Being Human festival: Humanities research in the spotlight

  • Date

    Wed 4 Nov 20

Two Essex academics will take centre-stage this month, as part of a nationwide festival highlighting research in the Humanities.

Being Human, the UK’s national festival of the humanities, opens on 12 November and two events will showcase the innovative and creative research of Essex academics.

Dr Lisa Smith, from the Department of History, will be part of a panel assessing 250 years of British food, as part of the British Academy event The New British Cookbook.

Dr Eirini Konstantinidou, from the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, will take part in a Q&A following a free online screening of her sci-fi feature Mnemophrenia.

The potential risks and rewards of advanced Virtual Reality

Mnemophrenia focuses on the potential impacts of advanced Virtual Reality (VR) on three generations of the same family.

The film, which was the product of Dr Eirini Konstantinidou’s PhD, avoids simplistic judgements.

Dr Konstantinidou said: “The majority of science fiction films, they are showing a dystopia, because it is more dramatic, more interesting.

“I was obliged as part of my PhD research to do something new, so I wanted to get away from that and say, well, maybe technology will make us more human in some ways, actually more empathetic. It might actually expand our horizons in some ways.”

Mnemophrenia picked up the Festival Director’s Commendation at the 2019 Boston Science Fiction Film Festival. Festival Director Garen Daly said: “Need your faith in indie films restored? Look no further than Mnemophrenia. Compelling. Smart. Integrated. Great story. It bodes well for director Eirini Konstantinidou. She’s someone to watch.”

Mnemophrenia will be screened live via YouTube, starting at 7pm on 17 November. The Q&A that follows will feature Dr Eirini Konstantinidou and her co-writer and actor Robin King. This event is being hosted by Lakeside Theatre.

Celebrating the diversity of modern British food

The New British Cookbook aims to take its audience on a journey from “the occasional peacocks that graced the dining tables at the court of King George III to the chicken tikka masala we know and love today.”

Audience members will be invited to contribute their own recipes, with the chance to feature in a future digital publication. This recipe collection, Dr Smith says, will “help us understand what ‘British’ food looks like in the multicultural context of the United Kingdom in 2020.”

The panel discussion, which is part of a wider research project, will be chaired by food writer Leah Hyslop.

The New British Cookbook will run from 6.30pm – 7.30pm on 13 November. The event, which is online, is being hosted by The British Academy and Leeds Beckett University.

Both events are part of the Being Human festival, the UK’s only national festival of the humanities, which runs from 12–22 November.