Being Human launches exciting new programme

  • Being Human, the UK’s annual festival of humanities, will host over 220 events
  • Events include interactive and virtual tours, quizzes, exhibitions and storytelling, socially distanced face-to-face activities and virtual cafés
  • The University of Sheffield was one of four university hubs chosen from 27 for the seventh year of the festival

Being Human: New Worlds

The 2020 programme for Being Human, the annual humanities festival, launches today with 220 events exploring this year’s ‘New Worlds’ theme from 12 to 22 November.

Already well-established as the UK’s only annual celebration of humanities research, the programme boasts a diverse range of events delivered by academic researchers in collaboration with community and cultural partners such as museums, artists, charities, and many others.

Now in its seventh year, this multi-city festival, run in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy, appeals to a huge public audience: in 2019, 30,000 people attended events.

The University of Sheffield was one of four university hubs chosen from 27 for the seventh year of the festival, which will act as a testing ground for new cultural formats; comprising a range of online events including interactive and virtual tours, quizzes, exhibitions and storytelling, as well as socially distanced face-to-face activities and, for the first time, virtual cafés.

A cross-festival community initiative, Being Human cafés invite people to put the kettle on, break out the biscuits and engage with some new ideas in the humanities in the time that it takes for a cuppa. They include the Forty Winks Café reflecting on contemporary culture, sleep and health with researchers from Northumbria University, and a ‘Boston’ tea party café exploring Black Country dialect with the University of Wolverhampton.

Professor Sarah Churchwell from the University of London is the festival’s director, said: “The commitment, ingenuity and sheer persistence of our community has ensured the continuation of a vibrant and fascinating Being Human at a time when, sadly, so many other events have disappeared.

“Our new Being Human Cafés – hosted by more than 30 of our participants – exemplify not only our collective determination to adapt to changing circumstances, but also the continued importance of cultural and humanistic connections, especially in this challenging moment. They demonstrate our shared commitment to understanding and expressing what it means to be human together.”

The dynamic political and cultural relevance of Being Human 2020 will be demonstrated at its launch event by festival patron and prominent broadcaster and historian David Olusoga, who has exemplified the power of research in his own work like A House Through Time and Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners. David will give a thought-provoking talk and Q&A on decolonisation and ‘new worlds’.

Headlining the festival at the University of Sheffield will be ‘The Peoples’ Palace of Possibility’ (12–22 November). This interactive project is led by Sheffield-based theatre and interactive arts company The Bare Project. Participants will receive a series of letters and packages in the post over ten days, which will unfurl the mysteries of ‘The People's Palace of Possibility’ and invite them to share visions for the future and commit tiny acts of resistance.

The full Being Human 2020 festival programme is available at

Additional information

The University of Sheffield

With almost 29,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2018 and for the last eight years has been ranked in the top five UK universities for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education.

​​Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.


Rebecca Ferguson
Media Relations Officer
0114 222 3076