Political issues ranging from the future of Europe, the US elections, immigration and how to deal with Islamic extremists will be at the heart of this year’s Cambridge Festival of Ideas which runs from 19th October to 1st November.

Speakers include the writer Bidisha, Alan Sked, founder and now fiercest critic of UKIP, journalist Peter Hitchens, Professor David Runciman, Professor Paul Cartledge, John Macnicol, one of Europe’s leading academic analysts of old age and ageing, and Russian historian Professor Dominic Lieven.

Bidisha and award-winning journalist Emily Dugan will be in conversation about their new books which focus on the experiences of immigrants and refugees in the UK. Bidisha’s book, Asylum and Exile: the Hidden Voices of London, is the result of a writing residency with refugees and asylum seekers in London. Through their own words and writing, it tells the stories of people who have fled war, violent persecution, poverty or civil unrest in a range of countries, from Syria to the Congo and their experiences in the UK. It shows that though many used to be accountants, teachers, criminologists and composers in their own countries, they are often forced to work illegally in the UK in underpaid, unstable jobs, surviving on a few pounds a day.

Emily Dugan’s book, Finding Home: Real Stories of Migrant Britain, is described as “an honest, unflinching portrait of ordinary people, all immigrants to the United Kingdom, struggling with extraordinary obstacles to find somewhere called home”.

The Festival will also feature a debate on the rise of the extreme right in Europe. A screening of Andres Veiel’s award-winning film Der Kick [The Kick, 2006] on the murder of a teenager by three neo-Nazi teenagers in East Germany will be followed by a panel discussion on the rise of right-wing violence in Europe. Taking part are Dr Emmanuel Karagiannis, Senior Lecturer of the Defence Studies Department  at King’s College London, who specialises in the area of radicalisation and terrorism in Europe and ethnic conflicts in the Caucasus and Central Asia;  and from the University of Cambridge Dr Helen Roche, who specialises in Germany history and Dr Katharina Karcher, whose research interests include protest movements in the former West Germany, political violence and European women’s movements.

Also on the theme of immigration and the future of Europe is the debate Can Europe Keep the Peace? The speakers will be Alan Sked, MEP Mary Honeyball, historian Professor Robert Tombs and Montserrat Guibernau,  Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University of London and author of the forthcoming book 'Solidarity and Division in the EU'. In another event on Europe, leading commentator Paul Wallace will analyse why the Euro went wrong and if reforms have been sufficient to make it perform better in the future.

Other politics events at the Festival include:

  • A special Festival edition of the respected politics podcast, Election Live! led by Professor David Runciman. It will cover the new Labour leadership, Europe and other issues of the day, reflecting on how much has changed since June and how quickly, and looking at the US elections and what the parallels might be between maverick candidates there and here. The podcast will also be taking predictions on the US elections from the panel and the audience.
  • Can Writers and Artists Ever Be Terrorists? - debate with Professor Anthony Glees, Turkish artist and anti-censorship campaigner Pelin Basaran, Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship, and Dr Sara Silvestri who specialises in radicalisation.
  • War, Censorship and Propaganda - a debate with Professor Christopher Andrew, Official Historian of MI5, Professor David Welch, director of the Centre for the Study of Propaganda and War at the University of Kent, Dr Peter Busch from King’s College London on the use of social media for propaganda purposes, and Caroline Wyatt, former defence correspondent at the BBC.
  • Flamenco and the Politics of Resistance: Flashmobs and Immigration in Spain - Matthew Machin-Autenrieth will explore how flamenco has been used as a catalyst for social change, including in 'flash mobs' where dancers and singers have engaged in acts of spontaneous performance in banks and political institutions as a form of anti-capitalist protest and to celebrate issues surrounding immigration and racism.
  • Greek democracy: ancient and modern – Paul Cartledge, Professor of Ancient Greek History, and political journalist Maria Margaronis will discuss ancient and modern conceptions of democracy and the myths surrounding them both.
  • People’s power: democracy on three continents and an island - Four drastically different places and four distinct points of view will bring to the table the force of broad cross-cultural comparison to bear on the most urgent problems which haunt democracies around the globe and at home. 

Established in 2008, Cambridge Festival of Ideas aims to fuel the public’s interest in arts, humanities and social sciences. The events, ranging from talks, debates and film screenings to exhibitions and comedy nights, are held in lecture halls, theatres, museums and galleries around Cambridge. Most of the over 250 events are free.

Speakers include some of the world’s leading thinkers in their fields, including the astronomer Lord Martin Rees, John Macnicol, one of Europe’s leading academic analysts of old age and ageing, philosopher Professor Rae Langton, Professor Christopher Andrew, the Official Historian of Mi5, Russian historian Professor Dominic Lieven and Classics Professor Paul Cartledge. Also speaking are writer and journalist Peter Hitchens, BBC religious affairs correspondent Caroline Wyatt, Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship, and Professor Alan Sked, founder and former member of UKIP.

The Festival sponsors and partners are Cambridge University Press, St John’s College, Anglia Ruskin University, RAND Europe, Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Cambridge Live, University of Cambridge Museums and Botanic Garden, Arts Council England, Cambridge Junction, British Science Association, Heritage Lottery Fund, Heffers, WOW Festival, Southbank Centre, Collusion, TTP Group, Goethe Institut, Index on Censorship and BBC Cambridgeshire.

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