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Being Human Festival 2018: some classical highlights

Written by Emma Bridges |


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Being Human is the UK’s only national festival  of the humanities, and is dedicated to sharing the riches of humanities research with the wider public. Led by our colleagues from the School of Advanced Study’s public engagement team and supported by researchers in institutions both here and abroad, this year’s festival runs from 15th to 24th November and features a diverse and entertaining series of free events across the UK and beyond. A glance at the programme reveals a wealth of exciting events inspired by the this year’s theme, ‘Origins and Endings’. For this week’s blogpost we’ve picked out some of the classically-themed events which we think will be of particular interest to our readership.

Pandora's box

The University of Roehampton are running two events as part of the festival in connection with the Our Mythical Childhood project. One is an exhibition, running from 15th to 18th November, of material from the university’s archive of children’s literature, with a focus on illustrations of ancient myths in children’s books. The other, at 5pm on November 21st, is Shaping Fables, where author-illustrator Marcia Williams, will discuss with the audience her creative process in writing and illustrating books aimed at children and based on classical themes.

Meanwhile in Swansea, another creative writer inspired by the ancient world will share her thoughts with the festival audience. On November 22nd, Women’s Prize for Fiction winner Kamila Shamsie, whose novel Home Fire is a contemporary retelling of the story of Antigone, will be in conversation with Prof. Owen Sheers.

On 16th November the University of Exeter invite festival-goers to join them for an intriguingly-titled evening of ‘Ingenious Soil’, which promises to combine Latin poetry, soil samples and art, with the first screening of a work – inspired by Virgil’s agricultural poem Georgics – by artist Laura Hopes.


In Bristol ‘Medea in Exile’ features the world premiere of a trilogy of new plays written by Tom Holloway in collaboration with Dr. Emma Cole, who will host a staged reading followed by a post-show Q&A (November 21st).


Colleagues at the ICS are also preparing to host several events in London for the festival. At the ‘Clay, Marble and Pixels’ workshop on November 21st you’re invited to try your hand at digital 3D modelling to create your own Roman villa. Meanwhile, Weaving Women’s Stories is a series of events exploring the connections between textile-making and storytelling in women’s lives from the ancient world to today. On Friday 16th November there will be an evening performance of brand new material inspired by ancient stories and produced by By Jove Theatre Company; Saturday 17th sees a day of hands-on activities relating to cloth production, with a family drop-in session – featuring the chance to try spinning thread or weaving on a replica ancient loom – and a workshop run by award-winning textile artist Majeda Clarke.

Also in London, on November 19th, University College London’s Institute of Making will be Recycling Roman Ruins with a creative workshop hosted by archaeologist Dr. Beth Munro, glassworker Shelley James and metalsmith Necole Schmitz – you’ll be able to make your own creations inspired by Roman-style recycling. Elsewhere in London, on 15th November, the Institute of Physics are hosting an evening of Stories by the Fire themed around Creation and Destruction, featuring storyteller and classicist Dr. Stephe Harrop sharing tales inspired by Ovid and Hesiod.

All Being Human festival events are free, but some require advance booking. For further information on any of the events discussed here click on the links in the above post. The full festival programme (which features many more humanities-themed events than are listed in this post!) can be viewed here, and you can also follow @BeingHumanFest on Twitter for news and updates.