UK’s first national humanities research festival announces funding awards to 36 universities

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Following a national competition, 36 higher education institutions have been awarded small grants of up to £3,000 to participate in the first UK-wide humanities research festival, led by the School of Advanced Study (SAS) at the University of London.

The Being Human festival funding competition was launched at the beginning of the year, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the British Academy. To win one of the awards for funding, applicants had to successfully demonstrate how they would engage the public with humanities research, while highlighting its role in the cultural, intellectual, political and social life of the UK.

Funded events will cover topics as diverse as: the digital mapping of data on public happiness; public punishment and local memory in the Georgian West Country; the relationship between humour and being human; the contribution of humanities research to modern science; and Punch and Judy’s chocolate cornucopia of human knowledge.

The nine-day festival will run from 15 to 23 November 2014. Free-to-attend public events will be held in museums, galleries, and cultural and community centres at locations across the UK – from Orkney to Truro, Belfast to Swansea, and Liverpool to Norwich.

“Grant recipients were chosen from more than 100 innovative applications demonstrating the vitality and relevance of humanities research”, said festival director, Professor Barry Smith of the School of Advanced Study. “In their different ways, each of these events will invite us to explore the human world and the ways we make sense of it in a fast moving digital age.”

The festival aims to inform, extend and ignite contemporary thinking and imagination around the humanities through a broad range of public events, including debates, performances, virtual activities and exhibitions. Places are still available for self-funded events to be included in the programme. Applications should be made by 20 June 2014.

Chief Executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Professor Rick Rylance, said: “The humanities are such an important part of our lives, and so central to everyday lives in this country now. Sometimes we take this for granted. So we warmly welcome the Being Human festival. It will allow us to celebrate the study of the human and to reflect on our connection with others. I look forward to it with enthusiasm.”

Dr Robin Jackson, Chief Executive and Secretary of the British Academy, said: “This is an exciting initiative, which the British Academy is delighted to be supporting. There is so much in humanities research in the UK that merits celebration, and I look forward to seeing a rich and thought-provoking range of examples in November.”

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

A reception for the award winners and to mark the launch of the Being Human festival website will be held on Wednesday 14 May at 5.30–7pm at Senate House, University of London. Journalists interested in attending should contact Annett Seifert at or +44 (0)20 7862 8696.

Notes to Editors

1. For further information or to request an interview:
If you are a journalist and require further information on Being Human, please contact Rebecca Law at Bray Leino at or +44 (0)117 971 1173

For all other festival enquiries, please contact:
Annett Seifert, Communications and External Relations
School of Advanced Study, University of London
+44 (0)20 7862 8696 /

2. Being Human: A festival of the humanities 15–23 November 2014
What does it mean to be human? How do we understand ourselves, our relationship to others and our place in nature? For centuries the humanities have addressed these questions. Artists, writers, philosophers, theologians and historians have considered who we are, how we live and what we value most. But are these long-standing questions changing in 2014?  We are more connected than ever, yet we spend more time with smart phones and computers than face to face. The world is becoming smaller, yet the digital information we can access and store, even about ourselves, is vast and growing.  Developments in science and technology are moving fast, challenging our understanding of the self and society. What sense can we make of these changes and what challenges do we face? We need the humanities more than ever to help us address these issues and provide the means to question, interpret and explain the human predicament.

The festival is held as part of the School of Advanced Study’s 20th anniversary celebrations and draws on the success of the 2013 King’s College Festival of the Humanities. Being Human will be the UK’s first national festival of the humanities. Led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy, and universities, arts and cultural organisations across the UK, it will demonstrate the value, vitality and relevance of the humanities in 2014. Find out more at or follow the festival on Twitter at @BeingHumanFest.

3. The School of Advanced Study (SAS) at the University of London is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and facilitation of research in the humanities. The School brings together 10 prestigious research institutes to offer unparalleled academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. The member institutes of the School are the Institutes of Advanced Legal Studies, Classical Studies, Commonwealth Studies, English Studies, Historical Research, Latin American Studies, Modern Languages Research, Musical Research, Philosophy, and the Warburg Institute. The School also hosts a cross-disciplinary centre, the Human Rights Consortium, dedicated to the facilitation, promotion and dissemination of academic and policy work on human rights. Find out more at or follow SAS on Twitter at @SASNews.

4. The Arts and 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 national champion of the humanities and social sciences. As a Fellowship of distinguished scholars and researchers from all areas of the humanities and social sciences, it promotes these disciplines and facilitates the exchange of knowledge and ideas. It funds research across the UK and internationally, and seeks to raise understanding of some of the biggest challenges of our time through policy reports, forums, conferences, publications and public events.  For more information, please visit Follow the British Academy on Twitter @britac_news.

6. Being Human: A festival of the humanities funding awards