This weekend, broadcaster and peer Joan Bakewell was named Humanists UK’s Humanist of the Year 2017 at an awards ceremony in London.
Previous winners of the Humanists UK award include Pakistani human rights activist Gululai Ismail, biologists Richard Dawkins and Alice Roberts, novelists Terry Pratchett and Philip Pullman, and most recently Lord (Alf) Dubs, Joan’s fellow stalwart of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group.
In announcing the recipient of this year’s award, Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson spoke of Joan’s life-long dedication to promoting humanist values, not just in Parliament (where she has made over 140 speeches on progressive causes since 2011) but in homes across the UK through her long career in public broadcasting.
Joan’s history of programme-making for the BBC includes a number of eye-opening documentaries that challenged, informed, and stimulated the British public, including on subjects like sex, race relations, religion, and the death penalty. Mr Copson spoke of Joan’s tireless crusade to inform ‘but never patronise’, her ‘eagerness to push the envelope… when it is the right thing to do,’ and her tireless campaigning for the universal relevance of the arts and their benefit to understanding and appreciating human life in all its colour and complexity.
Joan’s support for humanism goes back a number of years, and in 2015 she assisted Humanists UK Vice President Jim Al-Khalili in launching a new donors network. More recently, she has taken on a greater role as the first woman Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, working in partnership with Conservative Party MP Crispin Blunt to coordinate work across both Houses of Parliament.
On receiving her award, Joan said she aimed as much as possible to promote ‘a multitude’ of voices in society, commenting ‘I want to hear from everyone. I want to hear from people I disagree with. I want everyone to be equal, everyone to be challenged.’
After a rousing speech on the value of free thinking and humanism, she concluded, ‘I hope I represent you well. Humanists are people of principle and courage leading good lives, and I hope to be your voice in Parliament.’
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