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Being Human ‘lost and found’

By Dr Michael Eades, Being Human festival curator

The 2017 programme is live! Here is a whistle stop tour of what makes the Being Human festival unique. From local to global, from small activities to major hubs, find out what we’ve got planned for this year’s festival between 17-25 November 2017 on the theme of ‘lost and found’.

The Being Human 2017 programme is live! After a lot of hard work from the hundreds of people involved right across the UK (and beyond), and from the team here at Being Human HQ, this year we are thrilled to launch a programme of over 300 events and activities in over 50 towns and cities. I genuinely think is our best programme yet.

Our theme this year is 'lost and found'. We chose this for various reasons, but mainly because we felt it captured something of the sense of discovery and excitement inherent in the work that happens in the humanities: the thrill of uncovering buried treasure, a lost voice recovered from an archive, a text or a story illuminated in a new way, the chance discovery that sparks a renaissance.

How it works

Every year we distribute a number of small grants, supported by our festival partners at the AHRC and the British Academy, to help fund Being Human festival activities across the UK. These grants support many of the activities in this programme – helping to ensure that the vast majority of our events are free, and supporting collaborations between researchers, performers, art collectives, theatres, libraries and museums across the UK.

We are also amazed every year by the activities that people make happen without direct financial support from the festival – running amazing talks, tours, workshops and performances opening up the world of humanities research to diverse audiences.

Expanding the conversation

One thing we were clear on this year was that we wanted to redouble our efforts to reach beyond our usual audiences. In a year dominated by talk of Brexit and borders, we wanted to show both how research in the humanities is making a difference on a local level in towns and cities across the UK, whilst, at the same time, shaping debates on a global scale.

It’s fantastic that we once again have activities this year at places like the British Museum, the V&A and Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum. We are no less excited though to be working with smaller organisations across the country – places like Sherborne Museum, the Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery or the National Leather Collection in Northampton.

These museums, galleries and community spaces - and many others like them – are just as essential to the programme as the 67 universities organising activities this year. They are incredibly rich repositories of hidden treasures, stories, memories and histories waiting to be unlocked.

Global and local

In our 'lost and found' programme, we also highlight the necessarily global nature of the humanities and humanities research.

The programme reflects this ambition not just in our series of international activities in Melbourne, Rome, Paris and Singapore. It runs also through activities happening in the UK. In Newcastle, for example, 'Paths Across Waters' explores the historic links between the North East and the Caribbean. In Brighton, on the other hand, 'They Taught Me Laughing to Keep Me from Crying', delves into the archives of the University of Sussex to explore the Harlem Renaissance, Black American history, and Black identity in Britain today.

Festival hubs

Some of the most concentrated clusters of Being Human activity can be found at our five festival hubs in Dundee, Glasgow, Belfast, Nottingham and Swansea. These hubs – including our first ever in Northern Ireland – are held together by research institutions organising programmes of up to ten events. Hubs have particularly strong links to their civic contexts, particularly wide interdisciplinary connections across their institutions, and particularly ambitious events within their programmes.

Hubs create particularly bright clusters on the Being Human festival map. This year highlights include a museum late in Glasgow, a Jonathan Swift inspired pantomime in Dundee, an evening dedicated to the history of Welsh football in Swansea, a multisensory exploration of hearing loss in Belfast or a series of pop-up activities in a reclaimed phone booth in Nottingham.

Wherever you are in the UK though there are Being Human treasures to be found. This programme of over 300 events is a voyage of discovery in its own right. Set off, embark, explore, enjoy!