What inspired you to act as a 'hub' for Being Human 2019?
Queen Mary University of London have been participating in Being Human for a few years now—including as a festival hub in 2018—and it has allowed our staff and students opportunities to explore research and teaching with the public in a host of creative ways. This year we are collaborating with King's College London to really bring the hub to life. Across our institutions, we have so much fantastic humanities research to showcase that putting together a joint programme seemed the best way to reach out to communities all across London to show what’s happening locally, and enable a variety of audiences to engage with the research. It is also beneficial to bring our research communities together, giving them the opportunity to share knowledge and experience, work together on events, and build relationships. Hopefully this will lead to a whole host of new discoveries for the teams in future.
How does your programme respond to the 'Discoveries & Secrets' theme?
One of the best things about research is that it opens up the doors of exploration and you rarely know what things you will end up discovering along the way. Sometimes these discoveries take the shape of facts and figures, and other times these take the shape of uncovering personal stories. It is the latter thread that we are pulling out in our ‘This Time It’s Personal’ hub, as we welcome everyone to come together and explore the stories, experiences, and perspectives that have shaped the world around us.
Can you take us through a few highlights from your programme? What can people look forward to?
From getting to the heart of language with an interactive treasure trail in ‘Lost and Found Words’ to thinking more about the poetics and power of gates in our interactive workshop ‘Gate: Exploring the Power of Borders’, we have a programme that will allow visitors to get hands-on in exploring the stories of people across the globe both past and present. The entire programme is a treasure trove of discovery for anyone who wants to explore the human experience, and consider it from a personal perspective. Our researchers have come together to create a diverse range of events that will evoke all the senses and weave the most wonderful stories in a number of creative and community spaces across the London boroughs.
‘The Secret Lives of Costume’ will take you backstage at the National Theatre to invite people to think about costume and clothing beyond what it presents to us visually. Elsewhere people can experiment with beat-making with the London-based Moroccan rapper Dizzy DROS at ‘(Beat)Making the North African Cool!’ or come along to an evening of art and storytelling at Barts Pathology Museum to uncover the humanity and artistry at the heart of medicine in ‘Humanising Medicine'.
Looking beyond London, we have also got a couple of events in Norfolk that will be uncovering the history of early human life in Britain in Happisburgh with talks, object handling and identification sessions, knapping demonstrations and—if the British weather holds up—visits to the beach to see key discovery sites. And of course, we can’t talk about our programme without mentioning that we are going to have some clowns landing with us for the ‘Flying Circus Airlines' which explores the complex themes of freedom of movement versus the politics of exclusion.
Can you highlight one particular piece of humanities research from your programme?
Quite a few of the events in our programme draw on ongoing research around migration, particularly looking at the practices of ‘welcome’ and the concept of ‘home’ (‘Listening Lives’, ’Weaving Tales Between East and West’, ‘Discovering Home’ and ‘Gate: Exploring the Power of Borders’). These research projects focus on putting the 'human' into 'humanities' by engaging with migrant voices in a two-way dialogue to share knowledge, build understanding, and develop research that is co-created and shaped by the community that it effects. By having these discussions we can learn more about the individual experience to give us a more nuanced understanding of the impact of a welcome, begin to unravel the notion of home and belonging, and give these seldom heard groups an opportunity to have their voices heard in a space they don’t usually occupy.
What will people in London and Norfolk get out of coming to your events?
We will be bringing the research that is happening on peoples' doorsteps to life in a host of creative and fun ways which gives everyone the opportunity to experience humanities in a way that they might never have before. Our programme really is about understanding ourselves—our origins, our languages, our creativity—and looking beyond that to understanding others who we have never met through the experiences and stories they share with us. We hope that everyone who comes along will have a newfound sense of what makes up the human experience across the world, and be able to take the stories they’ve shared with them.