of the humanities: Being Human. Find out more at www.sas.ac.uk or follow SAS on Twitter at @SASNews

4. The Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. www.ahrc.ac.uk 

5. The British Academy is the UK's expert body that supports and speaks for the humanities and social sciences – that rich variety of disciplines that study peoples, cultures and societies, past, present and future. It funds research across the UK and in other parts of the world, in disciplines ranging from archaeology to economics, from psychology to history, and from literature to law. The British Academy seeks to raise understanding of some of the biggest challenges of our time through policy reports, forums, conferences, publications and public events. The Academy receives around £30m a year in Government grants to support its work. But it operates autonomously as a Fellowship of more than 1,000 of the world's most eminent scholars in the humanities and social sciences, elected for their outstanding research. For more information, please visit www.britishacademy.ac.uk. Follow the British Academy on Twitter @britac_news.

6. The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. We provide more than £700 million a year to support bright minds in science, the humanities and the social sciences, as well as education, public engagement and the application of research to medicine. www.wellcome.ac.uk