‘Moving Stories: Discovering Lives Lived Differently’ – Lincoln festival hub
By Carenza Lewis, Professor for the Public Understanding of Research at the University of Lincoln.
Carenza casts light on this year’s festival hub in Lincoln. Their diverse programme of events and activities spans archaeology, digital archiving, literature, performance and more – all highlighting the variety and richness of human experience.
What inspired you to act as a festival hub for Being Human 2019?
The University of Lincoln’s first Being Human involvement in 2018 showed us what a great way it was to share our research in new ways with wider audiences, from city centre shoppers to BBC Radio 3 listeners. It also highlighted a gap in festival activity in our large, rural region, and so we wanted our 2019 hub to offer many more activities for people within and beyond our cathedral city to be informed, intrigued and inspired by the variety and excitement of our humanities research into the diversity of human existence.
How does your programme respond to this year’s ‘Discoveries & Secrets’ theme?
Research is always, at its heart, about discovery, and the University of Lincoln’s event series ‘Moving Stories: Lives Lived Differently’ aims to enable people across our region to discover lives lived by different people in different places at different times, exploring with researchers spanning art, music, literature, film, history, archaeology, theatre and digital technology.
Discoveries waiting for visitors include unearthed evidence for past lives ranging from the Roman countryside to the Black Death to a 1960s council estate. New perspectives on migration range from children’s experiences of contemporary detention centres to re-evaluations of Steinbeck’s 80-year old ‘Grapes of Wrath’ novel of the Great Depression. The chance to discover new performances informed by research include the sounds of east Asian communities in Lincolnshire, and haunting gothic stories from Edgar Allen Poe and Neil Gaiman. Visitors can discover how taking part in humanities research benefits people such as young families involved in archaeological excavations, or people fighting substance abuse transforming their lives through art. Other events enable people to discover new skills for themselves, such as programming a robot or playing the harp. And other events again are about enabling people to shape the process of discovery in the future, such as by creating new digital archives or making connections between Victorian and contemporary understandings of mental illness to help shape future research.
Highlights from the programme
There are so many great events it’s difficult to choose! ‘Hidden Gems‘ on Saturday 16 November was a celebration of Lincoln’s East and South East Asian communities co-produced by university researchers with local communities. It included a range of fun, hands-on activities for all ages including interactive workshops with the Lincoln Community Gamelan, Japanese calligraphy, delicious food, an interactive walk-through exhibition (with a kimono photo-opportunity!), followed by an evening of diverse performances in the auditorium with music, dance and poetry.
A very different highlight the following week is ‘Haunted‘ on 19 and 20 November, a performance of seven gothic ghost stories exploring uncanny, buried secrets and things that go bump in the night! This atmospheric evening celebrates the continuing lure of the ghost story on the human imagination, accompanied by two short talks reflecting why ghost stories on the page and the stage still fascinate us in the 21st century. The range of performances is amazing, from the classic gothic horror of Edgar Allen Poe to the modern twists of Neil Gaiman!
Please can you highlight one particular piece of interesting humanities research from your programme?
In 2018, 13.9% of global migrants were under the age of 18, many travelling alone, and many experiencing detention in prisons and camps. Research on children and migration by Stephanie Hemelryk Donald (There’s No Place Like Home (2018); ‘Refugee Filmmaking’ (Alphaville special issue 2019)) and Kaya Davies Hayon (Sensuous Cinema (2018)) has explored the tropes of childhood behind wires through films made by children and images produced by professional photographers and filmmakers in the last decade of global mobility. Their Being Human event on 22 – 23 November 2019 includes a series of screenings, talks and workshops aimed at young people in the 8-18 demographic, complementing participatory workshops for local schools and community groups also generated by the research.
Why could your programme only be staged in Lincoln?
Lincoln, where a modern university, a Victorian asylum, a Gothic cathedral and Roman ruins all lie within a lively contemporary city serving a vast rural region, is the perfect place to explore how humanities research from local to global is making new discoveries about human lives past, present and future.
What will people in Lincoln get out of coming to these events?
People really will get the chance to discover something new and intriguing about the variety and richness of human experience, especially if they come to more than one event. The stories they will find may be explored with researchers through art, film, music, computers, food, artefacts or performance, but they will all vividly reveal something about what it is to live a human life. In a time when the world often seems to be full of conflict and dislocation, our hub events are a chance for people to think about what we have in common, in ways which are fun, engaging and creative.