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Public Engagement

Being Human Festival

Being Human Festival is the UK's national festival of the humanities led by the School of Advance Study at the University of London, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy.

The Festival brings together universities, museums, galleries, creative organisations, and community groups to run over 300 public engagement activities which showcase humanities research in ways that are accessible to the public.

Being Human at Queen Mary

Since 2015, the Centre for Public Engagement have been supporting Queen Mary researchers to run activities as part of Being Human Festival. The Festival offers our researchers the opportunity to:

  • Develop an exciting public engagement activity/event that can have positive impacts on their work
  • Get involved with a nation-wide showcase of humanities research
  • Develop public engagement skills with tailored support from the CPE 

You can get a taste of some of our previous Being Human Festival programmes by watching our video from the 2019 'This Time It's Personal' Festival Hub above that we ran in collaboration with Kings' College London. 

'Breakthroughs' at Being Human 2022

During Being Human Festival 2022 (10-19 November) Queen Mary researchers reflected on the theme of 'breakthroughs'. Whether breaking through stigma or breaking down boundaries, breaking into poetry and publishing, or exploring breakthrough movements, the festival showcased how the humanities enable us to interpret the past, understand the present and imagine the future.

You can read more about each event below.

Open your ears and embrace artistic ways to explore and learn the complex stories of people in care. Using verbatim, storytelling, beatboxing and dance, care-experienced young people will share uplifting and challenging reflections on the care system. This performance explores the positive potential of foster care and its histories through creative practices, and hopes to change the stigma and negativity attached to being in care.  

Friday 11th November, 6pm.

Find out more and register.

Three events celebrating the arts, activism, and publishing in Tower Hamlets. Reflecting on the local histories of community-led politics and multilingual literary cultures, and exploring what’s going on in the area today, Publishing is Power! offers opportunities for people to meet, share experiences, write creatively, and get involved in DIY publishing. Each part is open to everyone aged 18+ interested in the local area and in breaking into poetry and publishing and can also be attended as a standalone activity.

Gathering brings people together in the Brick Lane Bookshop to share memories and experiences of living, campaigning, and creating in the local area. In this convivial space, rich in history, we will facilitate an open discussion among longstanding community members involved in social and political campaigns and publishing projects, and newer inhabitants, whether temporary or more settled, across cultures and generations.  

  • Wednesday 16th November, 6:30pm-9:30pm.

Listening consists of a participatory workshop in which attendees walk from Whitechapel to Bow, listening to and recording the environment, and writing poetry at The Nunnery Café. It offers participants an empowering means of self and collective expression that connects art/poetry with everyday life and the local area.  

  • Sunday 4th December, 11am-4pm.

Dispersal consists of a workshop in which attendees bring their poetry to illustrate, format, and print. We’ll make posters and zines and reflect on the social power of dispersal, emphasising that publishing is power for all.          

  • Sunday 11th December, 2pm-5pm.

Inspired by East London's Project Phakama's visit to the Petit Dejeuner 'breakfast' event in Paris, young people from Phakama lead on a new community event lunch which will focus on welcoming new and existing East London communities to come together and share in food donated by local eateries and restaurants.

This lunch is a family-friendly event for local families, refugees and migrants, community groups and young people. The event will be hosted by Phakama's young people, with collaborations alongside young people from Paris Radio station Radio Raptz and dance organisation La Permanence Choregraphique. Come and take part in this Community Lunch with improvised dance creations, music performances and a strong sense of celebrating togetherness.

Friday 18th November, 12-noon-4pm.

Find out more.

Since the nineteenth century, groups associated with Conway Hall have held secular ceremonies to mark births, deaths, and marriages. Join researcher Clare Stainthorp and the Library and Archives team at Conway Hall to discover how people have celebrated life events outside of religious traditions, in Victorian times and today.

Drawing upon nineteenth-century anthologies of secular songs and poems, we’ll read some of the poems used to bring secular communities together and talk about their role within the Victorian radical freethought movement. We invite you to bring along any texts that you have included in a ceremony or celebration - or would like to! Together we’ll think about the themes and ideas the texts share and the emotions they evoke. This is an opportunity to visit the beautiful Conway Hall Library, where there will be a pop-up display featuring rarely-seen volumes from the archives that explore secular celebration and its intertwined history with Conway Hall Ethical Society.

Saturday 19th November, 12-noon-5.30pm

Find out more and register for the event.

Everyone is welcome to a rehearsed reading with musical interludes of gems from London’s East-End Yiddish theatre of the turn of the twentieth century. You’ll get the sense of the history and atmosphere of London’s vibrant Jewish immigrant theatre in English and Yiddish, and cry, laugh and heckle! Newly discovered secrets include one-act plays, sketches and songs, translated and directed by Vivi Lachs. Expect Yiddish versions of Shakespeare soliloquies by actor David Schneider, and all-join-in songs from the band Katsha’nes. Both entertaining and thought-provoking, this performance shares the secrets of a vibrant East End immigrant culture. The evening will be enhanced with visual material, drawing from the archive of Yiddish theatre posters at the Jewish Museum’s archive. No Yiddish knowledge necessary. 

Thursday 17th November, 7.30pm-10:00pm.

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This online café is open to everyone age 18+ and will explore the issue of appearance discrimination and asks what you – a parliament for the people, by the people – would do about it if you could. During the session, you will be given the chance individually to complete an online Implicit Attitudes Test to measure appearance bias but you will not be asked to share your results. We will then hold a series of votes on whether, and how, different types of appearance discrimination should be addressed. No knowledge of the law is needed – just a willingness to take part.

Thursday 10th November, 5pm-6pm.

Find out more and register.

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