During 2009, there were many events, in Cambridge and around the world, that celebrated the University and its history, and also showcased the University's current transformative research. Information, videos and galleries on a selection of the major events can be found below in chronological order.

Ringing in the Year

To launch the 800th Anniversary, Cambridge alumnus Philip Earis was commissioned to create a new bell peal. Four local churches, including the University church of Great St Mary’s, rang Philip Earis’ composition simultaneously on 17 January 2009. The score was made available to the global bell-ringing community via the University’s website, leading to churches as far afield as India, the United States and Australia ringing their bells to mark the University’s anniversary. Along with the bells, a specially commissioned lightshow ran on the front of the Senate House and Old Schools buildings, focusing on imagery from the University's past and present. The show ran for three nights, attracting over 10,000 people into the city centre to enjoy the show.

Summer Garden Party

A giant garden party was held for University and College staff at the Botanic gardens in central Cambridge on 16 July 2009. Any member of staff could attend and staff were asked to apply for a free ticket. On the day over 9,000 staff members and their families arrived at the gardens where they were given free picnics in bespoke cooler bags with food by Pret a Manger. The staff were entertained by different stages of music and dance, including a main stage which featured a celebrity alumni 800th quiz, hosted by Alexander Armstrong and Ben Miller, with panelists including Stephen Fry and Simon Hoggart. There were also many activities for kids including hands-on science experiments and a story-telling tent. The sun shone on the day and a grand time was had by all!

Cambridge BBC Prom

The Cambridge concert at the BBC Proms was the fastest selling event of the Prom calendar, featuring Cambridge composers, musicians and singers from 16 Colleges and was held in the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales at the Royal Albert Hall on the 22 July 2009. The concert featured many Cambridge alumni, including performances from Sir Andrew Davis and Simon Keenleyside, and pieces by composers such as Jonathan Harvey and Ralph Vaughan Williams. The concert also included performances from members of a total of sixteen different Cambridge College choirs. The BBC aired the Cambridge Prom concert twice on Radio 3, and also on the World Service.

Royal Ceremony

On 19 November 2009, the University was visited by Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh KG KT, Chancellor of the University. They attended a lunch at King's College for employees who have served the University for at least 36 years before conferring the new Regius Professorship of Botany on Sir David Baulcombe and witnessing the sealing of Letters to the Future. This was the first new Regius Professorship at the University for over 250 years, bringing the total number to seven. Professor Andrew Hamilton, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University also attended as an enthusiastic contributor to Letters to the Future.

800th Anniversary Gala - New York

On December 5, 2009, nearly 600 Cambridge alumni and friends gathered in New York City to celebrate the 800th Anniversary of the University of Cambridge at a festive black tie gala at Gotham Hall. During the event, the 800th Anniversary lightshow was projected onto the impressive interior of Gotham Hall, and the after-dinner program featured Sir David Frost and Stephen Fry. On this night, the Empire State Building was lit up in Cambridge blue to commemorate the 800th Anniversary.

Transforming Tomorrow - The Finale


On 18 January 2010, one year on from the first event, the 800th Anniversary was concluded with a bigger lightshow showcasing current University research. The show incorporated King’s, Clare, and Gonville and Caius Colleges into a walking route that started at Senate House and attracted over 20,000 people. The content for the lightshow was sourced from academic departments across the University. Three concepts were devised, one for each projection site, with a thematic thread of the relationships between science and the arts.