The Being Human Festival is the UK’s only national festival of the humanities and is dedicated to sharing the riches of humanities research with the general public. It is organised by our colleagues in the School of Advanced Study’s public engagement team and is supported by a huge network of researchers and institutions around the UK and abroad. This year’s festival runs from the 15th to the 24th of November and the programme is packed with hundreds of free events exploring all manner of subjects under the wide theme of ‘Origins and Endings’. Here, we at the Human Rights Consortium have picked out some highlights that may be of interest to you, but make sure you set aside some time to browse the full programme available here, as there is something for everyone.
As we reach the end of this centenary year of (some) women gaining suffrage in the UK, it is fitting that this year’s programme contains many events that shine a light on the historic campaign of the suffragettes and also on the state of women’s rights today. “Staging Suffrage: Queer Feminist Performance”, hosted by the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter, will draw connections between the fight for suffrage and LGBTQ+ history and debate what feminist activism and history mean to us today. These themes will also be explored in London at Senate House, “The Beginning of the End for Inequality” will mark the anniversary of two Parliamentary Acts – the act allowing women over 21 to stand for election as an MP and the repeal of the anti-gay legislation, Section 28. Rather different connections will be made in “Feminists Eat Your Greens!” in Glasgow, which will investigate the hitherto ignored role of vegetarianism in the struggle for the vote. Over in Lincoln, “Winning the Vote: Equal Rights Past and Future”, will allow secondary school students to learn about the history of suffrage and work on ways to find effective representative representation in the 21st century.
In Edinburgh there will be two events exploring our right to privacy, past, present and future. “Theatre and Surveillance in East Germany” looks back to the censorship and surveillance that marked that state and asks what it tells us about privacy and the freedom of expression today. Then “Data, Democracy and the Digital” will join us in the present day and consider the impact of new technologies on the democratic process. A panel of politicians and social scientists will ask – is this the end of politics as we know it?
The theme Origins and Endings rightfully encompasses migration and several events provide insights into the journeys and experiences of refugees and migrants in the modern era and in the past. At Liverpool Hope University, a full day will be dedicated to “Origin Stories: Migration”, focusing on cultural representations of migration through art, literature and music. On the 15th of November in the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral the organisation Refugee Tales will share the stories of refugees, asylum seekers and immigration detainees they have gathered and introduce their work campaigning to end the practice of indefinite detention in the UK. In nearby Folkestone an exhibition entitled “Flight and Refuge – Folkestone Welcomes All” will run for the duration of the festival. It is curated by local sixth form students based on their research into the presence of Belgian refugees in Folkestone during the First World War and draws parallels between then and how we welcome refugees today.
Two exciting events will reflect on racial equality and look at how campaigners and artists challenged injustice in the past and continue to do so today. In Swansea, “The Kings and Civil Rights” explores the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King and their campaigns against discrimination that have been sources of inspiration around the world for decades. Finally, in the Museum of London Docklands a daily tour will run entitled “Poetry against Slavery”, examining how poetry has been used in the resistance against the oppression of African, Caribbean and Black British people.
Along with the rest of the Being Human 2018 programme, all of these events are an excellent showcase of cutting edge research in the humanities. The above have been selected for their emphasis on equality and justice and should be of some interest to Human Rights Consortium blog readers! But make sure to have a look at the full programme and carve out some time in the last two weeks of November to see some of these fascinating events.