Lancaster University festival aims to put society in the spotlight

From witches to forensic linguistics and from poignant art and photographic exhibitions to a trendy escape room, the Festival of Social Science in Lancaster next month is sure to intrigue and excite.

Tuesday, 15th October 2019, 12:11 pm
#mylostchildhood was taken by a refugee who escaped from the war in Syria aged 11. It depicts the contents of a left-behind unpacked suitcase of childhood memories.

The event, which runs from November 2 to 9, is part of a national festival organised by the Economic and Social Research Council that will feature more than 470 events across the UK.

Taking part for the first time, Lancaster University’s leading social scientists have organised a whole raft of engaging and entertaining activities.

This will include:

#comingtogether shows traditional Congolese dress and colours, worn by a South African and a Congolese on the streets of the Johannesburg. The photo highlights the importance of unity.

*Criminology Escape Room – try to beat the criminology team and escape from the Law School! Rooms will be themed around sex work, community punishment, prison and cyber/organised crime. To sign up please email [email protected]

*In Pursuit of Peace, Hope and Future at Lancaster City Museum – an exhibition of photographs taken by young refugees and members of their host communities in South Africa, Turkey and Uganda.

*En Clair Podcast – forensic linguistics, literary detection, language mysteries and more - explore the history of secret writing and its different guises through time and across the globe.

*Rainforest Adventures in Minecraft at Lancaster Library – learn about rainforests and some of the problems we face when balancing what people want, against what is best for the environment.

*Finding out how babies learn at the Babylab on campus at Lancaster University – guided tours and demonstrations.

One of the highlights of the week will be an open event on November 6 when Prof Dame Sue Black, the university’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Engagement, hosts a reception at The Storey to promote the festival and the importance of social science, the study of society and how people behave and influence the world around us.

The evening will also include Dr Charlotte Baker’s illustrated talk ‘From Albinism in Africa to the Lancashire Witches’.

Dr Baker’s lecture will focus on how certain witchcraft-related beliefs and practices have resulted in serious violations of human rights in the past and continue to do so today, here in Lancashire, and globally.

She will discuss her research on albinism in Africa, the human rights abuses faced by people with albinism and other vulnerable groups, and the work she has been doing to bring about meaningful and sustainable change through her collaboration with NGOs and the United Nations Human Rights Council.

For more information on how to sign up for this event, go to

Other events include a London-based Cancer Metaphor Café event with Lancaster linguist Prof Elena Semino and Prof Alison Findlay’s exhibition in Kent focusing on The Sidneys of Penshurst.

Prof Black said: “The Festival of Social Science celebrates some of the country’s leading social science research and showcases how this valuable and innovative work can impact on every life.

“We want to increase local awareness of this work to new audiences and illustrate the impact it can have on everyday life.

“Social science encompasses a broad range of disciplines, each concerned with human and societal behaviour, and it causes us to pause and reflect on how we behave the way we do, and why.

“Lancaster’s contribution to the national festival is wonderfully diverse with exhibitions, podcasts, demonstrations, interactive adventures and guided tours. There really is something for everyone, so please join us.”

The festival aims to:

*Encourage, support and create the opportunity for social science researchers to engage with non-academic audiences

*Promote and increase awareness of social science and ESRC-funded research

*Promote and increase awareness of the contributions social science makes to the wellbeing and the economy of UK society

*Enable the public to engage with social science research

*Engage with teachers and young people to raise their awareness of social science.

The ESRC Festival of Social Science has helped researchers to engage with new audiences from teenagers to pensioners, including individuals representing businesses, charities and policymakers.