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Coronavirus and our public and member events

Much of our work involves bringing non-religious people together to learn together, shape their own ideas, and forge community. While that work will continue online, our public lectures and events programme will need to take a pause in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

We are cancelling all of our local and national events between now and the end of July.

In line with official advice on large gatherings and our own responsibility to public health, this includes our Annual Convention (19-21 June) and annual Voltaire Lecture (6 May). We’ve written to all ticket-holders about these events already.

We are extremely proud of the events programme we put together for 2020. Already in 2020, our Darwin Day Lecture in February saw nearly 2,000 hear from Chris Packham on the climate crisis, humanism, and the biosphere, while in March our Rosalind Franklin Lecture with Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou examined the pernicious legacy of ancient scriptural ideas about men and women. Dr Adam Kay’s lecture on the precarious state of the NHS – whose origins lie in the bold humanist thinking of Nye Bevan, Clement Attlee, and William Beveridge – would have been another strong entry in the series. Its themes are surely more important now than ever and we hope to announce a new date for it later in the year. 

A snapshot from our 2019 Convention in Leicester

A lot of work also went into putting together the 2020 Convention. For our first London-based national Convention in well over a decade, we hired the Kia Oval – reflecting the increased size and scale of our events programme since 2014. For speakers, we managed to attract some of the best and brightest names in UK comedy, journalism, scientific and historical research, and literature, as well as international human rights advocates of the highest calibre.

From Bonya Ahmed’s harrowing experience of anti-humanist violence in Bangladesh, to Carol Smillie’s uplifting work as a humanist celebrant in Scotland, to timely discussions on education issues and the changing nature of identity and politics in the social media era, its cancellation is not just a sad event, but a loss to the cause. The next Annual Convention will be in Belfast in June 2021.

The following section and programme events have also been cancelled:

  • 100 Years of Disestablishment in Wales celebration at the Senedd (24 March)
  • Defence Humanists Conference (30 April)
  • LGBT Humanists AGM (1 May)
  • Apostasy Conference (15 May)
  • Southampton Apostate Social (20 May)
  • Sections and Branches Summit for local leaders (16 May)
  • Professionals Day for celebrants, pastoral carers, school visitors, dialogue reps, and peer support workers (19 June)
  • LGBT Humanists Conference (19 June)
  • Young Humanists Social (20 June)
  • RE Teachers Conference and training (7 July)
  • All Sunday brunches (weekly across Northern Ireland)

If you were scheduled to participate, you should have already been notified of this but if you have any questions please contact our office, which remains able to deal with enquiries remotely by email or telephone as usual. This year we were also scheduled to scale up our provision of teachers’ conferences, with several different conferences for primary and secondary teachers planned for around the country. We hope to salvage as many of these plans as possible when the situation has changed.

Cancelling and postponing our public events comes with a heavy cost. We won’t be producing the video resources we wanted, bringing together our community in the way we would have liked, or hearing from the amazing speakers we had lined up. It also comes with a heavy cost in financial terms. Venues will be claiming their full deposits for these events, which will set us back by upwards of £30,000 on an events programme that normally breaks even. And this is coming at a time when, in common with other charities, we are now predicting a financial squeeze – slower membership growth and fewer donations than we otherwise would have expected. Any support you can give at this difficult time is, as ever, very welcome. Thank you.

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Press Manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078 or 07393 344293.

See also: Humanist Ceremonies statement on coronavirus and weddings, funerals, and namings.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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