The AHS for February and March
AHS President Richy Thompson checks in to explain what’s going on with the students over the next two months – Non-Prophet Week, the AHS Convention and five Reason Weeks!
At the moment, there’s a crazy amount going on with the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies (AHS). This week (7th-13th February) is Non-Prophet Week, where our member societies are raising money for charity. About 20 are taking part, putting on over 50 events, and after the first three days we’ve raised about £1,400. We hope this will go some small way to breaking the narrative that the non-religious do less for charity – because the evidence is that it simply isn’t true. And at the same time, we’re doing something good and having a lot of fun
Then, on 12th-13th March, we’re holding our third annual convention, in central London. Saturday 12th is hosted jointly with South Place Ethical Society and is open to everybody – students and non-students – and features talks from A C Grayling, Johann Hari, BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson, Keith Porteous Wood and All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group Chair Lord Warner. There are also performances from Robin Ince and the BHA Choir. And the day will start with the non-religious organisations fair, featuring stands from the national organisations that campaign for atheist, Humanist, secular and skeptical causes. The fair is a chance to find out more about these organisations.
Sunday 13th is focussed on student committees, and those interested in getting a student society going. We’ve got training workshops, speeches from members, society prizes, and are launching our own campaigns initiative. All in all, a busy two days then! You can find out more about the whole weekend on the AHS website, and buy tickets (just £3 for students, BHA members and others, £6 for everyone else) from the BHA website.
But today I’m mainly going to talk about something happening in between these two events. Every year, many of our societies hold Reason Weeks. This February, four of them are doing so – and a fifth is doing likewise in March.
To explain the concept: A Reason Week, as they are generally (but far from always) called, is an intense week of events which seeks to expose the type of discussion and debate that atheist, Humanist and secular student societies offer to a wider audience than usual, and raise the profile of the issues involved. The week-long series of events tend to involve a combination of talks, debates, panel discussions, workshops, performances and film showings. Events are typically free of charge and open to the public – students and non-students alike. A bit like Christian Union Mission Weeks, only without the proselytising!
The AHS has a guide on how to run a successful Reason Week.
Durham Reason Week runs from the 12th to the 18th February and is Durham University Humanist and Secularist Society’s second Reason Week. It features speakers like A C Grayling, Mike Lake and Gerard Phillips, and a debate held jointly with Durham Union Society. The dates fit nicely such that the week features a Darwin Day event on the 12th and a Non-Prophet Week event in the 13th!
Bristol Thought Week is the first Reason Week to be held by University of Bristol Atheist, Agnostic and Secular Society, and runs from the 14th to the 18th. Speakers include Peter Atkins, Andrew Pyle and Dennis Penaluna. Bristol also have a number of pub discussions, a screening and a slightly late Non-Prophet Week tie-in.
Oxford Think Week, organised by Oxford Atheists, Secularists and Humanists, together with a number of town groups, is taking place for the second year, from 21st to 27th February. The list of speakers is enormous – Richard Dawkins and A C Grayling are doing a joint event, as are Peter Atkins and Stephen Law, Raymond Tallis and David Papineau, and Evan Harris and BHA Head of Public Affairs Naomi Phillips. The first event will be a panel discussion, featuring Ronan McCrae a number of Parliamentarians – details to be announced. There’s also Mary Warnock, Paula Kirby, Colin Blakemore, Keith Porteous Wood, Samantha Stein and of course, the BHA Choir.
Then there’s Southampton Reason Week, Southampton Atheist Society’s third Reason Week, which also looks amazing. Simon Singh and Eric Kaufmann are on the Friday, and the Pod Delusion are doing a live show on the Saturday. There’s also Anne Marie Waters, David Bothwell, Andrew Pyle, and Robert Stovold debating Keith Fox.
Finally, Leeds Reason Week – Leeds Atheist Society’s fifth – is taking place from 8th to 11th March. As the week is a bit further away, details are yet to be announced, but Leeds are the pioneers of the format, one year holding a staggering 33 events! – so it’s bound to be amazing.
On a personal note, I’m looking forward to travelling to all these weeks. I’m doing talks as part of Durham and Bristol’s weeks. I’m taking part in the Pod Delusion live recording at Southampton. And Oxford is where I went to Uni – I coordinated the first Think Week last year – so I’m planning to spend most of the week there again this year.
But if you’re reading this, and are within reasonable distance of one of these five cities (or even at University there!), be sure to come on down and check out what’s going on – you’ll definitely find some very enjoyable events!
Richy Thompson is the third and current President of the AHS.