During the course of the 800th Anniversary year, there were several projects that were developed to coincide with the celebrations. These ranged from a time capsule project, new art works, and engagement with a variety of communities, such as students, local schoolchildren and the global academic community. A selection of these projects are featured below.

Letters to the Future

The aim of this project was that 800 letters would be written by a variety of different local, national and international stakeholders, including other universities. These letters would constitute a private correspondence between the authors and their future family or counterpart. Sealed by the writer and stored in the University Library archives for 100 years, the letters would be opened on the 900th anniversary of the University. Each letter pack contained a numbered envelope and matching certificate. Instructions were given that the certificate be passed down as the holder of each certificate will be able to retrieve the matching letter in 100 years time. Also included in each pack was a guidebook which offered advice along with inspiration provided by personal letters of well-known alumni from across the centuries.

Current staff and students were encouraged to email the 800th office for a letter pack, with hundreds applying. Approximately 300 local schoolchildren came into central Cambridge to contribute their letters. The letter packs were also sent to the heads of top higher education institutions around the world inviting them to contribute their own private visions. Each letter was logged and placed into one of eight archive boxes. These were sealed in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen before all eight were delivered by the University messengers to the archivists at the University Library. This project has left a unique legacy for a future generation by creating a singular record of this moment in the history of our community and the world, through the private thoughts, fears and hopes of a range of people from children and alumni to academics at the highest level.

Quentin Blake's informal panorama

World-renowned illustrator and alumnus Quentin Blake kindly agreed to produce a series of illustrations including a major work depicting a series of some of the most influential figures from 800 years of Cambridge life. The first four of these illustrations – two each of Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton – were used in the light show which opened the year in January 2009.

Over the summer, Mr Blake worked with the 800th team on a series of thirteen additional illustrations. These works were turned into a mural measuring approximately 70 feet in length which was donated to Addenbrooke’s Hospital and unveiled by Mr Blake in September 2009. Four of the drawings were also turned into a separate large scale banner, installed at the front of King’s College in preparation for the Queen’s visit on 19 November 2009.


Digital walks

As part of the 800th Anniversary, a series of online digital walks were commissioned. The first of these walks, Buildings, Lives and Legacies was launched in January 2009. The second walk, 800 Years of Death and Disease was produced in cooperation with the Institute of Public Health, and was released in March 2009 to coincide with the Cambridge Science Festival. Two further walks, Following in the Footsteps, a tour of Cambridge for prospective applicants, and Walking in Henslow’s Garden, a tour of the Botanic Garden by Professor John Parker, were released later in the year. All of the walks are available for download from here.

Octo imagery

Several number 800s were carved in white for use as a photographic prop throughout the year. Known as Octo, this was thought to be a simple way to draw attention to the anniversary in a light-hearted manner. Octos in several sizes were produced and made available on loan to any member of the University. Octo was subsequently photographed in Cambridge and around the world by professional photographers, students, alumni and employees of the University. The resulting photographs were used throughout the year, both in printed publications and online.

Susanna Gregory - Bloody Beginnings

The former Cambridge academic and author Susanna Gregory (pen name), who specialises in medieval crime fiction set in Cambridge, was contacted by the 800th team. She kindly agreed to produce a fictional account of the murder that is alleged to have triggered the exodus of academics from Oxford to Cambridge in 1209. A short story entitled Bloody Beginnings was the result of this work, with all the characters in the story based upon real people of the time, many of whom would have fled Oxford for Cambridge in the winter of 1209. Bloody Beginnings can be downloaded as a PDF from here.


0 - 800 years in 60 minutes

Pupils from local schools performed an original play with music, covering 800 years of town and gown history and a glimpse into the future. It was produced by Keystage Theatre Company and the Community Affairs team, and took place at the ADC Theatre on 21 November 2009. The play was performed entirely by children and young people, many of whom were taking to the stage for the first time. Students from nine different schools took part, most of them from years six and eight (ages 10 to 13).


My Cam

A short film or ‘microdoc’ competition for students called My Cam was launched in the Michaelmas term of 2009, for which students were asked to submit a 90-second film about any aspect of Cambridge life. Entries were shortlisted by the 800th Anniversary Team and the finalists were judged on originality, engagement and creativity by Peter Horrocks, Head of the BBC World Service and alumnus of Christ’s College. The winning entry by Alex Calverley can be seen below, other shortlisted films can be viewed here.


Streetlight banners

One of the major ways that awareness of the 800th Anniversary was generated throughout the city was a campaign of over 200 streetlight banners, these were fixed to lamp posts across the city centre. The images chosen for the banners ranged from an illuminated manuscript to the detail of a moth's wing. Several key dates from the history of the University, themed around the printed word, were featured on the opposite side of each banner.

A competition was run through the Cambridge Evening News to uncover the meaning behind the dates. This competition received the largest number of entries of any competition the paper had previoulsy run. The banners were erected in time for the opening event and stayed up for the entire year, being taken down shortly after the conclusion of the Finale.