A festival of inclusion

A new festival aims to bring together global diversity, equity and inclusion experts, artists and others to celebrate diversity and inclusion and co-create solutions.

View of the back of someone in a sweatshirt standing in front of a stage with lights


A new hybrid festival that celebrates diversity, equity and inclusion [DEI] and brings together leading figures in the field to explore latest trends and innovative ideas is being held in July at the University of Northampton.

The UnderOne Festival will be held on July 24th and 25th at the University’s Waterside Campus and will feature everything from thought-provoking discussions by leading figures in DEI, workshops and an Innovation Challenge to immersive experiences and artistic performances.

The festival’s advisory board comprises global leaders including, but not limited to, Asif Sadiq, Chief Diversity Officer at Warner Bros. Discovery, Henrique Zanin, Global DE&I Programme Lead at eBay,  Professor Anne-Marie Kilday, Vice Chancellor of the University of Northampton, and spoken word artist Amerah Saleh.

The festival’s founder is Lydiah Igweh and she has been working on it for a year and half with the advisory board who represent a wide range of sectors from hospitality to media to mental health. Lydiah is a Director of Global Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and hosts the Race Forward podcast.

She had been attending several DEI conferences, recording her podcast and meeting professionals and felt there was a space for something that was a little more laid back, brought together different facets of DEI – from innovation and inspiring speakers [Spain’s first politician with Down’s Syndrome will be a speaker] to poetry and a sharing of experience in different ways – and was also fun.

“DEI work is really hard and it’s a journey that is continuous,” says Lydiah. “I wanted to unite people from different parts of the world and learn from what they are doing. I wanted somewhere that would also offer a safe space and a focus on wellness, which would provide a breath of fresh air. Somewhere where people can share best practice and create momentum and movement, but also somewhere where we could say this work is a lot.”


Responding to the political backlash against DEI, Lydiah says she feels that that makes the festival more important and timely. “It’s more water to carry uphill in what is already an uphill battle. It makes it even more important to bring people in this field together and shine a light on the work we do and celebrate every small win as well as the big ones,” she states.

For Lydiah it is vital that employers are clear about their commitment to DEI in the current atmosphere and are not swayed by external factors, given that DEI is about ensuring that everyone can thrive, that companies reflect the communities they serve and that younger generations in particular expect an inclusive environment at work where everyone’s opinions are valued and heard.

The festival will focus on co-creating solutions in workshops and there will be immersive activities using VR headsets where people can experience the world in another person’s shoes, for instance, a person with a physical disability. Emerging technologies will be at the forefront with discussions about how to ensure AI does not increase bias.

Lydiah is very clear that embedding DEI is about conscious inclusion and allyship rather than tickbox courses. She admits that people can avoid topics like sex and race because they are worried about saying the wrong thing, but she says DEI is not a one-off course; it’s a journey and it’s ok to get things wrong if you learn from that.

Instead she wants to accentuate what can be done to make things more inclusive and to keep building momentum. “We want to uplift people,” she says.

*For more information on UnderOne Festival 2024, visit www.underonefestival.com

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