University of Sheffield returns to Being Human Festival to champion the humanities

  • The University of Sheffield has been announced as one of four ‘hubs’ to host a series of free events for the 2020 Being Human Festival
  • The UK’s only national festival for the humanities celebrates how researchers tackle the issues that shape the world we live in
  • The University will host ‘The People’s Palace of Possibility’ by Sheffield-based theatre and interactive arts company The Bare Project to ask our community ‘What kind of world is possible?’
  • This year’s theme, ‘New Worlds’, will reflect on the extraordinary year of 2020, exploring global issues such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement

Being Human Festival 2020: New Worlds 12-22 November

The University of Sheffield has been announced as a hub to host the Being Human Festival 2020.

The annual event is the UK’s only nationwide festival for the humanities and will see the University partner with Sheffield’s Site Gallery and theatre and interactive arts company The Bare Project, to present a programme of events that will invite festival goers to look at the everyday with fresh eyes.

Free and open to the public between 12-22 November 2020, the festival will celebrate the cutting-edge humanities research at the University through the theme of ‘New Worlds’, exploring that in times of crisis, do we really need the humanities?

Perfectly timed to reflect on the radical global changes of 2020; from the Covid-19 pandemic to the Black Lives Matter movement, and the most important US election in decades, the Being Human Festival is on a mission to demonstrate the many ways in which researchers in the humanities work every day on the issues that shape the world that we live in.

Headlining Sheffield’s festival programme will be The Bare Project's interactive ‘The People’s Palace of Possibility’ where we will be asking ‘What kind of world is possible?’ and inviting festivalgoers to look at the everyday world through the lens of a diverse range of innovative humanities research.

In the ongoing uncertainties of the pandemic, this year’s festival will also act as a testing ground for new cultural formats, comprising a range of online and digital events where you can take city walks guided by a robotic voice, translate an ecopoem, receive a strange letter in the post or commit a tiny act of utopian vandalism in a series of events designed to inspire, evoke and make strange.

The University of Sheffield was one of four university hubs chosen from 27 for the seventh year of the festival - led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the British Academy - and will host creative and inclusive events and activities that demonstrate how our research is accessible for everyone and relevant to the most pressing contemporary issues in society and culture.

Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Director of City and Cultural Engagement at the University of Sheffield, said:  “We are delighted to have been awarded hub status for this year’s Being Human Festival.

“The humanities are based on subjects that are close to the hearts of many people as they explore issues that are connected to the things we are most interested in and are at the core of how we live our lives.

“The festival not only gives us a fantastic opportunity to showcase some of the latest research from our Faculty of Arts and Humanities, but it continues to help us foster the partnership with the city, and support Sheffield’s thriving arts and cultural scene and research in this area to be acknowledged at a national level.”

Professor Sir David Cannadine, president of the British Academy, said: “Being Human is an occasion for everyone to connect with research in the humanities in a series of live and virtual events. Whether it is archaeology or art history, philosophy or psychology, classics or cultural studies, these subjects enrich all of our lives and help us to think about what it means to be human.

“This year's theme, New Worlds, is particularly apt as we grapple with the profound implications of the global pandemic on how we live our daily lives. As well as providing a space to think about the big issues shaping our times, the festival will also provide a welcome opportunity to uncover new research and fresh perspectives on timeless matters of culture and the human experience.”

For more information on the Being Human Festival 2020, visit:

Additional information

  • Find out more about the festival at and on social media, Twitter at @BeingHumanFest and Instagram @BeingHumanFest
  • Being Human: the UK’s only national festival of the humanities, 12-22 November 2020. Led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy, Being Human is a national forum for public engagement with humanities research. The festival highlights the ways in which the humanities can inspire and enrich our everyday lives.

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.


For more information, please contact:

Rebecca Ferguson
Media Relations Officer
0114 222 9859