Credit: College of Arts

Humanities festival ‘Being Human’ returns 12-22 November 2020

By Lucy Dunn

College of Arts given extra funding to become festival “hubs” in Derby, Glasgow, Sheffield, and Swansea.

The UK’s only humanities festival is coming to Glasgow this November for its seventh year – and with it comes additional funding for the University’s College of Arts to enhance festival activities.

Completely free, “Being Human” hopes to make ground-breaking humanities research available to all and to properly showcase the myriad of ways in which the humanities can impact our lives.

Ran by the University of London’s School of Advanced Study, with co-ordinated support from both the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy, the festival’s “New Worlds” theme provides a perfect umbrella under which the tumultuous events of 2020, ranging from the ensuing global pandemic to the Black Lives Matter movement, can be explored in great depth. 

In a competitive application process, Glasgow was chosen as one of the festival’s primary hubs, receiving funding to host a series of events spanning 11 days, in partnership with local organisations such as The Maryhill Burgh Halls Trust, Glasgow Women’s Library, and Deafblind Scotland. The festival’s events aim to engage with a wide range of audiences and those in Glasgow are invited to reflect upon the city’s turbulent and exciting history. 

Glasgow is approaching the “New Worlds” theme at the angle of reinvention, where a Hunterian-based event will strip back the city’s history, reassessing it through a decolonised lens. A Scottish citizenship function will examine what it means to be Scottish, particularly through the eyes of “new” Scots. And, as can be expected, a vast number of events will be informed by the global pandemic: the impact of Covid-19 on the humanities will be brought to the fore, with global capitalism and related inequalities being discussed in detail.

The repackaging of the arts in the face of Covid-19 brings the future of “memory” institutions, like museums and art galleries, into question. The organisers at Glasgow’s College of Arts also informed us that they hope to host an event at the Women’s Library, focusing in particular on black women and the part memory plays in their gaining of agency. 

The current climate has created a host of new challenges for the festival and although organisers are keen to present as many in-person events as possible, the likelihood is that most will be virtual.

However, with a wide variety of activities, ranging from panel discussions to social media campaigns, and workshops featuring live discussions and debates, there is plenty to choose from. The online aspect of the festival is not necessarily negative; it simply further increases access and flexibility for participants. 

The seventh year of “Being Human” is facing a unique set of challenges, however, its upcoming programme promises to be topical, gritty and ambitious. Make sure to keep an eye out for the event listings.


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