Drawing on diverse disciplines – the health and wellbeing of being human

Thursday 5 November 2015

Reflecting a new partnership with the Wellcome Trust, this year’s Being Human festival of the humanities brings a focus on health and wellbeing highlighting research on sleep, biomedical history, mental health and more.

‘The issues that face us as humans today don't fit into neat little boxes. Whether we’re considering anxiety, dementia or any number of physical illnesses, if we want to find the best solutions, we need to draw on diverse disciplines,’ said psychologist, writer and BBC broadcaster Claudia Hammond, Being Human festival participant.

Led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London in partnership with the Arts & Humanities Research Council, the British Academy and the Wellcome Trust, this year’s only national festival of the humanities highlights health and wellbeing through a range of events running from 12–22 November, including:

  • Being human/being animal at the Hunterian Museum in London
    Historians from King's College London and the Royal College of Surgeons will use the animal specimens, archival material, microscope slides and permanent displays at the Hunterian to reveal the shared histories of human and animal health and how this led to medical breakthroughs. Subjects to be discussed include ‘Ming the celebrity panda’; people, animals and tuberculosis; how 19th-century doctors worked with animals to understand human health; cancer across species; and the parasites we share with other animals.
  • Sleep, sleeplessness, and the modern world at Lancaster University
    Creative writing workshops, night walks and film screenings will showcase state-of-the-art research on how sleep has been imagined, represented and regulated over time. Three talks, with audience participation, on changing understandings of sleep in the modern world relating to writers and artists, the history of twin beds and the effects of sleep and insomnia on creativity, learning and memory.
  • Gender and mental health: what can history teach us? Led by Palgrave Macmillan
    Eminent historians and psychiatrists gather in a Central London venue to discuss gender and mental health, from self-harm to alcoholism, suicide, mental health at work and pharmacological solutions, all from a humanitarian perspective.
  • Disability and wellbeing: past, present and future at Swansea University
    Research on the so-called ‘disability paradox’ has shown that life-limiting impairment is not necessarily a barrier to happiness and wellbeing, with many disabled people reporting a good quality of life. Researchers and academics are uncovering historical attitudes towards disability through the experiences of those disabled in the coal industry of the 18th–20th centuries. This public debate, in partnership with Disability Wales, focuses on how the happiness and wellbeing of disabled people have changed over time.

This is just a sample of the more than 300 events on offer at Being Human 2015. For more health themed events, please visit here. Other themes explored include technology and science, diversity, politics, and arts and culture. See the festival site for more information on these themes.

‘By working together thinkers from different disciplines can extend our insights into what it means to be human and collectively address the new challenges that face us,’ said festival director Professor Barry Smith, director of the Institute of Philosophy at the School of Advanced Study.

Find out more about the festival at www.beinghumanfestival.org and follow the latest news on Twitter at @BeingHumanFest. 


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