Festival of Ideas 2011

Freedom, revolution and communication have shaped human history since the earliest days of mankind.

The purpose of the festival is to examine the biggest question facing us today and not shy away from contentious issues.

Sophie Smith

Those three themes form the backbone of this year’s Festival of Ideas at the University of Cambridge - the UK’s only arts, humanities and social sciences festival.

Taking place from 19-30 October 2011, the festival, now in its fourth year, returns with more than 160 free events for all ages spanning everything from the Arab Spring and Wikileaks, to Darwin’s work on facial expressions and a presentation, complete with mock-up cell, on how to stay out of prison.

World-class speakers, celebrity writers and leading academics will be on hand to engage, explain and examine today’s burning issues - and looking at what lessons we can learn from the past.

As the population imminently approaches the seven billion mark, we ask leading academics to debate whether the Earth can sustain this many people.

Meanwhile, whistleblowers, computer security researchers and policymakers will discuss whether the Internet should be censored in light of the Wikileaks revelations;  and experts will debate the consequences of the uprisings, protests and civil wars in the Arab world.

Organiser Sophie Smith said: “The purpose of the festival is to examine the biggest question facing us today and not shy away from contentious issues. That is why we’re holding debates on everything from the right to have reproductive freedom in light of an ever-increasing world population, to Mau Mau torture claims, to the Arab Spring.”

The main day of the festival, on Saturday, October 22, is bursting with free events for the whole family to enjoy. There will be talks by world-famous children’s authors Marcus Sedgwick and zombie-loving Charlie Higson; debates by pioneering academics and dozens of hands-on activities for adults as well as children.

Popcorn comedy for kids sees Holly Walsh and CBBC’s Ed Petrie present some of the funniest videos online mixed with stand-up comedy for all the family.

Also on October 22, Dr Michael Scott will explore Delphi and Olympia; and the fate of the English language will be questioned by Dr Andrew Dalby and Dr Stephen Pax. Leonard, just returned from a year spent recording the language of the Inughuit people of north-west Greenland, the northernmost settled population in the world.

This year’s festival sees the return and expansion of a pioneering new musical initiative following last year’s sell-out opera in the vaults of the Museum of Zoology. This year there will be a special late-night opening at five of the University Museums with live performances and sound installations.

Perhaps the most eagerly-anticipated music event of the festival is Unlocking music’s secrets at King’s College Chapel, featuring choral and solo instrumental performances as the evolution of music – from the medieval era to the 21st Century - is played out before the audience’s eyes and ears.

The full programme is available from August and can be requested by phoning 01223 766766. Please visit: www.cam.ac.uk/festivalofideas.

Bookings open on Monday 5 September.

The Festival of Ideas this year has been made possible thanks to the generous support from Cambridge University Press, Barclays Corporate, Research Councils UK, Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Irwin & Joan Jacobs Foundation.

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