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01 April 2020

Being Human Festival: Reaching new publics in creative, interactive ways

An evaluation of findings from last year's Being Human festival.

Being Human Festival 2019 - (Beat)Making in the North African Cool! – Led by Dr Cristina Moreno Almeida and well-known Moroccan rapper and producer Dizzy Dros
Being Human Festival 2019 - (Beat)Making in the North African Cool! – Led by Dr Cristina Moreno Almeida and well-known Moroccan rapper and producer Dizzy Dros.

Last year, the Arts & Humanities Research Institute (AHRI) led on a successful bid to the Being Human Festival to host, jointly with Queen Mary University of London, the London hub of the Festival. The hub theme – This Time it’s Personal – brought humanities research to life via five creative engagement activities (detailed here) that were held chiefly in community venues across the city.

Using data collected from attendee evaluation forms we can demonstrate two core findings.

The theme this year has been ‘This time it’s personal’ and what’s brilliant about that theme is that it’s enabled us to really think about local stories and international stories in all sorts of different ways

Professor Anna Reading, Director of the Arts & Humanities Research Institute

We reached new publics, many of whom had never engaged with university research before

Most AHRI-supported activities took place in community venues such as church halls, dance studios and community centres and through tapping into local networks and targeted marketing, we were able to engage more diverse publics. 59% of respondents were from black and minority ethnic communities and 57% fell into the younger demographic range of 20 to 44-year olds. Crucially for us, we were not ‘preaching to the converted’; 44% of respondents had never attended activities about university research before. This in part was testament to the fact that the activities drew on engaging content that spoke to people’s lived experiences, helping them to make sense of their place in the world.


Attendees valued the interactive nature of our activities

We took great care to curate activities that enabled interactivity, from beat-making to dance to weaving. These activities enabled people to engage more with subject matter and to recognise the relevance of research to their day-to-day lives; 92% of attendees felt that they were able to share their views and lived experiences about the topic in hand. Interactivity also meant that 90% of people felt encouraged to learn more about the subjects presented and 97% of events were rated either good or excellent.

It was fascinating to see how participants really engaged and accessed emotions and experiences that they perhaps wouldn’t have done if they were just in a lecture setting

Dr Ed Stevens, Manager of the Arts & Humanities Research Institute

Being Human Festival video

Benefits arising from the Festival reached beyond attendees to researchers themselves. The following video features some of the researchers involved who share why they took part and the benefits that involvement brought to them and their research.

Being Human was a great opportunity. It’s given me a lot of scope to think about my work with different audiences and think about it from new perspectives

Dr Rachel Scott, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Spanish, Portuguese & Latin American Studies

Take part in the 2020 Festival

Each year, Being Human involves more than 250 events across the country, reaching in excess of 20,000 people. The call for this year’s Festival is now open with the theme of ‘New Worlds’. The deadline for applications is 29th May 2020. If you would like support to develop an idea for the Festival or someone to review your draft application, email

(Aug 2022 - The Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies is now the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures).