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The future of the arts and humanities debated


An event to debate the future of the arts and humanities in the 21st Century has been held in Leeds, hosted by Leeds Beckett University.

The Tetley

The ‘Future of the Humanities’ day took place at the Tetley, a centre for contemporary art and learning located in the former headquarters of the Tetley Brewery, and was hosted by Leeds Beckett University’s Centre for Culture and the Arts in collaboration with publisher Palgrave Macmillan and the Tetley. 

The aim of the event was to celebrate the value of the humanities and show how important humanities research is – not only to our economy but also to our society and culture.

Professor Susan Watkins, Director of the Centre for Culture and the Arts at Leeds Beckett University, explained: “The possibility that in future fees for particular degree subjects might be tied to graduate earnings might appear to disadvantage traditional arts and humanities disciplines like English Literature, History, Art and Media in comparison with STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). 

“In fact, given that the creative industries generated £71.4 billion per year for the UK economy, investment in the arts and humanities is certainly paying off for someone. Setting aside the economic value, surely there are some other reasons why the arts and humanities matter?”

Keynote speakers at the event included Professor Eleonora Belfiore (University of Loughborough), Professor Sarah Churchwell (School of Advanced Study, University of London) and Professor Donald Drakeman (University of Notre Dame, USA). Their talks addressed: public funding of the arts and the arguments used to justify it in a public policy context; how to build public confidence in the crucial role humanities research plays in sustaining and strengthening our society; and the surprising influence of humanities scholarship on biomedical research and civil liberties. 

Professor Watkins added: “We were delighted to be working with two great partners for this event: the publisher Palgrave Macmillan and the Tetley. Palgrave is one of the largest supporters of scholarly humanities research via its Campaign for the Humanities; and this event celebrates a year of our working together to promote the arts and humanities. The Tetley is a wonderful example of the effective transformation of our heritage into a living arts space.” 

The event included a range of interactive workshop sessions led by academics from across the UK and representatives at Palgrave Macmillan and the Tetley, including a creative writing workshop; introductions to the digital and economic humanities; a discussion of impact in the humanities; and representing equality and diversity in the humanities. Attendees also had the opportunity to privately tour the Tetley gallery.

 The Centre for Culture and the Arts can be followed on Twitter at @centrcultureart.

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