Nearly 500 humanists from across the UK and from further afield convened in Leicester at the weekend for the Humanists UK Convention 2019. Delegates heard from and enjoyed the chance to meet a diverse range of speakers, brought together in celebration of a movement for a more rational, kind, and tolerant world.
The convention weekend began on Friday by the ever-popular Humanist Professionals Conference. Humanists UK celebrants, pastoral carers, school speakers, and peer support volunteers came together to network, share resources, and to help put the virtues of humanism into practice in the community. Friday also saw the relaunch of the LGBT Humanists Conference, run by Humanists UK’s LGBT section, where the keynote speech was given by Andrew Moffat, assistant headteacher of Parkfield School and author of the ‘No Outsiders’ programme, which has been subject to intense Muslim-led protests from homophobic campaigners. The programme was rounded out by representatives from Stonewall, UK Black Pride, House of Rainbow, DIVA magazine, Faith to Faithless, and LGBT Humanists.
The main event then kick-started on Friday evening, with hundreds of humanists filling the Leicester Athena’s grand hall for an evening of comedy from Cally Beaton, Kate Smurthwaite, Tim McGarry, and headliner Ed Byrne.
The majority of the conference was composed of thought-provoking talks from some of the UK’s leading thinkers in science, education, humanities, journalism, and human rights activism. The diverse talks covered everything from defending the Human Rights Act, to the role of women in ancient Greek stories, ending segregation and intolerance in schools, coping with mental health challenges, and the story of human evolution, as well as updates on Humanists UK’s success stories in schools, asylum advocacy work, and the launch of the second online course on humanism entitled ‘Humanist Lives’.
Delegates were welcomed back to the Athena on Saturday morning by Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson, before exploring the choppy waters of of contemporary British politics with Professor Sir John Curtice, who guided the audience through the polarised political landscape. Speakers that day included Baroness Joan Bakewell, successful humanist asylum claimant Hamza bin Walayat, award-winning journalists Felicity Hannah and Christina Patterson, classicist Natalie Haynes, Director of the British Institute for Human Rights Sanchita Hosali, Andrew Moffat, geneticist Dr Adam Rutherford, and many more. At a special Convention dinner that evening, diners raised over £9,000 (including Gift Aid) towards the work of Faith to Faithless, which will enable Humanists UK’s program to extend its apostasy awareness training to greater numbers of police, social services, and mental health professionals.
On Sunday, Humanists UK President Alice Roberts gave a keynote speech about ‘Morals without Religion,’ revisiting the marvellous 1950s radio essays of ‘the unholy Margaret Knight’, charting her impact on British popular consciousness – and how aspects of Mrs Knight’s unfair treatment in the national press will be familiar to humanists today.
The Convention concluded with Humanists UK’s AGM, where members received reports on the charity’s activities and finances, voted on motions, and learned the results of its recent trustee elections. Five trustees were elected to the board, among them Hamza bin Wayalat, the ex-Muslim asylum seeker who faced potential deportation in a high-profile case of Home Office discrimination against humanists. It was also at the AGM that Chief Executive Andrew Copson unveiled the host cities for Humanists UK’s upcoming Conventions in 2020 and 2021, to take place in London and Belfast respectively.
At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerance society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.
Conference sessions were filmed and will be uploaded to the Humanists YouTube account at a later date.