The Cambridge Festival of Ideas programme launches today, with over 250 public events, most of them free, celebrating the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

I'm looking forward to welcoming you to the University or a series of thought-provoking events this October as we explore change in all its forms, identifying its challenges and embracing its opportunities.

David Cain

The 2019 Cambridge Festival of Ideas programme launches today with 273 - mostly free - events on topics ranging from the US presidential elections, the paintings of Yoko Ono, Stonewall at 50, climate justice, the future of China and Brexit.

The Festival, now in its 12th year, celebrates the enormous impact of arts, humanities and social sciences on our daily lives and encourages lively discussion about many of today's most challenging global issues. It takes place from 14 – 27 October 2019.

There are events - from exhibitions, film screenings, talks and more - for all the family, including hands-on workshops for children, such as an Arctic Family Day and artist-led workshops on life in Cambridge. 

The theme this year is change and many of the events focus on transformation, the implications of the technology revolution and wide-ranging social and political changes, from elder care and homeworking to house sharing.

Political change is represented in events such as a special live edition of the popular podcast Talking Politics as the clock ticks down on Brexit, a panel debate on the 2020 US presidential elections, a talk by Professor David Runciman on how democracies changeMP David Lammy in conversation with journalist Gillian Joseph, and a panel discussion on the broader issues of belonging and identity which Brexit has stirred

Events related to technological transformation include:

- Artificial intelligence and social change - an event organised by Giving Voices to Digital Democracies project on the implications of rapid changes driven by AI for digital democracies

- What makes us human in an age of artificial intelligence - a discussion about whether automation will make us redundant or make human qualities more sought after

- Hate speech, xenophobia and trolls - philosopher Rae Langton and classicist Mary Beard join journalists to discuss online hate speech

- Caroline Criado-Perez is interviewed by Professor Ann Copestake on data bias in a world designed for men 

Events related to social transformation include:

- a series of events celebrating Stonewall at 50, including film screenings and panel discussions with international experts on the riots and LGBTQ+ rights today 

- Rethinking drug addiction - the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams hosts a debate on safer drug use and drug consumption rooms

- Professor Simon Baron-Cohen's Sir Hermann Bondi Memorial Lecture on neurodiversity and how the world can become more autism friendly

- These four walls: a secret history of women home workers - an exhibition exploring themes such as precarity and domesticity, from the past to the present. This event is part of the Cambridge University Library's Rise: Women at Cambridge programme. The programme includes an exhibition of women at Cambridge's fight for educational equality and a focus on the careers of women who shaped the university and the world.

- Households of the future: will sharing our home be the new norm? - Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research hosts a panel on subjects ranging from multigenerational living to co-housing and life as a digital nomad

Events relating to cultural change include:

- Charles Saumarez-Smith on the transformation of the museum, drawing on his experience at the V & A, National Portrait Gallery and National Gallery and as Secretary and Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Arts

- The first Cambridge exhibition of Yoko Ono's paintings on the themes of violence and healing, a screening of the 1969 film RAPE, directed by Yoko Ono and John Lennon and a talk by curator Gabriella Daris on the way Ono's work resonates with the increasing complexity of today's world.

David Cain, the Cambridge Festival of Ideas manager, said: "The Cambridge Festival of Ideas highlights the latest thinking about the important topics shaping our lives.  Change is everywhere. As we change too, so do you. And sometimes the smallest change makes the biggest difference. I'm looking forward to welcoming you to the University  or a series of thought-provoking events this October as we explore change in all its forms, identifying its challenges and embracing its opportunities."

The Festival sponsors and partners are St John’s College, Anglia Ruskin University, Heffers, RAND Europe, University of Cambridge Museums and Botanic Garden, Cambridge Junction and Cambridge University Press. The Festival media partners are BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and Cambridge Independent.

*The programme is available in hard copy around Cambridge and online at Bookings open at 11am on 23rd September 2019. Follow the Festival on Twitter at and on Facebook at

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