Swansea University’s ‘Voices, faces and places’ hub
By Elaine Canning, head of the Research Institute for Arts and Humanities
Elaine tells us about the great team effort behind the Swansea University hub ‘Voices, faces and places’. She explains how they engaged a variety of local communities in their series of events by creatively and imaginatively bringing the Humanities into Swansea’s city centre.
Tell us a bit about your event. What subject areas did you cover and what did you want to achieve?
In 2017, we responded to the festival’s theme of ‘Lost and found’ by creating a festival hub on ‘Voices, faces and places.’ Our events were hosted in venues, large and small, in the city of Swansea, thanks to the support and enthusiasm of our wonderful partners including Swansea Libraries, Cinema and Co, Volcano Theatre, YMCA Swansea, the National Waterfront Museum and Swansea Museum. Our programme included: weekend activities for families (‘Egyptian mummy meets demons’; ‘Bay of plenty’); the festival’s only Welsh-medium event (‘Rho dy Gymraeg i Ni!’); an evening for football fans with film director and alumnus Jonny Owen; and an onsite school visit on the Cuban Missile Crisis at 55. We also ran sessions on ‘Refugees, voices and (hi)stories’ and ‘Multilingual Swansea’ in the city centre to bring together cultures, languages and stories; as well as interactive discussions and workshops on history and literature with our historians, creative writers and invited poets Simon Armitage and Daljit Nagra.
Uncovering, rediscovering and remembering lay at the heart of our programme of events. Our overarching aim was for as many people as possible to engage with those ideas through a variety of activities in different venues across the city. We therefore created content with different age groups and interests in mind.
We also wanted to build on Being Human’s legacy in Swansea – as a result of previous festivals, we already have a number of online art exhibitions, including one on Egyptian demons by young children and community’s responses to the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks, as well as an eight-foot word cloud of hopes and fears. Our 2017 events will generate digital photographic exhibitions and new data for impact case studies.
How did you make your event appeal to your target audience?
Our objective was to target a wide range of audiences of different ages and backgrounds. We chose city centre venues for the majority of our events to make them as accessible as possible and to emphasise the connection with the general public. We visited venues and met with partners in order to determine which spaces best suited audiences and activities. The wonderful Tŷ’r Gwrhyd Welsh Centre in Pontardawe hosted our Welsh-medium event, thereby placing it in the very heart of the Pontardawe community.
We advertised our hub in a variety of ways – social media, posters, leaflet drops, word of mouth, cool T-shirts and via a very large bridge banner outside the University’s Singleton campus! Our partners very kindly shared details of our events via their channels and the City and County of Swansea provided fantastic support by promoting our hub as part of the City of Culture online campaign.
What feedback did you get from attendees?
Attendees enjoyed the variety of events, the interaction with speakers/performers and many were inspired to find out more about the Humanities. It was great to see comments about the hub bringing different communities together in Swansea, for example one attendee wrote ‘I will be even more aware of others that are facing challenges that I have never had to comprehend and can take for granted’, while another noted that it allowed them to meet ‘new people that I wouldn’t get to meet otherwise’.
What worked particularly well in the planning, design and delivery of your event? Did you face any challenges?
We began planning early! With ten events to market and promote, the design of posters and leaflets, ordering of materials, etc, took place during the summer of 2017. The organisation of the team ‘on the ground’ was incredibly important during the festival period itself to ensure the smooth running of a large number of events within a limited time period. The support of our partners and our University PR team was also crucial to successful delivery of our hub.
It was a challenge to market multiple events taking place within a fixed time period tricky and to encourage spontaneous drop-ins at all-day events.
What was your motivation for getting involved in Being Human? What impact/outcomes has your Being Human event had?
We first got involved in Being Human when it was established in 2014 and we then went on to host hubs in both 2015 and 2016. From the outset, we welcomed the fantastic opportunities advocated by the festival to imaginatively engage with the public on a wide range of themes and subjects. After participating in Being Human for three years, the festival had become a key feature of our November calendar and we therefore decided to do it all over again in 2017!
Being involved in the festival has allowed us to connect with the public and to reach new, wonderful audiences. It has given us the opportunity to try out new imaginative forms of public engagement.
Do you have any top tips for future Being Human event organisers?
1. Plan early!
2. Tell everyone about it!
3. Work with enthusiastic partners and a dedicated team.