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‘Magic: from the Inquisition to Harry Potter’ launches the Being Human 2015 festival on 12 November.

Exeter launches humanities festival with a touch of magic

The University of Exeter will launch a national humanities festival with a touch of magic this year as experts and academics come together to discuss our modern view of the mystical.

‘Magic: from the Inquisition to Harry Potter’ takes place on 12 November at Exeter Community Centre and brings together a group of experts on magic in history and literature to debate the mystery surrounding magic; why people are fascinated by it and how far our modern image of magic in novels such as Harry Potter reflect the lives of real people in the past.

There will also be an opportunity to showcase the never-before-told story of Sellem Bin al-Sheikh Mansur, a Muslim slave in 17th Century Malta who was put on trial by the Inquisition for witchcraft. Sellem’s trial record is the basis for an Exeter-based project, ‘Magic in Malta, 1605’ run by Professor Dionisius Agius from the University of Exeter’s Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies alongside Dr Catherine Rider from the University’s College of Humanities.

The event marks the start of a wider series of events hosted by the University for Being Human 2015, the UK’s only national festival of the humanities.

Dr Rider said: “I am delighted this magical event will be opening what is set to be a fantastic Being Human festival. Thanks to the ‘Magic in Malta’ project, I am thrilled we will be able to tell the story of Sellem and his experiences with magic."

“This is a great opportunity for us to engage with new audiences and explore the history of magic and its place in the world.”

The event is part of a University festival programme run in partnership with the Arts & Humanities Research Council, the British Academy, the School of Advanced Study and the Wellcome Trust.

The Being Human festival takes place between 12 and 22 November and will involve a range of events across the country, with the University offering eight events in the festival programme.

During the festival University of Exeter academics will open up their research to a number of different audiences across Devon and Cornwall with events such as digital storytelling on Dartmoor, a theme park installation based around a Roman settlement , and a look at life in Exeter in the age of Poldark.

The programme also includes an all-day event run by academics from our Penryn campus in Cornwall which will look at the ways in which songs, practises and beliefs from the past still inform modern life.

Professor Andrew Thorpe, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean for the College of Humanities said: “We are delighted to participate in this national festival to promote public engagement with humanities research. The University welcomes the opportunity to showcase the breadth and depth of our research work and provide new ways to experience how the humanities can inspire and enrich our everyday lives."

“There is something for everyone in our 2015 festival programme and we hope this will demonstrate the relevance of such work in today’s world.”

All events organised by the University are open to staff, students and members of the public. They are free to attend and bring together arts and humanities researchers, experts, students and the local community in a celebration and exploration of humanities research.

Full details of the events and activities taking place throughout the festival can be found on the University of Exeter Being Human website.

Date: 26 October 2015

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