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What I would like from a national humanist convention

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

By our design and layout editor Aaron. He is pictured left taking part in a mock election where members of Dorset Humanists all stood for election as 'Humanist Party' candidates. Aaron is passionate about change, reform, moving forwards and getting people involved. He sets out here why the Liverpool Convention was not for him.

Not what I'm looking for - I'm not an intellectual

When I received the Liverpool Convention email from Humanists UK I sat there for a moment just looking at it. I thought, I've no idea who these speakers are. I am sure they are good and great humanists, but to pay to see someone you've never heard of just isn't my thing. If you paid me a £100 to go and watch people I had never heard of, I would probably turn you down. Now I don't read a lot, so perhaps I am just lacking the intellectual level to appreciate how great these people are, but it's not what I'm looking for.

Before I go any further, I want to put a poll in your direction. The wording of this poll is deliberately non-specific – it doesn't necessarily mean a convention organised by Humanists UK.

What would you want from a national Humanist convention?

  • Talks and chat from notable Humanist dignitaries

  • Direct interaction and involvement in shaping humanism

I'm not looking to be entertained

Maybe this is another failing of mine. At an annual humanist gathering on a national level, I would want to be involved with the very core of shaping where we go from here. What are we doing right? How can we improve? Is our message wrong? What does humanism mean to us as humanists? There would be inspired conversations on priority issues. We'd use flipcharts, drywipe boards, audience interaction and small table discussion groups. Decisions would be made. Outcomes would be achieved. We would feel a part of democracy, rather than being told about outcomes already decided.

'I would like to see the Convention take the format of the GRAM – but for everyone to take part'

Before you shout at me, I know that this is what the GRAM was for – the Group Representatives Annual Meeting, where each group that's a Partner or Affiliate of Humanists UK sends two representatives to an annual gathering to discuss and workshop on various humanist aspects.

I always felt this was too big an opportunity that was being denied access to so many people by limiting it to two persons. I would like to see the Convention take exactly this format.

So what do the attendees actually want?

  1. Do people want to sit back for three days and be entertained?

  2. Do they want to shape humanism in the UK and be hands-on involved? Or

  3. Do they want to be among humanists and just enjoy being there whatever they do?

I'm a hands-on type of guy. I want to be in the nuts and bolts and mechanics of shaping how we move forwards. I'm very uncomfortable about this action being taken by a handful of people in a closed room somewhere, and then the paying members being instructed on what was decided for them. It's true that not everybody wants to be involved... although knowing humanists, this may be few. Our Dorset Humanists AGM is always very well attended. Is this because of the free lunch, the friendly company, or being involved in democracy? Perhaps our members just like supporting the group whatever happens?

Am I being critical of Humanists UK?

Yes and no. The yes elements are listed above primarily, in that the membership are very much shut out for most of the time. If everybody prefers it that way then I'm a minority voice, and that's the way it should be. But I feel an opinion poll is needed. Humanists UK performs its role in championing humanism on a national and governmental level, but it is not the representative voice of humanism, as it is a paid 'members only' club in that regard. It would be great if it were nationally-funded in a similar way to the Norwegian Humanists, but alas we are not, so I understand the need to raise supporting funds to finance the operation. But this article isn't really a critique of Humanists UK as such. It's just that I would prefer the annual conventions to be more interactive than a variety show of comedy, talks and talent.

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