Being Human festival proves a vital platform for humanities research

Wednesday 25 November 2015

This year's Being Human festival, a national showcase of the very best in UK humanities research, surpassed all expectations with in excess of 17,000 people attending more than 300 events in some 30 towns and cities, according to figures released today.

Beyond the face-to-face interactions the festival, led by the University of London’s School of Advanced Study (SAS) with support from the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the British Academy and the Wellcome Trust, extended across international borders on the web, reaching some 3.5 million by way of Twitter plus website visitors from the UK, Australia, India, Canada, US, Germany, Kenya, Russia, France and Italy.

‘The reach and scope of this year’s Being Human festival exceeded our expectations’, said festival director Professor Barry Smith, director of SAS’s Institute of Philosophy. ‘It shows just how vibrant and creative humanities research is these days. It’s so impressive to see the passion with which researchers are ready and able to demonstrate the interest and relevance of their research to everyday life.’

Being Human had its biggest day on 12 November, enjoying 3,335 visitors. Intense media interest sparked stories from Aberdeen to Camden, and Liverpool to Newcastle, as well as in the Times Higher Education, BBC News, The Guardian, BBC Radio 3 and The Observer. These figures exceed the festival's previous peak of 12,600 visitors and 2.2 million through Twitter reached in 2014, its inaugural year. 

Being Human 2015 involved 73 universities and cultural partners sharing the very best and most challenging thinking in the humanities with audiences across the country. It ran for 11 days from 11 to 22 November and used a full programme of talks, interactive workshops, exhibitions, and performances of immersive theatre, walks, music, dance and poetry to explore themes around politics, health and wellbeing, diversity, science and technology, arts and culture.

Preliminary feedback from more than 700 online evaluation submissions found that an overwhelming majority (91 per cent) said they learned something new at the festival. In addition, 88 per cent claim it had increased their knowledge of the humanities and more than three quarters (82 per cent), their understanding of the relevance of the humanities to everyday life.

Being Human provides a vital platform to celebrate and disseminate the innovative humanities research going on across the UK to the public, creative partners, alumni, staff, students and members of other academic institutions.

You can find out more about Being Human, sign up to our mailing list and have a look at photos from the more than 300 events on the festival website.

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  /

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 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. Officially opened in 1995 by Sir Anthony Kenny as a federation of the University of London’s research institutes, it 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. Find out more at 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.  
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 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.