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Our work

Being Human is an annual humanities festival that takes place across the UK and internationally in November each year. We work year round, from our base at the University of London's School of Advanced Study, to bring the festival to life. We also work with researchers to develop their skills and opportunities for sharing their work with non-specialist audiences.

Our work

The festival’s purpose is to demonstrate why humanities research is vital to society and directly relevant to the lives and interests of people across the UK. Through the festival we encourage researchers to move away from traditional academic methods of lecture or classroom presentation and incentivise creative, informal and interactive events and activities. Festival events include everything from talks and tours to comedy nights, museum lates, performances and more.

Being Human is all about…

  • Democratising access to knowledge
  • Empowering local communities with shared knowledge
  • Creating dialogues between academia and local communities about today’s big questions

Our objectives

The core festival objectives are to: 

  • demonstrate the value of humanities research to society in the UK and globally;
  • encourage, support and create opportunities for humanities researchers to engage with non-specialist audiences;
  • embed and join together public engagement activities in the humanities across the higher education (HE) sector; and,
  • demonstrate the relevance of the humanities to everyday life.

Our priorities

  • Connecting humanities researchers with communities and cultural partners
  • Promoting collaborative, co-produced public engagement that increases the impact of humanities research
  • Enabling small-to-medium scale public engagement projects not supported in others ways
  • Leading innovation and best practice in humanities public engagement delivery and methods
  • Providing a locus for media interest in humanities research locally, regionally and nationally
  • Improving inclusion and diversity in the festival and humanities public engagement
  • Emphasising place-based activities, representing a range of communities and interests across the four nations of the United Kingdom, creating a national festival that is rooted in local place

Our priority audiences

Throughout our application process, we seek innovative, exciting programming that has been designed with the needs of audiences firmly in mind.

We actively welcome applications for festival content which celebrates inclusivity, equality and diversity. We are particularly keen to receive applications which engage with underrepresented groups in researcher's community, and/or groups who share a particular protected characteristic (defined under the Equality Act 2010). We encourage applicants to be specific about intended audiences in their applications and when developing public engagement activities. We will not knowingly accept applications for events which include speaker line-ups that lack appropriate diversity, including all-male or ‘about us, without us’ panels – where a subject is explored without representation from those affected by it.

We endeavour to keep learning and improving our processes, so please contact us at beinghuman@sas.ac.uk if you have any feedback or would like to discuss this with us.

We are particularly keen to receive applications for festival activities which demonstrate capacity to do one or more of the following things: 

  • explore innovative and realistic approaches to public engagement;
  • engage with communities who are under-represented within universities or within AHRC recognised Independent Research Organisations (IROs), or people who have never engaged with a university or IRO;
  • engage with under-served communities (See the ‘Young participation by area’ information on the Office for Students website);
  • engage with communities in areas without a university;
  • provide programming for families and young people (16-25 year olds);
  • are relevant to local communities (for example, place-based activity highlighting unexpected aspects of local history and/ or contemporary culture, addressing topical debates with local communities);
  • feature an element of co-production; and,
  • have potential to make a small change happen locally and/ or leave a legacy beyond the duration of the grant (if applicable). 

Equality, diversity and inclusion

The Being Human team are currently working to improve our processes and guidance on equality, diversity and inclusion. We are working with an external consultant to create a series of resources, which will offer guidance on how to plan and deliver public engagement activities which have equality, diversity and inclusion considerations at their core. These include:

  • a training toolkit on equality, diversity and inclusion for those developing humanities public engagement initiatives
  • a statement of intent outlining Being Human's aims and standpoint on equality, diversity and inclusion
  • a code of conduct for those attending and organising Being Human activities

Being Human masterclasses provide training and guidance for festival organisers and for those developing humanities public engagement initiatives. The July masterclass focused on planning a festival activity and planning inclusive activities. The next masterclasses will focus on promoting and delivering festival activities. 

"Not only was the research able to tell us way more than a Google search could ever do but also the relevance to everyday life was demonstrated."

- Audience comment

"To hear leaders in their fields explaining so clearly the importance of local discoveries was wonderful."

- Audience comment

"It brought the community together and I discovered a part of my local area I never even knew!"

- Audience comment

"I can see how the research can relate to contemporary issues and be useful as a tool in solving modern problems."

- Audience comment

Moroccan rapper Dizzy DROS performs into microphone

“Researchers are inspired by so many different impulses, some quite unusual. Culture shapes research shapes culture.”

- Audience comment

“I really like the fact that our history is being told openly and from a Human perspective.”

- Audience comment

Take part

Find out more about how to apply to take part in the festival.

Find out more