Last weekend, staff and students were invited to take part in the Life Lessons Festival at the Barbican Centre, which introduced ways of living better through events, workshops and teaching lessons with over 6,000 attendees.

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The activities throughout the festival taught lessons in mind, body, living sustainably and nurture of one’s self, society, and the Earth. There were a number of sessions and workshops taking place throughout the weekend from thought leaders and experts, including a workshop on the science of yoga by Dr Tina Cartwright, Reader in Psychology, and Living Libraries sessions from Westminster’s Human Library Project team.

In an interactive session, health psychologist Dr Tina Cartwright explored the science of yoga, what happens in our brains and bodies when we practice yoga and why it makes us feel good. The session explored breathing and relaxation techniques to help manage stress and increase wellbeing.

The Human Library is an international equalities movement that seeks to challenge prejudice and discrimination using the power of conversation. The Human Library Project is led by Senior Lecturer in Psychology Deborah Husbands and Aimee Andersen from Libraries. The team ran a series of ‘Living Libraries’ throughout the festival and were supported by Eleri Kyffin (Libraries) and student helpers Grace Lancto and Anjum Haque.

The Living Library was also situated in the Barbican’s Conservatory. Visitors were given the opportunity to engage in challenging but respectful conversations, where they shared stories about important life events as a ‘book’ or a ‘borrower’.

As a ‘book’, a person who has lived the experience of a topic will explain it in a 20-minute conversation with a ‘borrower’, with the aim to break down prejudices and give insight into their personal experiences.

The experience generated many positive comments from the public, as well as an interest in the Human Library Project as a whole. Deborah Husbands commented: “It was a privilege for the team to represent the university and interact with the public in such a meaningful way. Visitors said that this was a unique way to share their experiences and break down assumptions that contribute to conscious and unconscious biases”.

Talking about the festival, Dr Tina Cartwright said: "It was exciting to take part in an event that celebrated living well and have the opportunity to integrate science with practical tools to apply in everyday life - and in the wonderful setting of the Barbican Conservatory."

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