Tag, Poke and Follow
to your heart's content.

Cambridge Festival of Ideas

Cambridge Festival of Ideas

Published: 31st July 2013.

Crossing frontiers at Cambridge Festival of Ideas 2013


Do rappers make better lyricists than poets? Is there an alternative to austerity? Is Europe in terminal decline? What is the impact of conspiracy theories?


These and many more thought-provoking questions will be explored at this year's Cambridge Festival of Ideas which is bursting with over 200 events for people of all ages. Those taking part include Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, artist Quentin Blake, author MJ Hyland, Frank Field MP, columnist Owen Jones, George the Poet, teen writer Anthony McGowan, comedian James Mullinger and academics ranging from David Reynolds and Noreena Hertz to Mary Beard, Anthony Giddens and Richard Evans.


The University of Cambridge Festival of Ideas, which runs from 23rd October to 3rd November and celebrates the very best of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Events are held in lecture halls, theatres, museums and galleries around Cambridge and entry to most is free.


The theme of the Festival, which is in its sixth year, is frontiers and events around this theme include debates about the future of immigration with David Goodhart, director of thinktank Demos and author of 'The British Dream: Successes and Failures of Post-War Immigration', the history of border conflicts,  and raising multilingual children.


MJ Hyland will take part in a discussion of the borders between literary genres and whether publishers and writers have become more conservative about crossing those borders in recent years.


Another session which explores the borders between genres is a word-off between rappers and poets. Three rappers will compete with three poets to explore whether rappers or poets make the best lyricists. Mark Grist, famed winner of the don’t flop rap battles, Stephen Morrison Burke, the current Birmingham poet Laureate, and Hollie Mcnish, Glastonbury festival slam winner and BBC Radio 4 regular will compete for the poets.  For the rappers are hip hop - Skuff, this year's BBC introducing rapper of the week, representing hip hop, Jimmy Danger, founder of record label audio danger records representing drum n bass, and grime fanatic Deanna Rodger, previous UK poetry slam champion.


Another event sees popular spoken word performer George the Poet give a performance of his work Malik at West Road Concert Hall. George, a Cambridge University student, is a spoken word performer, public speaker, writer and recording artist from North-West London who offers social commentary through poetry.


The Festival will see a host of inspiring interactive sessions for people of all ages, including a Horrible Histories session, line dancing for preschoolers, a pre-history day, a hands on session exploring whether humans and animals see the world in different ways, a backstage tour of the ADC Theatre, learning French through chess and a walk exploring the hidden history of Indian students at Cambridge. The Museum of Classical Archaeology is running a passport to the past activity where children can learn about the past through designing a passport and following a trail around the museum.


Other events at the Festival include:


- a series of debates on the future of Europe - from European fertility and the future of the EU to whether Europe is in terminal decline

- an ingenious new sequel to Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress

- a new film on a groundbreaking Muslim and Christian dialogue initiative, The Common Word, will be followed by a talk with Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, and Sheikh Abdul Hakim Mur

- a debate on the ethics of smart drugs with Professor Barbara Sahakian and Dr Raymond Tallis

- a talk on the operas of Verdi and Wagner, celebrating their bi-centenaries

- a discussion of the impact of CS Lewis on science 50 years after his death with Daily Telegraph columnist and author Dr James LeFanu

- a debate on how possible future wars are being depicted in science fiction, led by Chris Beckett, winner of the 2013 Arthur C. Clarke award

- Museum showoffs, an open mic night featuring a whole bunch of museum enthusiasts talking about the stuff that makes them buzz

- a series of debates on issues relating to feminism, from boardroom quotas, female converts to Islam in the UK and how to be a single woman to whether it is feminist to encourage women into male-dominated areas.


The University of Cambridge Festival of Ideas is sponsored by Barclays, Cambridge University Press and Anglia Ruskin University.

Event partners include Heffers Classics Festival, University of Cambridge Museums RAND Europe, the Goethe-Institut London and the Junction. The Festival's hospitality partner is Cambridge City Hotel and its media partner is BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.


Malavika Anderson, the Festival of Ideas Coordinator, said: "The Festival of Ideas has grown significantly over the last few years, in terms of both the number as well as the diversity of events on offer. We were delighted to have hosted over 14,000 visitors at the festival in 2012 and look forward to welcoming even more over 12 days this autumn. The theme this year – Frontiers – 'explores how borders, boundaries and margins are being either challenged or reinforced around the world' - has inspired the development of some truly exciting events."


The programme will be published on 2nd June September. More information from


Contact Mandy Garner on 07789 106435 or email for more details.

Back to top