The UK’s national festival of the humanities returns to venues and locations around the UK this November, bringing the latest research to life through hundreds of free public events.
We’re delighted to have awarded 32 funding grants to researchers and universities to enable a range of public engagement projects and activities to take place, thanks to generous support from our partners — the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy. Festival activities are being led in collaboration with artists, creative practitioners, theatre companies, community groups, charities, museums and more.
From cheese tasting to canal cruises, here are some early festival highlights and a taster of what’s to come this November.
Rhyme, Reason and Research
Drawing on this year’s theme, event organisers have taken Rhyme or Reason as their cue for a whole host of activities exploring language, literature, writing, rhyme, song, and more. In this year’s festival there’ll be chances to... see an ultrasound image of your tongue while you speak, as part of a research project about Lancashire accents and dialect; learn about the peculiar plants and flowers of Liverpool-based poet and artist Edward Lear; sing 16th and 17th century songs at pop-up catch clubs in Newcastle; take part in Shakespeare workshops in Leicester; and in Salford, trace the roots of zines to the Harlem Renaissance.
This year’s exciting programme also sees researchers taking their work to the water, with opportunities to explore the marine environment of Plymouth’s eastern estuary by kayak; write eco-poetry aboard a canal cruise on the seldom-seen waterways of Sheffield; and be entertained by the enterprising passengers of transatlantic ocean liner the ‘Empress of Britain’ at the Fairfield Heritage community museum in Glasgow.
Other funded projects include a programme of events in South London probing the history of statues in Britain, led by researchers at Goldsmiths University of London; interactive workshops led by Loughborough University at Tamworth Castle inspired by early recipes, including preserving vegetables and early dining etiquette; a unique exploration of voices from Northern Ireland’s queer past and present, brought to life through the state-of-the-art 3D audio technologies of the Queen’s University Belfast’s Sonic Lab; a family-friendly workshop day exploring Cornish identity in Penryn; and two theatrical walks through Bristol, one exploring medieval Bristol and the other following in the footsteps of movie star Cary Grant.
Our five flagship Hub programmes bring together a range of perspectives that connect research to the histories, cultures and communities of their area. All our festival Hubs will work closely with regional partners to bring their events to a range of different local audiences and communities.
Cardiff University are teaming up with Amgueddfa Cymru | Museum Wales for a series of activities drawing on a range of research spanning archaeological excavations, artwork conservation, generative artificial intelligence, fungi collections, and colonial and industrial Welsh history. Activities will be aimed at a range of ages and will include walks and tours, demonstrations, object handling, and arts and craft workshops.
Canterbury Christ Church University
Canterbury Christ Church University will host a series of events exploring the theme of ‘Women Making Sense’. Inspired by the work of writers including Mary Shelley, Aphra Ben and Sophie Kirtley, the Hub programme brings literature to life with all five senses, through walks and talks, graphic novel and poetry workshops, and a cooking session!
Edge Hill University
Inspired by the Ancient Greek concept of sacred hospitality, researchers from Edge Hill will lead a programme of events titled ‘Be My Guest’. Activities including screenings, creative writing workshops, and a comedy quiz will explore themes of migration and belonging, otherness, healthcare and nature.
University of Nottingham
Nottingham’s Hub programme aims to spotlight past and present local stories which celebrate the city – including the 257th anniversary of the Nottingham Cheese Riots, local Suffragette protests, the lace industry in the Middle Ages, and the 350th anniversary of the death of local writer and philosopher Margaret Cavendish. Expect food tastings, discussions, hands-on activities, walks and performances.
University of Essex
Essex’s Hub programme focuses on three days of food and stories, exploring the connection between what we eat and who we are. Events will take place in locations across the county and will include taste-and-share food history discussions, workshops, an exhibition, experimental cooking demonstrations, and a headline ‘tasting menu’ open mic night.