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From Decoding Dickens to live poetry readings in Ukraine – nationwide 10-day festival examines the very essence of Being Human

What does it mean to be human? That’s the question being asked at over 200 free events at 43 locations nationwide in November at this year’s ninth annual Being Human Festival.

The purpose of the festival, which is being led by the School of Advanced Study at the University of London, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and the British Academy, is to celebrate the humanities and demonstrate their relevance by bringing both research and researchers out of the universities and into the high streets and towns across the country.

This year’s theme is Breakthroughs. Whether that means spiritual, scientific, artistic or physical, each of the 225 events taking place across the UK will in some way connect to this over-arching theme.

In Wolverhampton, local writers will form a literary “bridge” with poets live in Ukraine, reading their work from bomb shelters and streets – encouraging new understandings between people in the UK and Ukraine.

In Newcastle, “From You to Me” creates another kind of bridge, between the past and present, as local writers share stories of post-war Tyneside from those who were there; the street games, dance halls, and Christmas stockings, but also the hunger and harsh discipline. 

In Scotland, the Quinepedia project, aims to raise public awareness, and ‘break through’ the silence around women’s contributions to the culture, history and heritage of North-East Scotland (quines is a Doric word in ancient Greek dialect meaning ‘woman’). 

In Bradford, a series of events will mark the BBC centenary, and will focus on engaging individuals and communities with research that celebrates the contemporary relevance of the BBC, looking to the past, present and future of broadcasting and journalism.

Festival Director and Chair in Public Understanding of the Humanities at the University of London, Professor Sarah Churchwell said:

“This year’s festival looks set to be more exciting, eclectic and energising than ever. Whether you want to write about birds, interact with Ukrainian poets, or build Hadrian’s Wall out of Lego, you will find something that stimulates your senses – and sensibilities.

“The humanities are the very essence of what it is to be human: story-telling, myth-making, swapping ideas and immersing ourselves in languages. Without the humanities there would be no creativity, no culture, no joy. I would encourage everyone to get involved, find an event that suits them, and celebrate that most remarkable thing: Being Human.”


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