HUMAN rights campaigners are heading to York for the city’s first festival on the issue.

A series of events organised by the York Human Rights City (YHRC) project will be staged between December 10 and 15, under the banner of York’s Freedom Charter: 800 Years And Still Counting, tapping into the 800th anniversary of the city receiving its Royal Charter.

The network includes representatives from City of York Council, both the city’s universities, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and North Yorkshire Police, as well as Amnesty International and York CVS, and the festival is intended to become an annual event. It will see documentaries being screened and talks staged by researchers, writers and politicians.

It begins on December 10 with a workshop for human rights ambassadors from York’s secondary schools at The Mount School, with a talk by a member of the University of York’s Centre for Applied Human Rights, while YHRC project co-ordinator Andres Jaroslavsky will explain its plans and possible ways of getting involved.

The following day will see a workshop entitled “Come Together” for York organisations interested in playing a part in YHRC at York CVS’ Priory Street Centre base, while on December 12 the Human Rights Tour 2012 will visit the University of York’s Heslington East campus. Hosted by the British Institute of Human Rights, it will allow participants to air views and debate issues.

Author and journalist John Kampfner, former Index on Censorship chief executive, British Institute of Human Rights director Stephen Bowen and others will host a debate on the same day on whether offensive social media comments should lead to prosecution, held at the University of York’s Ron Cooke Hub.

The same venue will stage a talk on December 13 about whether community contracts and constitutions strengthen local democracy, while Australian comedy film The Castle – the story of a family defending their home against Government purchase – will be shown at York St John University’s Fountains Lecture Theatre that evening.

The festival closes on December 15 with the Amnesty UK Roma Conference at the Priory Street Centre, celebrating the culture of the Roma people and highlighting their fight against discrimination. A YHRC spokesman said: “The project aims to promote a community where institutions, organisations, businesses and individuals debate, learn, understand, embrace and apply human rights principles to their daily lives.”

Mr Jaroslavsky said: “We are looking to bring together a network of organisations to see how policy-making works in relation to human rights and create a forum for debate, which also includes social issues as some of those involved do not brand themselves as human rights organisations but work in areas such as disability issues.

“This is our first festival, but the idea is that it will grow and be staged every year.”

More information can be found at and YHRC’s Facebook page.