Cambridge Festival of Ideas '18

Bringing more than 200 mind-expanding talks, debates, performances and hands-on activities, the Festival of Ideas returns 15 to 28 October – here’s what not to miss 

After Hours At The Polar Museum

Explore the treasures of the Polar Museum after dark on 27 October, when the doors will be open until 9pm and a host of special activities will be on offer. Tales of extreme survival from the world’s coldest corner await on this voyage into the windiest, highest and driest of places, plus you can see a selection of rarely seen objects from the museum collection, dress up in expedition gear and ask the team questions about polar exploration. There will also be a marathon reading of Frankenstein running all day.

Homerton 250 

2018 sees Homerton College celebrate its 250th anniversary, a milestone the institution is marking with special events throughout the year. The highlight, on 27 October, is the Homerton 250 Festival, which will feature a packed day of activities that includes the chance to experience a sensory Quiet Room, take part in dance workshops, art sessions and messy chemistry, plus join in a masterclass with Dame Evelyn Glennie – the world’s premier solo percussionist and Honorary Fellow of Homerton College. Runs 10.30am to 5.30pm.

Educated with Tara Westover

Raised in rural Idaho, Tara Westover escaped a brutal upbringing at the hands of her survivalist Mormon family to study at Cambridge University. Her remarkable journey of self-education and emancipation is chronicled in her bestselling memoir Educated, which Barack Obama listed on his summer reading list recently. Join her at the festival in conversation with Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman for a discussion of what it means to be independent. 20 October, Faculty of Law, 11am.

Antisocial Media

As Cambridge Analytica, fake news and Facebook hit headlines, the impact of social media on democracy and society at large is increasingly under the spotlight. On 18 October, join a discussion on the topic in which a panel of experts will delve into the challenges facing us in the digital age. Frankopan Hall, Jesus College, 7.30pm.  

Extreme Plant Hunting 

Explore the perilous world of Victorian and Edwardian plant hunters at the Botanic Garden on 23 October. These intrepid adventurers risked life and limb to bring their exotic spoils home to English gardens, faced with death, disease and shipwreck as a matter of course. Twigs Way explores extraordinary expeditions and lives lived on the edge, followed by a talk by Angela Cano and Alex Summers from the Botanic Garden about a recent plant-hunting trip to the deserts of South Africa. 11am. 

Hearts Of Darkness 

If you’re fascinated by the extremes of human immorality – by monstrous acts which seem unfathomable to regular people – head along to this talk by Anglia Ruskin’s Michael Wilby on 27 October. He’ll be exploring what drives some people to cause suffering in others, considering their motives and characters and drawing on the thought of philosophers such as Kant, Nietzsche and Arendt. Anglia Ruskin University, 5pm.   

Up close to Medieval Cambridge

Home of the famous Stourbridge Fair and a central trading point, Cambridge was a busy, important town during Medieval times. On 21 October, revisit this fascinating period in its history with a special interactive tour that begins at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and will take you around the city, where you’ll meet medieval characters, explore an exhibition at the Old Divinity School and discover how skeletons tell stories about the past. 12pm to 4pm.

The Future Of Work

What does the future of work look like? Will jobs become ever more precarious while robots take over, or can we regulate to make the gig economy and artificial intelligence work in our favour? Join what promises to be a fascinating, and possibly quite scary, discussion on 20 October with author James Bloodworth, Alex Wood, Hatice Gunes, and Ben Dellot from the Royal Society for the Arts. Faculty of Law, 1pm. 

Turbulent Times  

How do we comprehend extreme political changes? This talk explores a variety of shocking and revolutionary events, considering how contemporaries understood the changing political tides they were experiencing. A group of historians review case studies ranging from the English Civil War to the Warsaw Uprising, and link them to the contemporary Brexit controversy. 19 October, St John’s College Fisher Building, 6pm.

Build a Day of the Dead Altar

Celebrated in Mexico, Día de Muertos – or Day of the Dead – is a public holiday during which people honour their deceased relatives in festivities filled with colour, costume and food. See what it’s all about from 26 to 28 October with the University of Cambridge Mexican Society and MAA, where you can help decorate the Day of the Dead altar. Drop in and join in the crafts and trails or just see the altar as it grows over the weekend. Runs 11am to 4pm Fri and Sat and 12pm to 4pm on Sunday. 

Booking has already opened for all events. You can download a copy of the full programme at