Revealing hidden histories – the diversity of being human

Thursday 5 November 2015

A reflection of humanity itself, humanities research is not homogenous. This year’s Being Human festival of the humanities aims to highlight this by recognising the vast diversity of being human through revealing hidden histories and sparking cross-cultural conversations. 

‘This festival is an opportunity to explore original documents and to use them in contemporary debate to promote a greater understanding of the less well-known history that we have in this country,’ said Being Human festival participant Vicky Iglikowski, a records specialist in diverse histories at The National Archives.

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 events focusing on diversity issues running from 12–22 November, including:

  • Black British civil rights: the story of the Mangrove 9 at The National Archives and Black Cultural Archives
    A collaboration between The National Archives and the Black Cultural Archives will uncover the hidden story of a revealing flashpoint in British race relations: the Mangrove 9 trials. It opened up the tensions that existed between police and the black community in London’s Notting Hill in the 1970s. Connecting the past to present themes of protest, civil rights and racism, the event will culminate in a spoken-word workshop led by internationally renowned poet Roger Robinson. 
  • Armchair tour of the ‘Queer people’s 'knick knack' emporium’ at the Victoria & Albert Museum
    Using a combination of comedy, gossip, politics and insights to explore the intersections between LGBT, class, and colonial history, performance artist Bird la Bird will expose some of the hidden histories of the V&A to new audiences. As a lasting legacy of this rifling through the museum’s drawers, visitors can download and follow a podcast trail the museum’s seven miles of galleries while pondering the nature of its LGBT history. 
  • Reviving the crescent: Portsmouth connects with Asia at the University of Portsmouth
    Part of the narratives of migration series, this event presents the historic port city as one that is global with close cultural and literary connections to Asia. Reading from their work in person and via Skype, British-Asian writers Sarah Cheverton, Avie Olarte, Mustafi Rahman and Sudip Sen will recount their experience of migration, integration and cultural encounters.
  • Keeping it real? Critical race and musical performance with Manchester Metropolitan University
    Composer Dr Ornette Clennon and the Northern Chamber Orchestra will be focusing on ‘keeping it real’ with local youth offenders. Using music as a creative response to race issues and involving a mixture of musical genres – strings, drum’n’bass, Indonesian gamelan – the event aims to inspire the youngsters’ own MCing/rap-inspired songs about black, Asian and minority ethnic representation in popular culture.

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

Find out more about the festival at 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  /

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.