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Rhyme or Reason

Learn more about the 2023 festival theme and get some inspiration on how to shape your activities if you're thinking of applying to take part in this year's festival.

Rhyme or Reason

In a world of uncertainties, with constantly shifting realities and perspectives, how do we find inspiration, explanation, and meaning? How do we revolutionise our understandings, our social and political systems, or learn from our mistakes? Sometimes our ideas may come from 'rhyme' (intuition, inspiration, the poetic or artistic). Sometimes they may come from 'reason' (evidence, empiricism, the logical or calculated). Sometimes the most visionary work comes from rhyme and reason working together, in synergy; sometimes it may seem as if there is neither rhyme nor reason, and yet meaning is still created.

We invite researchers to think about rhyme or reason, or rhyme and reason, in relation to their research, and to key anniversaries in 2023.

See below for some suggested methods and formats, and for a suggested list of anniversaries and historical events to consider.

Rhyme or Reason

Anniversaries and historical events

There are many ways to explore the rhyme and reason behind humanity, and through the humanities.

We could look to the art, literature, music and ideas of The Enlightenment, or The Age of Reason — from evolving principles of equality, democracy and social justice, and movements in realism and neoclassicism. We could look further back in history and culture, to logic and thought in ancient Greece, philosophy in ancient India and mathematics in ancient Egypt. How has our understanding of reason and logic changed over history? How have we used rhyme or rhetoric to express or document our experience and tell our stories? We could look beyond reason and expression, to the sublime, the abstract or the unknown.

In today’s world, what rhythms and patterns can we find in the natural world around us? Can reason or purpose be a unifying force, bringing people and communities together?

Some historical anniversaries in 2023 include:

  • 20th – invasion of Iraq by US and Britain
  • 20th  – death of Nina Simone (21 April)
  • 25th – founding of Google (4 April)
  • 25th – Good Friday Agreement (10 April)
  • 50th  – Open University issue their first degrees (11 January)
  • 50th  – Roe vs Wade made abortion a US constitutional right 
  • 50th – signing of Paris Peace Accords
  • 50th  – Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon released (1 March)
  • 50th – first handheld mobile call (3 April) 
  • 50th – death of Pablo Picasso (8 April)
  • 50th – death of J. R. R. Tolkien (2 September)
  • 60th – assassination of John F. Kennedy (22 November)
  • 60th  – Bristol Bus Boycott (30 April - 27 August)
  • 75th – World Health Organisation (7 April)
  • 75th – NHS (5 July)
  • 75th – Windrush arriving in Britain (22 June)
  • 80th – death of scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla (7 January)
  • 100th – end of the Ottoman Empire and the founding of Turkey (29 October)
  • 100th – founding of Warner Bros (4 April)
  • 100th – Radio Times first published (28 September)
  • 100th – founding of Disney (16 October)
  • 250th – Boston Tea Party (16 December)
  • 550th – birthday of mathmetician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (19 February)

Methods and formats

This year's theme could also be brought to life more literally through activities celebrating rhyme — from poetry slams to rap battles — or finding reason in scavenger hunts, escape rooms, puzzle games and whodunnit mysteries.

Some other examples of suitable formats, which can work in person, online, or in hybrid formats, include (but are by no means limited to):

  • performances (theatre, music, comedy, storytelling);
  • food and drink (cookery lessons, cook-alongs, themed meals, tastings);
  • screenings and ‘watch together’ (film screenings with introductions, listening parties, DJ sessions);
  • walks and tours (walks, audio walks, treasure hunts, behind the scenes tours);
  • ‘have a go’ events (learn a skill, try an instrument, make something);
  • museum lates or museum takeovers;
  • activities coordinated by post or other ways of connecting with people at home and,
  • Interactive exhibitions and installations (outdoor art, public art, crowd-sourced activity).

For more guidance on finding the right format, please see our dedicated toolkit.