Thursday 19 September 2019


Humans need the humanities. But which humans? Because the evidence shows that some groups are effectively excluded from this field of study, particularly those from BAME communities (black, Asian and minority ethnic).

"The humanities are so crucial for teaching critical thought, rigorous research, powerful communication and ethical reasoning, all of which underpin our democracy and are essential,” says Neil Griffiths, CEO of Arts Emergency mentoring charity and network who will be on the panel for ‘Are the humanities for us?’. This is a compelling free public discussion organised by the University of London’s School of Advanced Study as a preview event ahead of its annual Being Human festival.

“Culture shapes our lives as much as politics,” he warns. “The creative and cultural industries now have less social mobility than any other sector. But we can change this, by showing the arts and humanities are for everyone and by tackling the real-world route causes behind the lack of opportunity and access."

So how open are the humanities? What are the barriers preventing some people from undertaking humanities research? Who is being left out, and what is being done to redress the balance?

‘Are the humanities for us?’ will address these questions. Run in collaboration with Arts Emergency, which helps young people from underprivileged backgrounds overcome barriers to participation and success in higher education and the creative and cultural industries. It will take place on 30 October from 6.30 to 8pm at the Rich Mix venue, east London.

The panel comprises Joan Anim-Addo, poet, playwright and professor of English and Caribbean literature at Goldsmiths, University of London, Dr Jonathan Saha, co-author of the Royal Historical Society’s Race, Ethnicity & Equality Report, Sandeep Mahal, director for Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature, Dr Christienna Fryar, lecturer in black British history at Goldsmiths, and Neil Griffiths. They will address underlying issues around BAME diversity in both academia and the creative industries. In addition, they will explore the barriers people from non-white, non-middle class backgrounds may encounter, and why they may be discouraged from a pathway that leads to them becoming writers, artists, academics, or considering other professions in the creative and cultural industries.  

The evening will include special contributions and performances from young people who have benefited from being part of Arts Emergency. Widening the intake for the humanities is crucial, concludes Neil Griffiths: “Their insights are essential to decode the images that surround us, delve into the discourses that construct gender, race and class, explore ethical issues, and discover how the past informs the present and the future.”

This event is part of the Being Human festival, led by the School of Advanced Study in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy. To find out more about the festival, visit


Notes for editors

1. For all enquiries, please contact: Maureen McTaggart, Media and Public Relations Officer, School of Advanced Study, University of London +44 (0)20 7862 8859 /

2. Being Human: the UK’s only national festival of the humanities, 14–23 November 2019. Led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy, the Being Human festival is a national forum for public engagement with humanities research. Every year the festival features around 300 events across the UK, working with an average of 80 universities and research organisations in 50 towns and cities. Find out more about the festival at and on social media, Twitter at @BeingHumanFest and Instagram @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. SAS and its member institutes offer unparalleled resources, facilities and academic opportunities across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. Last year SAS welcomed 892 research fellows and associates, held 1,903 events highlighting the latest research in the humanities, received 25.9 million online visits to its research resources and platforms, and hosted 173,493 visits to its specialist libraries and collections. The School also leads Being Human, the UK’s only nationwide festival of the humanities. Find out more at or follow SAS on Twitter at @SASNews.

4. Arts Emergency is an award-winning mentoring charity and network. Its mission is to help marginalised young people overcome barriers to participation and success in higher education and the creative and cultural industries. Arts Emergency is now a community of 7,000 professionals from the creative and cultural industries who have pledged to pass on opportunities and support to less privileged young people. They provide expert mentors, work experience and free cultural activities to young people, with the vast majority going on to higher education, apprenticeships and employment in the cultural sector. Find out more at