University to host national hub for Being Human Festival

5 November 2020

Derbyshire residents can discover how local history, geography and literature connects the city and county to the rest of the world, in a series of free online events hosted by the University of Derby from 12 to 22 November.

The University has been selected as one of four hubs nationwide to host events for Being Human, the annual, multi-city humanities festival led by the University of London in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy.

Virtual visitors to the events can explore how the smoky and suffocating lime industry polluted the landscape and yet inspired romantic poetry, make their own scrapbook with simple everyday materials, or discover how objects in the collections of Derby Museums, Derby Local Studies and Family History Library and Derbyshire Record Office can be the start of larger stories about our past, present and future. 

Derby has seven online events and 10 podcasts organised, with online talks, workshops and Instagram live takeovers planned, to ensure everyone can enjoy the festival safely from their own homes during lockdown restrictions this month.

There are also more than 200 national events taking place online from organisations across the UK.

Dr Ruth Larsen, Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Derby, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been selected as one of the Being Human Hubs from higher education institutions across the country for this year’s festival.

“The global pandemic has made us more aware of the wider world than ever. We are witnessing how ideas can disperse across the world and shape our own history, and we are looking forward to exploring this concept more through our Covid-safe range of online events.”

Councillor Robin Wood, Derby City Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Tourism, added: “Deep within Derby’s archives lie fascinating artefacts from the past, and joining the digital events for the Being Human festival will be a rewarding journey of discovery. It is a great opportunity to learn about some of the collections in Derby Local Studies and Family History Library, whether that’s Hermann Moll’s eighteenth century maps or the British Antarctic Expedition Scrapbook from 1910, and I hope the festival will inspire people to take a closer look at our history.”

Launched seven years ago, the Being Human Festival aims to demonstrate the value of humanities research to society, create opportunities for researchers and engage the public with humanities across the higher education sector.

Each year the festival explores a different theme, and this year is ‘New Worlds’ – perfectly timed to reflect on the radical global changes of 2020, from the Covid-19 pandemic to the Black Lives Matter protests and the most important US election in decades.

Professor Sarah Churchwell, 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.”

For more information about Being Human events in Derby and how to book places, visit

To find out more about the national festival, go to and follow the latest news on Twitter at @BeingHumanFest. 

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