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2024 Being Human Festival Programme Preview

From Parisian vaudeville entertainment, to Punch and Judy with a twist, discover some of what's coming up this November as part of the 10th annual Being Human Festival.

The UK’s national festival of the humanities returns to locations across the UK from 7 to 16 November, with hundreds of free events set to take place. 2024 marks the 10th anniversary of Being Human Festival which was founded in 2014 with the aim to open up and celebrate the importance of humanities research.

This year, through a competitive application process, 32 funding grants have been awarded to researchers at universities across the UK, to enable free public engagement activities to take place as part of the festival.

Discover a taste of what’s coming up during Being Human Festival 2024 below.

2024 Festival Hubs

Being Human Festival Hubs present regional programmes of festival events connecting research to the histories, cultures and communities of their local areas. Hubs are designed to celebrate a range of humanities research from different disciplines, with organisers collaborating with a wide variety of community and cultural partners to produce their events. Leading this year’s festival Hubs are:

Bath Spa University

Bath Spa University’s Hub programme aims to celebrate anniversaries, knowledge and imagination, with audiences being invited to take part in a city-wide readathon, munch their way to net zero, dance the pluriverse, haunt the heritage archives and more, all whilst finding out new things about themselves, their neighbours, and the landscapes and landmarks of Bath and the local area. 

Cardiff University

Building upon their 2023 Being Human Festival Hub programme, Cardiff University will host a programme of events celebrating Welsh identity and exploring relationships to Welsh Landmarks – from local landscapes to heritage objects. Events will include a workshop using AI to unlock new knowledge about rare and historic books, tours exploring overlooked histories of Cardiff, interactive family days at Caerau Hillfort, and much more.

Teesside University

Teesside University’s Hub events are set to explore landmarks and heritage in the Tees Valley and North Yorkshire region, asking key questions about the role of landmarks, contested landmarks and the link between historical landmarks and the lives of people living in the region today. From the role of the River Tees in the region, to challenging the lack of diverse representation in public statues, events will include interactive workshops, tours and exhibitions.

University of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham’s Hub will engage the people of Birmingham with the texts, places and people that represent ‘landmarks’ for the diverse communities of the city. The programme will combine workshops, walking tours, film screenings, theatre, food, performance, and storytelling to inspire creative responses to and better understanding of landmarks including: the Birmingham Qur’an and the the Qibla Indicator, the works of Shakespeare, personal histories of revolution and migration from Europe’s East, Stuart Hall’s legacy in Birmingham and the poetry of Benjamin Zephaniah.

University of Derby

Derby’s programme builds on the legacies and work of their 2020 Festival Hub, including their key partnership with Derby Museums, this time exploring Derby as a centre of engineering in the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Taking the centenary of the city’s display of its trade, history and culture at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924 as a starting point, events will explore the making of modern Derby through inclusive performances, pottery, and participatory art.

A celebration of humanities research

As ever, in addition to our Hub programmes, this year’s festival will present a wide array of creative activities taking place at locations across the UK and celebrating a fantastic range of humanities research. Here are a few more highlights of activities coming up this November, all supported by Festival Event grant funding.

Starting in Scotland, audiences curious about the gut will be invited to join researchers from the University of Edinburgh for an event combining meditation, performance, conversation and food, to explore the relationship between microbiomes and the human body. 

Off the coast of the Wirral, researchers from Liverpool John Moores University will be leading a creative expedition to Hilbre Island, a landmark in the River Dee estuary and the “Galapagos” of the North West. The day will include storytelling, drawing, poetry and performance to explore how the land, sea and humans interconnect.

A celebration of Parisian vaudeville entertainment in Newcastle will be led by researchers from Newcastle University, complete with dancing, costumes, performance and singing!

'Black Flâneurs’, led by Leeds Beckett University, will explore overlooked sites in Leeds with connections to Black history, literature and culture. A multimodal tour will encompass oral history, performance and live poetry, and culminate in a shared meal.

In the Peak District National Park, researchers from The University of Sheffield are teaming up with artists to draw on the National Park’s extraordinary photo archive and create a pop-up exhibition, installation and hands-on creative workshops.

Creative workshops led by Bishop Grosseteste University will invite Ukrainian refugees to explore landmarks in Ukraine and Lincoln, informed by research looking at links between wellbeing and engagement with heritage.

In the East of England, the history of the Essex accent and dialect is set to be celebrated by researchers from the University of Essex, through a spoken word poetry school workshop, leading to an exhibition and sound installation in Southend-on-Sea.

In London, Goldsmiths, University of London will be drawing on 10 years of Being Human Festival engagement, to present a special museum late in partnership with the Horniman Museum in South London, exploring themes of the Anthropocene, deep time, climate crisis, and indigenous ways of knowing.

Researchers from Canterbury Christ Church University will be bringing the beach to Canterbury at their event for a local dementia support group, exploring memories and histories of beach holidays and British seaside culture.

In Bristol, researchers at UWE are collaborating with SME Satsymph and M Shed Museum for a series of soundwalks at landmark sites of contested histories, including the Reform riots of 1831, and the site of the toppled Edward Colston statue.

Also in the South West, researchers from the University of Exeter will be presenting a contemporary Punch and Judy show with a twist, as they investigate how gender roles are portrayed through the puppetry tradition. Finally, in Redruth, festival events will explore historic Black life in Cornwall and the trade in enslaved peoples, in a partnership between the University of Exeter, Kresen Kernow and Black Voices Cornwall.

This is just a snapshot of events taking place as part of the 10th annual Being Human Festival, with much more still to be announced. The full festival programme will be revealed in early October – sign up to our mailing list to stay in the loop with all the latest news. 

Get involved!

Want to be part of it? There’s still time to hold an event as part of this year’s festival! We’ve extended our unfunded event application deadline to 5pm, Thursday 18th July. Find out more and how to apply.