UK’s first national festival dedicated to the humanities is announced

UK’s first national festival dedicated to the humanities is announced

Thursday 23 January 2014

Being Human, the UK’s first national festival dedicated to demonstrating the value, vitality and relevance of humanities research, has been officially launched today (23 January 2014).

Led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London – in partnership with the Arts & Humanities Research Council and the British Academy – the festival will explore what it means to be human over nine days from 15 to 23 November 2014.

Being Human is now inviting higher education institutions across the country to apply for small grants to participate in the festival by holding their own public events and activities to showcase innovative humanities research.

The grants will fund creative programming which engages the public with leading humanities research, including debates, performances, virtual activities and exhibitions.

Festival director, Professor Barry Smith of the School of Advanced Study, said: ‘Being Human will get to the heart of what it means to be human in the digital age. It will show how our attempts to understand and interpret the human world can guide our thinking about science, society and culture, and shape our conception of ourselves.’

Held with the participation of arts and cultural organisations and universities across the UK, the festival will draw together the most exciting and inspiring work in the humanities research field to present a week of creative public events that inspire, inform and extend our contemporary thinking and imagination.

Professor Smith continued: ‘There is a huge amount of exciting work happening in the humanities right now, and we are inviting universities across the country to hold their own events to highlight the vitality and interdisciplinary nature of humanities today.’

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Notes for editors:

If you are a journalist and require further information, please contact:

Lisa Gibson at Bray Leino
+44 (0)117 971 1173

Rebecca Law at Bray Leino
+44 (0)117 971 1173

For all other enquiries, please contact:

Annett Seifert, Communications and External Relations
School of Advanced Study, University of London
+44 (0)20 7862 8696

1. Being Human: A festival of the humanities 15-23 November 2014
What does it mean to be human? How do we understand ourselves, our relationship to others and our place in nature? For centuries the humanities have addressed these questions. Artists, writers, philosophers, theologians and historians have considered who we are, how we live and what we value most. But are these long-standing questions changing in 2014?  We are more connected than ever, yet we spend more time with smart phones and computers than face to face. The world is becoming smaller, yet the digital information we can access and store, even about ourselves, is vast and growing.  Developments in science and technology are moving fast, challenging our understanding of the self and society. What sense can we make of these changes and what challenges do we face? We need the humanities more than ever to help us address these issues and provide the means to question, interpret and explain the human predicament. Drawing on the success of the 2013 King’s College Festival of the Humanities, Being Human will be the UK’s first national festival of the humanities. Led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy, universities, arts and cultural organisations across the UK, it will demonstrate the value, vitality and relevance of the humanities in 2014.

2. The School of Advanced Study at the University of London is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and facilitation of research in the humanities. The School brings together 10 prestigious research institutes to offer unparalleled academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. The member institutes of the School are the Institutes of Advanced Legal Studies, Classical Studies, Commonwealth Studies, English Studies, Historical Research, Latin American Studies, Modern Languages Research, Musical Research, Philosophy, and the Warburg Institute. The School also hosts a cross-disciplinary centre, the Human Rights Consortium, dedicated to the facilitation, promotion and dissemination of academic and policy work on human rights.

3. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.

4. The British Academy, established by Royal Charter in 1902, is the national body that champions and supports the humanities and social sciences. It aims to inspire, recognise and support excellence and high achievement across the UK and internationally. For more information, please visit