A brief history of Festival of Learning and Adult Learners' Week


Since its modest beginnings in 1992, Festival of Learning (previously, Adult Learners’ Week) has handed out a variety of learning awards to around 2000 inspiring winners.

Adult Learners’ Week originated from the concept of adult learning - a notion the government back then did not recognise nor fund - until former NIACE CEO Alan Tuckett OBE brought it to light. He enlisted the aid of the Women’s Institute to write letters to MPs, which consequently proved effective and changed the government’s plans.

The original Adult Learners’ Week celebrated existing learners in all of their diversity in order to encourage other people to join in and to help decision-makers understand better how adult education could influence a whole range of social policies. The idea was successful and spread to other countries. Stories of people engaging with learning were filmed on BBC, ITV and Channel4. These anecdotes exposed the power of lifelong learning – that learning changes lives and helps people reach their full potential. Ultimately, Adult Learners’ Week was born.

Over the years, Adult Learners’ Week has made a large contribution to celebrate the best in adult learning and has made a wider case for more adult education opportunities and for more people to take part.

In 2013, Adult Learners’ Week grew to incorporate a 2-month Festival of Learning with the purpose of engaging learners, providers and policy makers for more than just a week each year.

Two years later, Adult Learners’ Week changed its name to Festival of Learning to better represent the year-long calendar of activities and to attract new audiences. And June became known as Have a Go Month.

In 2017, we marked our 25th year, and Festival of Learning continues to celebrate achievements and host award ceremonies. It continues to inspire people nationwide into lifelong learning and prominently showcases the positive and transformational impact it can have on lives.

“The importance of learning means that today is the start of the next 25 years, continuing to make the case for adult education and continuing to make the case to get more people into learning.” – Stephen Evans, CEO Learning and Work Institute