University of Sheffield chosen as hub for major humanities festival

The University of Sheffield has been selected to host a series of events celebrating the humanities as part of a major national festival.

The Being Human Festival 2019 – the UK’s only nationwide festival for the humanities – will see the University present a programme of immersive events, projections, theatre, food, music and talks in Sheffield throughout November.

Free and open to the public, the events will celebrate the humanities by exploring themes of myths, dreams and love related to subjects such as history, philosophy, languages, literature, music and theatre.

Among the festival’s highlights is an event that will give people a glimpse into the music, theatre, food and costume that King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria experienced when visiting the Cavendish family of Welbeck Abbey at Bolsover Castle in the 17th century.

Featuring a talk by Professor Angie Hobbs and Dr Crosby Stevens, the event is based on their research which has solved a centuries-old puzzle behind the meaning of mysterious paintings in the castle’s keep.


Their research found that the castle was designed for banquets and cultural pursuits, and the artworks were intended to be interactive and multisensory. The aim of this design was to envelop visitors in a luxurious fantasy world that would amuse them while revealing higher moral and philosophical truths, according to the study.

King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria were treated to the full immersive experience of Bolsover in its original Jacobean form when they visited for a day of feasting and banqueting in the summer of 1634 – moving through the building and encountering multisensory surprises.

The Moving Heaven and Earth event at the Being Human Festival will enable people to experience some of the sights, sounds and tastes of this royal Jacobean theatrical entertainment.

The festival will also feature an event in which people can explore the meanings of dreams in the Renaissance. Dr Erin Maglaque, Lecturer in Early Modern European History at the University, will provide an insight into dream literature, daydreamers, and dreams in everyday life.

Otis Mensah, Poet Laureate of Sheffield, will also perform a poem taking themes from Dr Maglaque’s research into dreaming in Renaissance Italy.

Other events in the festival include:

  • Bolsover, the Cavendishes and Ben Jonson – a lunchtime talk by Dr Tom Rutter, Senior Lecturer in Shakespeare and Renaissance Drama, discussing Bolsover Castle’s murals in relation to the poetry and drama of Ben Jonson, who counted the castle’s owner William Cavendish among his patrons
  • Music and the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili – a lunchtime talk by Dr Tim Shephard, Lecturer in Musicology, exploring the music of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili – a 1499 romance story published in Venice and renowned for its beautiful woodcut illustrations. The event will enable people to discover the volume’s origins and its intimate connection with the music of that time. and its historic and cultural contexts
  • The Secrets of the Selkies – join award-winning folk singer and ethnomusicologist, Dr Fay Hield, and guests for a spoken word, visual and song-based show exploring responses to the tale of the selkie – creatures of human/seal form who get trapped on land and navigate human relationships

Dr Amanda Crawley Jackson, Director of Impact and Engagement in the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded hub status for this year’s Being Human Festival. Sheffield is renowned for its thriving arts and cultural scene and the University is one of the best in the UK for teaching and research in the humanities, so it’s fitting that the city will be part of the UK’s national humanities festival.

“The humanities are based on subjects that are close to the hearts of many people and they explore issues that are connected to the things we are most interested in. For this year’s festival, our programme of events will take an in-depth look at myths, dreams and love. We’re looking forward to the events and hope as many people as possible can get involved in the activities.”

For more information on the Being Human Festival 2019, including a full list of events from the University of Sheffield and links to book tickets, visit: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/pre/being-human

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