The University of Nottingham’s 2016 Being Human hub explored Nottingham as a crucible of religions and peoples from around the world. Touching on everything from human rights, the legacies and histories of slavery, and community divisions in the aftermath of Brexit, this programme showed how humanities research can deepen our understanding of ‘Cultures of Hope and Fear’ in the broadest possible context. At the same time, events delved into local contexts and the histories of communities and industries of Nottingham itself.
Through public forums and dialogues with academics and groups including Europe’s first Black Lives Matter chapter, the three-part series ‘The Rights and Justice City’ featured explorations of some of the most pressing issues facing the world today, from contemporary slavery to the future of activism and civil rights.
Elsewhere, local history walks invited you to find radical pathways through the city and a ‘Conversation Dinner’ drew people together to enjoy a menu not of food, but of encounters and conversations that will allowed participants to explore shared experiences in life and the lessons drawn from them.
This programme explored shared cultures and cultures in conflict. With humanities research at the core, it was assembled with the hope of helping people in Nottingham and beyond explore a common past and a collective future.
19.00 - 20.30, Jamie Oliver's, Low Pavement
Hosted by Theodore Zeldin and Katharina Lorenz, this event invited the people of Nottingham on a journey through a conversation with someone they did not know. Participants were given a Menu from Starters to Desserts but instead of food the Menu was full of topics to discuss and guide conversation. These topics were about experiences in life and the lessons drawn from them and were curated in such a way as to help define future paths.
Previous participants have been amazed by how inspiring the conversation can become. Many discover what they have in common with a stranger, who sometimes becomes a friend, and learn about themselves through a different set of eyes.
This was the first event of a project to create a Portrait of the People of Nottingham, revealing the hidden talents and aspirations in different communities and occupations. Great adventures begin with great conversations.
The Rights and Justice city I: making Nottingham slavery-free
18 November, 19.00 - 20.30
Newton Lecture Theatre 1
The first of a three-part series called ‘The Rights and Justice city: hope, history and being humane’, this public dialogue tackled an important issue in an open forum.
There are 46 million people enslaved around the world today, forced to work against their will for no pay. The Modern Slavery Act of 2015 tackles the issue of the thousands of people enslaved in the UK.
Could UK cities now take steps to ensure they are slavery-free?
Over the next two years, Nottingham will work to become the world’s first official slavery-free city. Our panel members, including Professor Kevin Bales and experts from law enforcement, civil society and local government, debated how Nottingham and other cities can end slavery.
Can we make Nottingham a slavery-free city?
Blog by Dr Alice Gardner
History of sound and stone: medieval alabasters and choral music
19 November, Nottingham Castle Museum, various times (F)
This series of three events showcased two famous types of English art of the late medieval era: Nottingham alabaster carvings and polyphonic choral music.
At this period, during later Plantagenet and early Tudor times, English music and alabasters were flourishing and enjoyed national and international reputations. To illustrate this, there were talks, activities and a unique concert designed to show off a rich era of English art.
Event 1: 12.00 - 14.00 (F)
The first event was led by Los Angeles-based, British artist Sarah Danays. Sarah worked with alabaster and talked to visitors about the material and how its qualities inform her sculpture.
Event 2: 14.00 - 15.00 (F)
The second event of the series was a talk by Lloyd de Beer from the British Museum. The talk explored the wider context of Nottingham’s collection, the history of alabaster carving and the role of Nottingham as the centre of the medieval alabaster world, not only regionally but nationally and internationally.
Event 3: 15.15 - 16.15
The final event of the day was the concert given by the world famous Binchois Consort in the magnificent setting of the Long Gallery of Nottingham Castle. This spacious venue allowed a rare hearing of beautiful English choral a cappella music contemporary with the alabasters. A short introduction linking the alabasters to the music wasgiven to guide the audience through the programme.
The Rights and Justice City II: Nottingham’s Black History
19 November, 15.00 - 17.30
Part II in a three-part series called The Rights and Justice City: Hope, History and Being Humane, this public dialogue tackled an important issue in an open forum. Nottingham is home to Europe’s first Black Lives Matter chapter, which in 2015 joined the 30 local chapters that exist in the US, Canada and Africa. Chapter members are also part of the Nottingham Black History Society and the project Slave Trade Legacies: The Colour of Money (a National Lottery Heritage Award finalist).
But what is the relationship between Black Lives Matter and black history in Nottingham? Is Nottingham’s black past a prologue for contemporary activism? Does the city’s history contain a usable past for today—do Black Histories Matter? This event offered talks, discussion and music, with local experts and visiting guests, in collaboration with the Nottingham Black History Society and Black Lives Matter Nottingham.
Walk of hope: to the castle!
19 November, Meet at 16.00
St Peter's Square Nottingham
To the castle! By popular demand, People’s Histreh, Nottingham’s radical history group, lead a lively walking tour of the city following the route of rioters who marched in the streets and then sacked and burned Nottingham
Castle in 1831.
The walk explored the identities and motives of the rioters as well as their living and working conditions.
The Rights and Justice City III: Nottingham in the Age of Brexit
21 November, 17.00 - 18.30
Galleries of Justice Museum
Part III in a three-part series called The Rights and Justice City: Hope, History and Being Humane, this public dialogue tackled an important issue in an open forum. On 23rd June 2016, the UK voted to exit the EU.
This referendum sparked a flurry of political changes in the government and a sharp rise in hate crimes reported to the police. Suddenly the UK had to confront questions of equality, tolerance and hate. Does the marked rise in hate crimes signal a new age of intolerance? How should the UK engage with questions of race and rights in the Age of Brexit? How should the city of Nottingham?
The speakers, including Professor Todd Landman, Pro-Vice Chancellor - Social Sciences, at the University of Nottingham, and special guest experts, challenged everyone to consider their responsibility for living, humanely, in the post-referendum world.
Being Human 2016: London events
Sound and Fury: Listening to the Second World War
25 November (9.30 - 17.00 (installation), 18.00 - 20.00 (talk)
British Library, London
The British Library’s Foyle Room was transformed into an all-enveloping audio-visual installation where visitors could listen to the hope and fear generated by the Second World War. Radio and gramophone sets from the period loaned by the British Vintage Wireless and Television Museum crackled back into life with the haunting sounds of a nation at
war. The British Library Archives composer-in-residence Aleks Kolkowski and curator of radio Paul Wilson were joined by historians James Mansell and Carolyn Birdsall to present a special edition of the installation with illustrated talks.
Throughout the festival there was also be a display of Second World War sounds and vintage technology at
Senate House relating to the building’s time as home of the government’s Ministry of Information.
Sound and fury: Senate House installation
Thursday 17 November-Friday 25 November (Mon– Fri 10:00-20:00, Sat 10:00–18:00, closed Sunday and Tuesday)
Senate House, London
Composer Aleks Kolkowski, in collaboration with historian James Mansell, created a site-specific installation in the former Ministry of Information in Senate House, University of London that was on display throughout the Being Human festival.
Visitors could explore this historic building – including rooms not normally accessible to the public – while
interacting with vintage sound technologies loaned by the British Vintage Wireless and Television Museum and the unheard collections of the British Library Sound Archive.