National Festival of Social Science comes to Hertfordshire for the first time

 1 January 2023 17 October 2023
23 October 2023

A host of free public events on the theme of lifelong health and wellbeing is being rolled out across the county by the University of Hertfordshire as part of a wider, national festival.

The annual ESRC Festival of Social Science 2023, which celebrates research and knowledge about people and society and is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), runs from this Saturday, 21 October to Friday, 17 November with hundreds of free events taking place across the UK.

In Hertfordshire, researchers from the University are running their own programme of in-person and online activities for the festival for the first time, after successfully achieving funding from the ESRC IAA earlier this year. Events range from talks, webinars and practical workshops to screenings and exhibitions and exploring topics around healthcare – particularly for older people, diet, pensions, food waste, the correlation between poverty and obesity and wellbeing.

Taking place on its Hatfield campus, across locations within the local community, and online, highlights from the programme include a touring exhibition helping people interpret and better understand food labels to enable them to make more informed choices about their diet and nutrition; a practical workshop designed to reduce harm from falls, a common cause of injury in over 65s that uses techniques from judo; a Q&A session at Stevenage Football Club about how football is being used to unlock memories for people with dementia and a workshop with young people exploring their views on ‘fixing school food’.

A series of talks and expert panels will also debate some of the pressing issues affecting our health and wellbeing now and in the future: improving models of care in the NHS, minimising food waste, and reframing the links between poverty and obesity.

Professor Rebecca O’Connell, Professor of Food, Families and Society and co-organiser of the Herts festival events, said:

“It’s very exciting for us to be part of this prestigious national festival for the first time. Social science is a field that may be unfamiliar to many people, but as the field of research and knowledge that can help explain how our society works, is perhaps most relevant to people’s everyday lives. We have put together a programme of events that reflects this, with opportunities to discover, explore and debate everything from the food we buy in the supermarket, to the way our pensions function, to living with long-term conditions such as dementia and the value of children’s connection with nature.

“Our events are led by academics, often in collaboration with people, groups and organisations outside of the University. The mantra of the festival is Exploring Society Together – so we hope people from the local region will come along and get involved in these discussions, to learn something new and to share their own experiences.”

The ESRC Festival of Social Science has been running for more than 20 years, and made possible thanks to funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), which is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) For 2023, it will see 42 universities deliver over 200 exciting, creative and free events across the UK in October and November, encompassing many areas of the social sciences: economics, psychology, sociology, business, economic and social history, politics and human geography, among others.

This year’s Festival elevates the theme of ‘Lifelong Wellbeing’, exploring diverse aspects of physical and mental health – encouraging people to reflect on their individual wellbeing, as well as raising some of the most urgent questions about how we approach lifelong care on a national, societal level.

Stian Westlake, ESRC Executive Chair, said: "The ESRC Festival of Social Science offers a unique insight into UK social science research and its relevance to individuals, society and the economy. There are hundreds of free events taking place across the UK and online, including at the University of Hertfordshire. We hope you enjoy the events and finding out more about social scientists’ work."

Please visit the University of Hertfordshire Festival of Social Science event page to find out more and book your free tickets.

Visit the Festival of Social Science page for general information.


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