Being Human festival - University of London hub

The UK’s first and only festival of the humanities, Being Human, is back for a triumphant third year!

Between 17-25 November activities in 45 towns and cities across the UK will be bringing humanities research to life with over 250 free events. The 2016 prorgamme is themed around ‘Hope and Fear’ and features everything from Martian autopsies in Dundee to ‘phantasmagorias’ in Exeter.

Led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the British Academy – this year Being Human features activities organised by over 70 universities and Independent Research Organisations across the country. This includes seven ‘festival hubs’ in Dundee, Exeter, Swansea, Liverpool, Leeds, Nottingham and London.

University of London Hub – ‘Ministry of Hope and Fear’


Senate House is Being Human HQ and the London festival hub. Playing on Senate House’s history as home to the WWII Ministry of Information, but also on Holden’s vision of the building as a unifying beacon of knowledge in a global city, we are planning to transform it into a ‘Ministry of Hope and Fear’.

Funded by an award from the University of London’s Convocation Trust, we have brought together a packed programme of activities that includes contributions from the School of Advanced Study, UCL, SOAS, Goldsmiths, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Senate House Library and the University of London Institute in Paris.



Programme highlights

There will be a huge amount of activity around Senate House and local area during the festival.

Our festival launch on November 17 features pop-up performances from the national programme, a live ‘Hope and Fear’ a Theremin performance from ‘Miss Hypnotique’, mermaids, and Hope and Fear themed food and drink.

We will be offering daily tours of the building, based partly on research into the Ministry of Information being undertaken in SAS. We will be hosting Sound and Fury: an installation will use vintage wireless machinery to bring to life WWII recordings from the British Library’s Sound Archive.



Over at the Warburg Institute, you can experience Humanity and humanities: crisis, rescue and renewal, an exhibition that explores the stories of academic migrants involved in the founding of this unique institution; whilst back in Senate House you can contribute to a living sound archive of the building using artist Hannah Thompson’s Memory Hole Machine

On Friday 18 November there will be a ‘Night at the Library’ treasure hunt through the stacks of the Art Deco Institute of Historical Research Library, whilst on Saturday 19 there will be a Street Art Workshop that will bring young people into London’s educational hub to create a mural with London-based street artist James Titchnert, and a chance to relive a First World War era Shakespeare Hut with SAS’s own Dr Naomi Paxton.



During the second week of the festival you can go to Archive to Blockbuster – which will see four BME historian pitch ideas for films, based on their research, to film industry experts and a public audience. You can also go to Conceiving Histories, to explore the history pregnancy with artist Anna Burel and Birkbeck literary historian Isabel Davies.  

On Thursday 24 we recommend that you indulge in some ‘Gastrophysics’ – a night of food, philosophy and physics courtesy of the Institute of Philosophy and the Institute of Physics.



These are just a few of the amazing array of activities on offer. The full programme is available here.

Get involved!

It’s not too late to get involved in making the University of London hub happen. We are looking for volunteers for a number of different roles - to welcome visitors and audiences during the Festival, to help manage the smooth running of events and to be the face of Being Human. The Festival runs from the 17th-25th November (except Sunday 20th and Tuesday 22nd) and we need volunteers during the day time and early evening on all days. Please contact the Hub Convenor Naomi Paxton (naomi.paxton@sas.ac.uk) to register your interest and for more details.