The national humanities festival - Being Human (12-22 November)


The University of Leeds is organising a series of free public events with cultural partners across Yorkshire as part of Being Human 2015, the UK’s only national festival of the humanities.

How Culture Matters: A Four-Fold Exploration takes place in Leeds and Bradford during the Being Human festival week, 12-22 November.

It is part of a national programme of big ideas, debates and engaging activities for all ages. It aims to bring researchers and communities together to engage with the humanities.

Researchers from Leeds’ Humanities Research Institute (LHRI) are coordinating events that champion the excellence of humanities research undertaken in West Yorkshire and help demonstrate its vitality and relevance.

The humanities, broadly defined, are the academic disciplines that study human cultures and societies.

The four themes that will showcase groundbreaking humanities research at the University as part of How Culture Matters are:

• On Thursday 12 November (5.30-8.30pm) Rewriting Bradford: City, Culture and Changing Representations explores characterisations of the city’s diversity across various genres of writing and culture since the 1960s. In association with Culture Squared, the organisation that curates Bradford Literature Festival, Dr Seán McLoughlin from Leeds’ School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science, will lead a TED-inspired event including speakers on literature, ethnography, oral history and photography, policy and press reporting. The event builds upon a recent, AHRC-funded project volume, Writing the City in British Asian Diasporas, and takes place at Bradford College’s Dye House Gallery. Booking required, see here

• With a focus on archival cultures within families and partnering with Leeds Central Library, Leeds Museums & Galleries and The National Archives, We are what we keep, led by historian Dr Laura King, will combine a pop-up exhibition about the AHRC-funded Family Archive project with hands-on activities for all ages at Leeds' Merrion Centre on Saturday 14 November (10-4pm). Go and tell the team what is in your ‘family archive’, and take away materials to help you curate your own family history. A workshop will also be held at Leeds Museums Discovery Centre on Tuesday 17 November (12-2pm; booking required, see here) and a talk at Leeds Central Library on Friday 20 November (1-2pm)

• The complex relations between artistic culture and violence will be the subject of Performing Violence, an event on Tuesday 17 November (6-7.30pm) at The Tetley led by Professor Max Silverman (School of Languages, Cultures and Societies) and Dr Matt Boswell (School of English), collaborating with Opera North and featuring a video shorts showcase (film submissions from the public are invited by 10 November). Booking required, see here

• An innovative evening on Thursday 19 November (6pm) in partnership with the Thackray Medical Museum and Professor Jane Taylor (School of English) will feature puppets to explore a key moment in the history of neurology. She will provide a semi-staged lecture about her play Newes from the Dead, about the true story of a young woman hanged for infanticide in 17th century England and then handed over to anatomists for dissection. But the young woman revived on the anatomy table and became a test case in the history of women’s rights, medical history and conceptions of the human. Booking required, see here

All of the events are free, but booking is essential for all but the drop-in session at the Merrion Centre and Leeds Central Library talk.

Professor Gregory Radick, LHRI Director, said: “Each of the events will celebrate humanities research at Leeds by inviting members of the public into the research process itself, in a way that communicates the excitement of the research while also stimulating debate and discussion. 

“For example, at the We are what we keep drop-in session, people can contribute photos, drawings, or descriptions of items they feel are key to their family’s identity to a communal family archive.

“The 2015 festival programme promises to be exciting, entertaining and thought-provoking, with something for everyone in our diverse communities.”

Further information

Image courtesy of Anthony Strack

For media enquiries, please contact University of Leeds press officer Gareth Dant on 0113 343 3996 or To find out more about the Leeds events, contact Mike Bellhouse on 0113 343 2430 or

Being Human: a festival of the humanities 12-22 November 2015

Led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, in partnership with the Arts & Humanities Research Council and the British Academy, Being Human is a national forum for public engagement with humanities research. The festival will highlight the ways in which the humanities can inspire and enrich our everyday lives, help us to understand ourselves, our relationships with others, and the challenges we face in a changing world, and foster world-class knowledge that is vibrant, vital, and accessible to all.

Visit or follow the festival on Twitter @BeingHumanFest