Skip to main content

2020 festival highlights


A review, written by Gregory Roberts, of the Cardiff Festival of Social Science, which took took place between 7 -12 November 2020.

The festival aimed to celebrate and raise awareness of the outstanding social science research at the University – research that informed the development of policies, services and innovation, and addressed major societal challenges in Wales, the UK and internationally.

The festival was the first digitally held event due to COVID-19 restrictions, however that did not put a hold to the fantastic informative and virtually interactive events (see the event guide) showcased over the week.

These events in general were aimed at the general public, school students, third sector organisations and policy makers. The festival was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council, as part of their National Festival of Social Science.

Foss Web banner 3

How the festival worked

The festival aimed to display cutting-edge research on major societal issues with topics ranging from coronavirus to Brexit, mental health, political activism, consumerism and climate change. These events, were produced by our talented Doctoral Researchers and Academics associated with Cardiff University, and all of whom adapted to a digital environment using software such as Zoom to host their events. Audiences were captivated by ideas and research with the aim of implementing change and shaping policies in many aspects of our society. Event holders did a fine job of presenting their passion and research in interesting and engaging ways.

These 11 captivating events (all free) hosted by Cardiff University were spread across the days of the 7-12 November. Also, not only did we have a plethora of events, the events provided diverse target audiences which made the festival applicable to most, highlighting the thought process and attention to detail the exemplary the organisers had taken to the event production.

Furthermore, I had the privilege to be intrusted with curating the @iamcardiffuni Twitter campaign for the Festival, which marketed the events prior to them taking place whilst using the hashtag #ESRCFestival and #Socialcardiff. It was an honour to liaise not only with the event holders, but also the audience around the festival. The atmosphere created in the digital environment definitely played a part in attaching aura and expectation around the festival, which most definitely rubbed off on the ESRC IAA team and the event holders. Allowing for a digitally integrated festival that we hope to be a significant aspect of future festivals.

What was on the programme

The 2020 Festival of Social Science (FoSS 2020) featured exciting and creative events ran by 34 partners – with over 300 events that took place. However, I intend to focus on the great work of the 11 Cardiff University events and will feature some of the events occurring over the allotted days in November. Read more details the Cardiff held events.

With the first event taking place on Saturday 7 November. Field to Fforc: A People’s Assembly, ‘begin as we mean to go on’ they say, and this event certainly did not disappoint. The project set out by Dr. Poppy Nicol, Dr. Hannah Pitt, Dr. Angelina Sanderson Bellamy and Alice Taherzadeh focussed on the impact of the pandemic on the food system, working with various people across the Welsh food system responding to the crisis. This project saw a lot of attention and engagement highlighting the importance of this project for Welsh society. So much so, researchers at Sustainable Places Research Institute and Food Cardiff, will be carrying this work forward in the development of a short film and short report which will act as a set of policy recommendations – an incredible achievement, in which we aim to spotlight in the near future.

Watch a clip of 'Field to Fforc' on YouTube

On Monday 9 November ‘Teching 9-5: New Technology and Unions’ presented by Cate Hopkins a member of the Data Justice Lab at Cardiff University.  Showcased how technology has changed the way in which we work, including the capacity for workplace surveillance and monitoring. The speed of this change means that in many instances employees are unsure what data is collected about them, how it is used or their rights. This fascinating event and the agency of the unions has lead to the setting up of a network of researchers and trade union activists who focus on the social impact of technology. I found this a really pressing issue in the digital age and I commend Cate and company for delving into the social side of this problem, which promises definite social agency in this subject area. Watch the event recording of 'Teaching 9 to 5' on Vimeo

Similarly that day we had two fantastic other events with Dr. Mckinley ‘Changing Coasts: Climate change adaptation in YOUR community’. Which through the Coastal Communities Adapting Together (CCAT) project, a multi-partner project, they are working to support coastal communities in Pembrokeshire (Wales) and Fingal (Ireland) to understand the impact of climate change, and how it might impact their local communities.

Watch the CCat presentation on YouTube.

This was followed by Dr. Giada Lagana’s fascinating event on ‘Peacebuilding in Northern Ireland: Theoretical and Practical perspectives’. Find out more about her research or watch a recoding of her on YouTube.

On the final day of Cardiff events I was pleasured in seeing the awe-inspiring event conducted by Dr. Sofia Vougioukalou ‘Next of Kin’: performance and discussion about dementia disabilities and healthcare’ in conjunction with Y Lab Wales and the Reality Theatre.

‘Next of Kin’ is a play that is based on anthropological research on the dementia care experiences of minority groups (in relation to ethnicity, sexuality and disability) and the impact of microaggressions on people’s lives. Find out more about Dr. Vougiokalou’s work in this area.

next of kin


From a personal perspective each individual event I attended, helped shape my understanding and depth of knowledge around social science. Therefore, making me a more conscientious, critical yet caring citizen. I felt this perspective represented the general impression from the ESRC IAA team and for those of you who engaged in these important events. Embodying just how important social science is for today’s world and the societies that live in it.

I would also like to add for those of you who missed the events, there is another opportunity for you to take part in the celebration of our social science research via the recordings which will be uploaded to our page soon. These captivating events can offer you the escapism you deserve in these troubling times. Allowing you to understand that society is making the rights steps under the wing of Cardiff academics.

Contact us


Festival funding and support

The festival was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council, as part of their national Festival of Social Science.

Foss 2020