Cyberbullying, climate conspiracies, feminism and racial politics are just some of the thought-provoking issues under the spotlight at this year’s Festival of Ideas, which returns to Cambridge from 20 October to 2 November.
Now in its seventh year, the event aims to celebrate arts, humanities and social sciences, offering up more than 250 fascinating events at venues across the city.
The rich programme includes lectures, film screenings, exhibitions, debates, comedy nights, family activities and more, this year exploring a central theme of ‘Identities’.
Before the festival kicks off, you can get to know Cambridge’s most vibrant street at a special event on 15 October, as the history of Mill Road is revealed through a series of talks at the Ross Street Community Centre. Also promising to bolster your knowledge of our ever-intriguing city is Cambridge Shorts on 20 October: a selection of short films showcasing the exciting research emerging from Cambridge University which features Alexander the Great, DNA origami and illuminated manuscripts, amongst plenty of other brilliantly brainy ideas.
Another highlight of week one is sure to be Hip Hop Psych, which will see West Road Concert Hall branching away from its usual classical performances with an exploration of mental illness through the beats and lyrics of hip hop. On 22 October, discover what happens when you get a bestselling author, a futurist, a historian and an astrobiologist around a table in The Science of Fiction, which considers whether works of fiction can help predict the future. The first seven days will also delve into the mechanics of sexual desire, the Orwellian tendencies of social media and how archeology connects people across time and space.
Sunday 26 October marks the arrival of the Women of the World Festival, which will celebrate the achievements of women and girls through a series of enlightening events held at Cambridge Junction. Discover what’s wrong with pink with neuroscientist Nickie Pasterski and Emma Moore from the Pink Stinks campaign as they explore the distinction between toys for girls and boys – and why we should care.
There’s also a workshop for women on reaching the top of your professional game without burning out, as well as a ‘speed mentoring’ session with expert advice from inspiring high-flying women. During the afternoon in the foyer, take in a WOW Bite or two: a series of short talks, performances and readings covering everything from the role of women in global peace and security to the challenges facing feminism in contemporary culture today. The day concludes with a cabaret- based show compèred by Fay Roberts which features a selection of spoken word, comedy, dance, burlesque and more.
Week two gives an opportunity to explore multicultural Britain, considering faith, national identity and personal stories in events such as Nationalism 101: should we be afraid? This debate on 27 October encompasses the Arab Spring, the events in the Ukraine and Scottish/English tensions to consider what exactly about nationalism inspires such passion.
Fancy yourself as a budding curator? Put your skills to the test in a digital workshop at the Museum of Classical Architecture which offers the chance to try your hand at producing your own interpretations of classical sculpture, or get involved with Exhibition in a Day!, where you’ll draw inspiration from Kettles Yard to create your own artwork and curate an entire exhibition.
Spoken English in today’s Britain on 30 October will present fascinating new insights into our language from research at Lancaster University, which investigates everything from variations in region and age groups to the effect of technology on our lexicon. The same evening, you can join Bright Club, the Cambridge group of science boffs turned stand-up comics at the Portland Arms, or get creative and help to build a Mexican Day of the Dead altar at the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology.
Things show no sign of slowing down for the third and final week of the Festival of Ideas, which will serve up another jam-packed schedule of intriguing events. Consider what our future might look like in Big Brother 2.0, which will explore issues of privacy and security in an era of digital surveillance, or discover how to reach your true potential in Young People: what is our identity; a lively discussion on creating the kind of world that we really want, on 1 November.
There’s also a film-making weekend at Kettle’s Yard to get stuck into (1-2 November), plus the chance to immerse yourself in the wacky and wonderful world of Steampunk at the Museum of Technology on 2 November, with a mask and shadow puppet-making workshop. To really stretch the old grey matter, head along to What is Consciousness Made Of: an experiential journey into the workings of our minds with Dr Gareth Burr on 2 November, which will use a series of mindfulness practices and exercises to demonstrate the power we hold as co-creators of our own worlds. The same evening, round off your festival with an evening of music courtesy of some of Cambridge’s most exciting young composers at West Road Concert Hall.
For the full programme visit www.festivalofideas.cam.ac.uk