From dub poetry to women at war – the art of being human

Thursday 5 November 2015

The UK’s only national festival of the humanities will highlight the vitality of this broad field with contributions from the father of reggae poetry, best-selling novelists and urban explorers, each of whom will focus on the art of being human.

‘I think the art of being human is closely tied to exploration and encountering new things. Whether you read a new poem, see a new play or sneak into off-limit places like abandoned boiler rooms to discover long-forgotten architecture and design – you’re living artfully,’ said Being Human festival participant and urban explorer Dr Bradley Garrett.  

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 Being Human festival brings a range of arts and cultural events running from 12–22 November, including:

  • Globe Road Poetry festival with Queen Mary University of London
    Known for his ‘dub’ poems, some of them controversial at the time, like ‘Inglan Is A Bitch’, Linton Kwesi Johnson will contribute to a public reading and poetry workshop for schoolchildren. This celebration of diverse poetic traditions active in London’s East End focuses on translation and technology, and includes performances from well-known poets and popular collectives such as Daljit Nagra and the Shanghati Literary Society.
  • Wait, weep and be worthy at the University of Glasgow
    In Scotland, Kate Adie, one of Britain’s best-known female war reporters who blazed a trail for women in journalism, and Sarah Waters, the award-winning author of novels including The Paying Guests, Tipping the Velvet, and The Night Watch, will explore the role, contribution and output of women during the Great War and its immediate aftermath. What, if war was 'men's business', were women doing? This event will reveal women’s war contributions through a pageant, a suffragette exhibition, creative writing and art workshops.
  • Senate House revealed: talking underground at the School of Advanced Study, University of London
    While many Londoners know its imposing form, few would guess Senate House has a network of switch rooms, utility tunnels, and hidden spaces. Ghostly images of its former dynamism will be invoked by guides for an evening of talks on ‘urban exploration’. Urban explorer Dr Bradley Garrett, alongside academics from the School and other UK universities, will lead expeditions - above and below ground - into architect Charles Holden’s masterpiece, considered London’s first ‘skyscraper’. 
  • In Robeson’s footsteps: to be or not to be? at Warwick University
    Paul Robeson was the first black actor to play Othello. What must have been a 1930s dramatic moment – a black performer on a white stage, confronting historic prejudice – will be brought to life by ‘In Robeson’s footsteps: to be or not to be?’ An exhibition, performance and discussion will draw from this dramatic moment. Warwick University’s Multicultural Shakespeare project presents an exhibition and a drama documentary, where three of today’s leading performers speak the pioneers’ words – and their own.

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

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. 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 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.