Arab Spring

Join authors, historians and filmmakers for the flagship day at the Festival of Ideas on Saturday the 22nd October, the UK’s only arts, humanities, and social sciences festival which runs from 19-30 October.

With more than 170 free events, the Festival of Ideas is bigger than ever.

Sophie Smith

Cambridge University’s Festival of Ideas is returning for its fourth year. And with more than 170 free events, it is bigger than ever.

Politics, both at home and abroad, has been front page news for most of the year. With the first coalition government since World War II and the uprising in the Arab world, understanding the state of politics is even more important than ever. Join a panel of global experts as they discuss the state of politics of the left and its inherent implications (The Left in crisis: what is next? Faculty of Law, 11am-12pm).

Also making the headlines this summer were the riots which occurred throughout the country. The London Anti-Crime Education Scheme will be on hand - complete with a prison cell - to discuss their mentoring work at deterring people, especially youths, from a life of crime (How to stay out of prison, faculty of Law, 12.30-1.30pm).

Best-selling authors and academics will also be discussing their newest research throughout the day. Michael Scott will show how the spatial aspects and fluid use of the famous Greek oracle sites Delphi and Olympia actually played a more central role in the development of an ancient Greek identity than archaeologists and historians have ever realized (Where eagles meet and demi-gods shine, Faculty of Classics, 11am-12noon).

The Armistice of 1918 was a monumental event for those who lived through it. The end of the Great War was the catalyst for extraordinary cultural changes in society and the arts. Dr Trudi Tate will discuss how the drastic change in life was reflected in the poetry, fiction, memoirs, newspaper reports, and memoirs from more than 90 years ago. (Literary responses to the armistice of 1918, Faculty of English, 3-4pm).

The increasing influence of women outside the home which came about after the end of World War I is also reflected in the works of British author Doris Lessing, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007. With an anthology of Lessing’s work recently published, the author of the foreword, Anne-Laure Brevet, will be discussing how the twin themes of feminine destiny and freedom are central concepts in Lessing’s works (Doris Lessing, Alliance Française de Cambridge, French talk 1.30-2.30pm, English talk 4-5pm).

However, even in our relatively equal society, gender dimorphisms are often still found. Why is it still considered unacceptable for little boys to prefer playing with dolls to trucks, for example? Many choices which appear to be natural may not be. Parents of little girls will tell you that they seem automatically drawn to anything in the colour pink. But is this choice really a choice? Are children of a particular gender genetically predisposed to prefer different colours, or is this instead a cultural preference? Does it even matter? Dr Kat Arney explores how our kids have become colour-coded, and whether the ‘pinkification’ of girlhood should be a cause for concern. (In the pink, CB2 café, 2.30-3.30pm).

The Festival of Ideas takes place from 19-30 October. For more information and to pre-book events please visit

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