Events programme




Thursday 17 – Friday 25 NovemberBeing-Human-logo-standard

The University of Reading’s Heritage and Creativity Institute is delighted to present a series of events during Being Human week.  This Festival highlights the ways in which the humanities can inspire and enrich our everyday lives, help us to understand ourselves, our relationships with others, and the challenges we face in a changing world. This year’s festival has an overarching theme of ‘Hope and Fear’ and Reading’s events are drawn together under the banner of ‘Hope, Fear & Freedom’.

The festival is led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, in partnership with the Arts & Humanities Research Council and the British Academy

A Free Country?
Museum of English Rural Life, Redlands Road

Convened as part of the Being Human Festival of the Humanities, this series of events will explore freedom and examine the hopes and fears associated with Our Country Lives. It will touch on ownership, land use, labour, food, movement, and decision‑making.
At each event a different researcher will join a colleague from the Museums and Collections service. Together they will lead visitors on a conversational tour of the new Museum of English Rural Life displays before taking them behind the scenes where specially-selected items will form the basis of further discussion.

  • Each talk starts at 12.00pm and lasts approximately and hour
  • Admission is free, places are limited
  • To book a place at all events, please visit: or contact | 0118 378 6718
  • Suitable for adults


Contested countryside. Space and power in rural England
Professor Gavin Parker
Thursday 17 November
Access to and use of the land around us remains a hot topic. This event explores the hopes and fears that shape ‘right to roam’ legislation and neighbourhood planning policy.

Ours to preserve? Protecting the English landscape

Francesca Church (PhD student)
Friday 18 November
Since the 1920s the Campaign to Protect Rural England has fought to protect our ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. This event examines the fears and pressures that drove campaigns to protect the beauty and character of the English countryside.

Hard decisions? Freedom and pressure in Second World War mechanisation

Felicity McWilliams (CDA PhD student)
Saturday 19 November
Food security fears drove the pressure to mechanise farming but farmers often had different solutions. This event explores grass roots decision-making on mid-20th century farms.

Whose land is it anyway? Commons, smallholdings, allotments and gardens

Dr Jeremy Burchardt
Monday 21 November
Many cherish their allotments but know little of their origin. This event examines how the desperate poverty of rural labourers led to the provision of small portions of land for them to cultivate.

Freedom food? Factory chickens and the complexities of industrialised modern farming

Professor Andrew Godley
Tuesday 22 November
Previous generations intensified poultry farming. Welfare fears and other factors soon brought new pressures. This event sets freedom food in historical context.

Freedom of movement? Reanimating the evacuee experience

Sonya Chenery (PhD student)
Wednesday 23 November
Threat of invasion led to mass movement of children out of London in 1939. This event explores the hopes, fears and everyday realities of the evacuee experience.

Free to control? Value judgements and the management of Bovine TB in badgers

Professor Richard Bennett
Thursday 24 November
Emotive responses drive popular perception of how we should tackle Bovine TB. This event will explore the press myths and scientific realities of badger culls and disease management.

Popular Justice: Right and retribution in rural England

Dr Stephen Banks
25 November
Rural communities have often turned to their own customs to penalise wrongdoing. This event explores informal justice, so called ‘rough music’ and who fell victim to this popular vengeance.

To find out more about other events, please visit


Visions of Rural England:
The MERL Annual Lecture in association with Campaign to Protect Rural England

Annual Lecture

A discussion on rural life and the future of the English countryside chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby with a panel including Clive Aslet, Kate Adie and Emma Bridgewater.


Displays inspired by our Special Collections, Museum Library and Archives


Inspiring communitiesCommunities 1

  • 6 October 2016 -10 February 2017
  • Usual opening hours
  • Location: University Library, Whiteknights campus

In October 2016 the Museum of English Rural Life re-opens to the public. Find out about how our communities have been involved in creating new and exciting activities based on the Museum’s rich collections. Museum staff have spoken to more than 5,000 people from local communities and special interest groups who have helped with the plans. From digging the garden to reminiscence sessions, hundreds of volunteers and students have also been involved. This exhibition reveals how the project, entitled “Our Country Lives”, has inspired so many people.



  • 8 December 2016 – 10 February 2017
  • Usual opening hours
  • Location: Museum of English Rural Life, Redlands Road4 R

Concluding this year’s 90th anniversary celebrations, material from across the University of Reading’s museums and special collections will be displayed in the Staircase Hall. Co-curated by the MERL Student Panel, the exhibition will bring together seasonal objects, archives and artworks which explore the subject of winter.





If you have any questions, please visit the FAQs page or contact us on 0118 378 8660 or email



2 thoughts on “Events programme

  1. Pingback: Get involved in MERL’s “Our Country Lives” project | The Whitley Pump

  2. Pingback: Project update: What happens next? - The MERL

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