A true treasure in the local events calendar, Cambridge University’s annual Festival of Ideas returns this autumn, bringing with it a huge programme of enlightening events at venues across the city from 19 October to 1 November.
Now entering its eighth year, the event aims to celebrate arts, humanities and social sciences, offering up more than 250 fascinating talks, exhibitions, film screenings, comedy nights, family activities and more. “Question everything” urge the organisers, who have attracted an impressive line-up of world-leading thinkers and experts in their fields, poised to grace the lecture halls, theatres, museums and galleries of Cambridge throughout this month.
Never an event to shy away from tackling the big issues, this year’s festival focuses on a central theme of power and resistance, with events covering thought-provoking topics including censorship, free speech, privacy, democracy and more.
“This year, our aim is to be more experimental and more provocative with the questions we are asking,” says Malavika Anderson, the Festival coordinator. “People attending events will need to come along armed with an open mind and be prepared to re-examine their perceptions of the world.”
Kicking off proceedings with a pre-festival event on 15 October will be an opportunity to learn more about the colourful past of one of Cambridge’s most vibrant neighbourhoods, as the Mill Road History Society project presents a trio of speakers at the Ross Street Community Centre.
The festival proper begins on 19 October, with the first week yielding a feast of talks guaranteed to get your grey matter working. Should we be having babies at 20? Who owns outer space? What do we owe the universe?
‘People need to come along armed with an open mind and be prepared to re-examine their perceptions of the world’
These questions and more will tackled in the first seven days alone, which will also explore what went wrong with the Euro, what global threats humanity might face in the next 40 years, and whether art can foster resistance to power. The following week, join professor Rae Langton for The body politic: censorship and the female body; a panel discussion on pornography and objectification of women, featuring poet Hollie McNish, amongst others.
Also promising an interesting debate is Consumerism and Identity on 31 October, an exploration of how our very identities are shaped by what we buy and the marketing we’re exposed to.
Explore Art Language Location, a festival within a festival taking place from 15 October to 1 November, which will showcase innovative and experimental contemporary artists from across the UK and beyond who use text in their work. Banned Books on 24 October, meanwhile, will take a look at the fascinating history of literary censorship, featuring materials from the Cambridge University Library.
There’s also a chance to see some groundbreaking light-based technologies by the e-Luminate Light Lab, as well as learning more about the history of printmaking in The power of paper at the museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Our top pick though has to be Arena: night and day, a 24-hour film marathon at the Arts Picturehouse that will delve into the rich archives of the BBC’s seminal cultural programme. Arena, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, has explored the lives and work of the greatest artists and thinkers of the last century, from Charlie Chaplin to Bob Dylan.
Cambridge’s group of science-boffs-turned-stand-up-comedians Bright Club will be doing their thing at the Portland Arms on the 22nd, and you can catch Asian Dub Foundation re-imagining the score of George Lucas’s stylistic sci-fi masterpiece THX 1138 at the Corn Exchange on 23 October.
#TORYCORE at Cambridge Junction meanwhile ‘combines sludge and doom metal with the Budget speech 2015; a pounding subverbal deathgrowl with text from the blue suits at Tory HQ’. They’ve certainly got our attention!
There’s also a small series of film screenings throughout the festival, with offerings including Alejandro Iñárritu’s Babel: a complex and sometimes tragic portrait of humanity as told through four interlocking stories. Also on the film bill is Andres Veiel’s The Kick (Der Kick), a discomforting case study of youth brutality and right-wing extremism.
As always, there’s a busy line-up of interactive activities for all ages throughout the festival. On 24 October, find out what makes superheroes tick, join in with a poetry tour of Cambridge, or take the kids along to Crash, Bang, Wallop!, a children’s trail and craft activity at the Museum of Classical Archaeology. The next day, there’s a meditation workshop, plus the chance to learn about and celebrate the art and cultures of West Papua.
You can also build a Mexican Day of the Dead altar, meet awesome women of the stage from history over tea and cake, see the final of the Cambridge Young Composer of the Year and plenty more – so grab yourself a programme and get planning!