This year’s national festival of the humanities, Being Human, is drawing ever closer, and it’s time to share some early news and highlights as activities begin to develop across the UK.
Being Human 2021, led by the University of London’s School of Advanced Study, will take place from 11 to 20 November and will explore the theme ‘renewal’ – from renewed relationships with the environment and climate change, to renewed identities, narratives and histories.
The festival’s steering committee has allocated grants to researchers at 29 of the UK’s universities and research organisations, made possible by the generous support of festival partners the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the British Academy and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Awards were made to those who demonstrated creative and innovative approaches to sharing research, and whose proposals successfully showcase the vibrancy and relevance of the humanities to our everyday lives. Read on to find out some of what there is to look forward to.
Announcing the festival Hubs
Being Human festival hubs present programmes of events responding to the histories, cultures and communities of their local areas and are aimed at all ages and interests. Here’s a quick run through the fantastic hubs that will be popping up around the country in November:
Inspired by the architectural, economic, and cultural renewal which are key to the Coventry’s character, this hub will capture and investigate this diverse and vibrant city by drawing on its rich history. This comes at a landmark time in the city’s history as it undergoes a period of intense renewal coalescing around ‘City of Culture 2021’. Events include a trail exploring undiscovered literary landmarks, and a live celebration and showcase of the ‘Coventry Sketchbook project’ through a series of projections on to iconic buildings. Led by Coventry University.
To mark the COP26 climate-change conference in Glasgow, this festival hub, made possible by special support from UKRI and AHRC, will take a contemporary spin on a long-established tradition through its creation of ‘The Bothy’ (a basic shelter, usually found in remote, mountainous areas and usually left unlocked and available for anyone to use free of charge). ‘The Bothy’ is imagined as a cultural hub and a civic refuge – both real and conceptual – through which to host a range of events and exchanges on the environment and climate change. Using these encounters researchers will demonstrate the vital role of the humanities in addressing the climate emergency and, in collaboration with the city, activate the legacy of COP26. Led by the University of Glasgow.
Lincoln’s programme of events will reconnect and refresh how local people think about culture and heritage across Lincolnshire. Residents are invited to discover some of the voices, stories and histories of the county through events including tile-making workshops inspired by medieval archaeological excavations, and a pop-up museum celebrating and commemorating British-Caribbean history, co-produced with Museumand, the National Caribbean Heritage Museum. Led by the University of Lincoln.
The people of Swansea will be invited to explore the renewal of their communities and environments, memories and perspectives, through activities exploring climate change, disability, multiculturalism and citizenship in the 21st century. Highlights from programme put together by Swansea University’s Cultural Institute include a documentary project looking at the effects of coal mining on the Dulais Valley, and hands-on activities including bunting making and flower arranging.
Elsewhere across the country
Researchers from the 'Towns and the Cultural Economies of Recovery' project at the University of Southampton will ponder the future of our towns, local high streets, and shopfronts in a series of artist commissions and workshops in Bournemouth, Darlington, Hereford and Southend.
In the north-east, Durham University will be inviting families in Ushaw Moor to reflect on their relationship with the natural world through a treasure hunt, gardening activities and a creative competition. Over in Liverpool, researchers from Liverpool John Moores University will confront mortality, connect with loss, and create conversations about sustainable burial and environmental regeneration through a series of activities including a 'Walking Death Café'.
From New Delhi all the way to Stoke-on-Trent, scholars from Keele University are teaming up with B-Arts to tackle the urgent global problem of urban air pollution through storytelling and film-making workshops for young people. Over in south-east London, Goldsmiths, University of London researchers will be finding solace in the sounds of the River Quaggy, an urban river running through the borough of Lewisham. And in the south-west, Bath Spa University and Bath City Farm are teaming up to shed new light on the farm’s past and future – from cooperative farming and changing agro-cultures to wool-crafts and wellbeing.
And there's much, much more to come! You can expect to see a range of digital and in person events this November – keep an eye out for the full programme announcement at the beginning of October. Sign up to the Being Human festival mailing list to stay in the loop.
Being Human: a festival of the humanities 11–20 November 2021 Led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy, Being Human is a national forum for public engagement with humanities research. The festival highlights the ways in which the humanities can inspire and enrich our everyday lives. For more information, please visit beinghumanfestival.org or follow the festival on social media at @BeingHumanFest.