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. 

'New Perspectives' at Being Human 2021

This year we will be reflecting on, and renewing stories of the human experience during Being Human Festival (11-20 November 2021). We will be exploring shared heritage, places, language and identities as well as taking a look at what makes us all unique. Do you see the world in the same way as those who came before you, or even in the same way as your friends and neighbours today?

Our programme of events are live now on the Being Human Festival website. You can read more about each event below.

In this workshop for 7-13 year-olds and their carers, there will be the opportunity to draw and use collage to create a zine that reimagines the city. How could we make our city a better place to live in? What places do we want to protect and what places do we want to change? There will be historical magazines written by East London children on hand to help you get inspired.

More information and book here

Come and hear the remarkable story of Stepney Words from Chris Searle and his former pupils. In 1971, a young east London English teacher, Chris Searle, was sacked by the governors of Sir John Cass Foundation School (now Stepney All Saints School) for publishing Stepney Words, a collection of his students' poems – raw, honest and direct -- about their neighbourhood and communities. When the poems were reprinted in the national press, Stepney Words became an overnight sensation. Protesting against Searle’s dismissal, over 800 students from all over east London went on strike and marched through the City of London to Trafalgar Square. In an era of national unrest, the children’s strike was widely supported, and provoked new debate about modern education.

At this event, those who were part of Stepney Words will be joined by historians and activists who will reflect on its significance in 1971 and its resonances today. The afternoon will include performances from the veteran poets, today’s up and coming east London poets, and new voices from Stepney All Saints School.

More information and book here

How were letters sent before envelopes existed? What happened to them if they couldn’t be delivered? Why are researchers using x-rays in a dental school to answer some of the questions?

Come along for an introduction to the Brienne collection(Opens in new window), learn about what it is and why it’s important. Watch and fold-along to a simple letter locking example and submit a letter to the team's time capsule archive, to be opened in 20 or many more years time.

Click here for more information and bookings

Emerging from the long months of lockdown we have all encountered the defamiliarization of space. Places that we now experience differently, paths that we once followed daily are now having to be relearnt, renewed in their instinctive familiarity. What can we gain from treading these paths a new, from exploring familiar spaces afresh? Encountering the memories they hold, the awareness of the present and the potential of what could be. We are inviting everyone to explore spaces once more.

This online event will provide you with the tools and inspiration to take your own renewed journey. We will premiere a new film by young writers from Barking and Dagenham as they revisit space and renew their connections with their local area, as well as introducing you to the Renewed Paths Journey Guides to support you in exploring your own paths.

Click here for more information and to bool

Our DNA is a part of us: it stores genetic information and clues about our sex, what we look like, who we’re related to and much more besides. Studies of DNA from ancient people continue to reveal fascinating stories about the history of humankind and where we come from. But what exactly is DNA? And what can it tell us about the human past? What can’t it tell us? Perhaps most importantly, what does it allow to say about ourselves?

This panel event brings together a range of perspectives to discuss these questions, dispel myths about genetic data, and show the relevance of a deep past perspective to present concerns about diversity, ethnicity and migration.

Find our more and book here

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected experiences of home for ethnic minority, migrant and faith communities in Liverpool? This small and friendly event shares local findings from the Stay Home Stories project, with community researchers based in Liverpool giving a series of short talks on their work from the project. These will include interviews, podcasts and short films made with participants from migrant, ethnic minority and faith groups in the city.

Find out more and book here

Join artist Alaa Alsaraji to explore how we tell our stories and communicate our identities through textiles, design, and the practice of making. The event will focus on telling stories in the context of home-making and migration. Taking place in the Reading Room in the 'Our Home, Our Stories' installation at the Museum of the Home, learn how textiles have been used to express identity and cultural pride, and fight oppression. Alsaraji will also share her approach to creating the 'Our Home, Our Stories' installation, which physically weaves people's stories of home into the display.

Find out more information and book on the Being Human website

'Sanctuary Stories' is an afternoon of crafting and storytelling where together the group will discuss what sanctuary means for refugees in the UK. The definition of sanctuary is a refuge or safety from pursuit, persecution, or other danger. What does sanctuary for refugees mean? What does it look like or feel like? How do you know when you're in it? Is it a place or a feeling? Who are the people who make sanctuary or refugees welcome?

Led by Social Fabric, the group will use the theme of sanctuary to make textile artworks together. By making and creating together, the group will find ways to tell the stories that matter and get to the heart of life for refugees in the UK today. 

For more information and bookings, click here

Kiccha (folktales in Bangla) is a screening of short films created as part of the Stories from Home project, which aims to promote heritage language use, as well as reconnect and increase cultural awareness across generations within the London Bangladeshi community. Did your grandparents tell you stories? Did they speak the same language as you? Will you tell these stories to your own children? Are stories important for maintaining your heritage language and culture?

The series of short films were developed from intergenerational storytelling workshops with primary school children and their grandparents in Tower Hamlets, London. The event will include a film screening of the six Stories from Home short films, a live story retelling by a family from the project, and a panel discussion based on key reflections from project participants and event attendees.

Click here for more information and bookings

A museum-wide programme of events to engage audiences with the inherently off-kilter works of Lewis Carroll (author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland). From a hands-on zine making workshop, to talks, performances and a tea party space to enable discussion and reflection about mental health and well-being, the day will harness the continued contemporary relevance of Carroll’s work.

For more information visit the Being Human Festival website

Our senses form our window into the world. Join pianist and composer Dr Xenia Pestova Bennett, psychoacoustician Dr Charalampos Saitis, and digital luthier-researcher Prof Andrew McPherson to learn about how associations between the senses support uniquely human forms of communication like colour and music.

Click here for more information and to book