Festival of hope & despair

Online, Sat 23 & Sun 24 October 2021

Buy your ticket now & choose from 32 lectures, 11 workshops, 6 music & poetry performances, 2 self-development peer support groups, 1 movie with expert panel discussion! In between the sessions, walk around at the festival market and have a chat in the coffee  queue with other festival goers! Of course, you will get a CPD Conference Attendance Certificate.

It is autumn 2021. The summer-green colours in nature are starting to give way for the autumn palette and the falling of the leaves. Many countries are moving into influenza season, and it is likely that governments will announce new protective measures against the COVID-virus or even new lock-downs. There are also other long-term problems that could make us despair, such as authoritarian governments,  inequalities of wealth and health, and climate change. How can we make sense of our world in turmoil? How can we build a meaningful society with these challenges? Do we dare to hope? Can we directly move from despair to hope, or should we also pay attention to feelings of despair and outrage?

Join us at our Festival of Hope and Despair on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 June 2021! We warmly welcome you, your hopes and desperations, at three days of lectures, workshops, music, art, support groups, fun and conncetions. Listen to world-leading psychologists, philosophers, politicians, biologists and other experts. Share your own thoughts and feelings, and develop your self-insight, during our support groups and workshops. Build your professional skills as therapist, researcher, coach, counsellor or other practitioner in one of our many workshops. Get inspired by our music and art events, and express yourself!

Both hope and despair can be blind. Therefore, we should not ask whether it is better to hope or to despair about our world, but whether we dare to open our eyes. (Joel Vos, 2021)

View conference programme

Reserve your place now!

The prices will go up on 1 August 2021. The price inludes access to the live conferences & recordings after the conference. If you apply for an unwaged fee, send a valid copy of your student/senior/disabled ID or other proof with a date and name on it to [email protected]

IMEC Festival of Hope & Despair SPEAKERS ONLY (UNTIL 1 AUGUST)

£45.00 GBP
IMEC Festival of Hope & Despair UNWAGED (UNTIL 1 AUGUST)

£40.00 GBP
IMEC Festival of Hope & Despair WAGED (UNTIL 15 MAY)

£50.00 GBP
IMEC Festival of Hope & Despair LAST MINUTE

£85.00 GBP
IMEC Festival of Hope & Despair DONATION OF £10

£10.00 GBP
IMEC Festival of Hope & Despair DONATION OF £40

£40.00 GBP

Open for submissions & resubmissions!

This is our conference - YOUR conference! Share and organise a workshop, lecture, symposium, discussion, music or art event! We hope to create an inspiring event with meaningful conversations and synergetic collaborations, sharing hopes, dreams, wisdom, inspiration and moments of despair. 



Accepted lectures are given 20 minutes (which includes 5 mins questions and answers), and will be organized on panels of lectures with similar content, themes, and/or thinkers. There will be additional time for Q&A at the end of each session. There is a limited number of slots available for long lectures of 30 mins which we will mainly dedicate for keynote speakers.



Share your creativity, interaction, inspiration, discussion, reflection: give a workshop! The name says it all: you will put your audience at work. You can ask for a short workshop of 60 mins, or a long one of 120 mins.



Do you want to share multiple voices, hearts and brains in one session? Consider organising a seminar. A short seminar consists of mutiple speakers/presenters and preferably a panel discussion or Q&A. This can be 60 mins or 120 mins long. The seminar chair will submit the proposal on behalf of the group of presenters.



'I wandered lonely as a cloud, and therefore I shared it with everyone so that I would not feel lonely anymore.' If you are a modern Wandsworth, Ginsberg or rap artist: share your poetry in a short or longer session (10/20 mins). We would prefer poets with experience of performing. Please send us examples of what you want to perform. Please keep the inspiration flowing by sharing any links to poetry publications with your audience!



There is no better way to express hope and despair than via music. Share your inspiration with the audience in a session of 20 mins or 40 mins. If possible, please also introduce each song and tell what it means to you. We would prefer poets with experience of performing. Please send us examples of what you want to perform. And yes, please share the links to your CD's, bandcamp or other Merch!



Culture introduced by...

In this session, an individual will share which cultural products (music, poetry, art, etc) are meaningful for them, and particularly whether these give hope or expression to despair.

Culture introduced by participants                          

Same as 'culture introduced by', but now audience members can share (max 5 mins each, depending on how many individuals there are)

Interview of hope & despair with...                        

In this session, there will be an interview or other format where unique voices are shared. Eg voices from young individuals, COVID patients, activists, etc. The interviews will focus on: what is meaningful for them, what gives hope and what gives despair in their live and society, and how do they balance?

Group discussion (breakout rooms)                        

We will use breakout rooms where individuals can select their own room

Social support group                     

We will use the usual format from the IMEC social support groups

Creative workshop about hope & despair                            

Workshops about the theme of hope and despair, in which art is created together with participants; this could be drawing, music, etc

Submit your proposal!

About IMEC Conferences

The IMEC International Meaning Conferences are annual conferences for practitioners and researchers who focus on meaning in life and at helping people to live a meaningful life despite life’s challenges.

Our conferences started as bi-annual conferences (2017, 2019). We will now be organising these at least once per year combining in-person live events in London and online events. The conferences bring individuals from multiple academic disciplines from all over the world together: participants have included humanistic, existential, and phenomenological therapists and researchers, positive psychologists, transpersonal and spiritual speakers, priests, philosophers, nurses, psychiatrists, anthropologists, sociologists, social activists, and human resource managers.

The conferences are always combined with the other IMEC events, such as music, poetry and art, and political debates. Whereas other academic conferences can be alienating, we aim to connect participants with each other and build authentic relationships. We offer a stage not only for world-leading speakers, but also for enthusiastic practitioners, students, and artists. To make the conferences accessible for everyone, we aim to organise the conference online each two years, and in the years in between we will organise a conference in person. We aim to publish the lectures in an annual book publication, in collaboration with the University Professors Press.

Organisation: Chair Joel Vos; Secretary: Natalie Fraser; Scientific Committee

Next event: April 2021 online ‘Festival Of Hope and Despair’ Date: TBC

If you join a conference some legal bits may apply to you: read here


General principles of IMEC Conferences

  • Focus on connecting individuals and stimulating collaborations
  • Multi-disciplinary (psychology, anthropology, philosophy, theology, sociology, humanities, politics, etc.)
  • Pluralistic (not one specific meaning-centered ‘school’ of practice or research)
  • Connect research and practice
  • Any type of practices, e.g. therapists, priests, nurses, community workers, social workers, political activists
  • Any type of research, e.g. phenomenological, quantitative, sociological, clinical, community activities, philosophical explorations
  • Creative formats of connecting and learning, eg workshops, debates, etc
  • Practical tools for practitioners
  • Research inspiration and tools for researchers
  • Meaning in different contexts: therapy, coaching, research, work, church, nursing, social activism, community events, etc.
  • Evidence-based, where ‘evidence’ can be quantitative or qualitative research, clinical experience or systematic conceptual work
  • At the end of the conference, create a joint conference statement with audience and keynote speakers, and publish this
  • Accessible for as many individuals as possible (eg low fees for students and unwaged)
  • Integration with online tools; e.g. live broadcasting of all sessions online (webinars) + make these available online, so that individuals anywhere in the world can follow this; after the conference, individuals can be in touch with each other via Meaning Online where they can create profiles and upload their research/presentations + presenters who cannot attend the conference can present online


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