Inspiring, Entertaining, Engaging: The Cambridge Festival 2023

A young girl looks through a microscope

The Cambridge Festival 2023 ran from 17 March to 2 April and engaged with the public through a mixture of in-person and online events, covering all aspects of the world-leading research happening at Cambridge.

the aims of the festival are:
To provide a platform for researchers and the public to come together to discuss the research of the University, its partners, and the work of organTo provide a platform for researchers and the public to come together to discuss the research of the University, its partners, and the work of organisations within the communityisations within the community
To maintain our existing audience and attract a new audience
 To provide opportunities for researchers and the public to explore, discuss and debate issues of common interest and concern
To encourage young people to pursue higher education and consider research- based careers

Festival in Words

a man with his back to the camera wears a yellow tshirt with the words what science can do

Festival in Numbers

a child plays hook a duck at the festival
4.7 stars out of 5
132,000 direct engagements with people about research

In addition, it is estimated that 8 million people could have read articles or watched reports and listened to radio broadcasts about the Cambridge Festival.

Approximately 105 articles about Festival events and speakers appeared in print/ online outlets, Nationally, there were stories in The Sunday Times, The Observer, The Daily Mail, The i paper, The Independent and Yahoo News. Print and online coverage was much higher than last year.

As well as written coverage, there were approximately 72 radio interviews and TV packages about Festival events.

crowds at the family weekend

In-person engagement

a researchers engages with the public
30,000 engagements for in-person activities (compared to 10,000 in 2022)
1000 engagements with KS2 and KS3 children during two school days

The Festival delivered a large number of in - person events across Cambridge. This was the first time since 2019 that the Public Engagement team have been able to deliver and facilitate in-person engagement at this level.

These ranged from dedicated open days at the University’s West Cambridge Campus, a Family Weekend at the New Museums Site, an open day at The Cambridge Academy of Science and Technology, Schools day for KS2 & KS3 learners, to all ages evening talks, walks and exhibitions. 

This included specific engagement aimed at younger people and families. Our first-ever formal school days took place on 21 and 22 March.  These events were attended by over 1400 school students from across the region, including Luton, Lincoln, Peterborough and Ipswich – alongside local Cambridge schools. The experience of 460 school kids in the Babbage lecture theatre chanting numbers is one many of us will long remember!

Our Family weekend across central Cambridge took place on 25 and 26 March 2023. This included talks and family activity at the New Museums Site. Over 7000 engagement interactions took place across these two days, with incredibly positive feedback from researchers and organisations participating, including: 

‘’Amazing Day - Thank you! My kids and I had a great day. Everything was really well organized and the facilitators pitched their interactions just right (top marks for knowledge transfer!)”

Digital engagement

woman in gray long sleeve shirt using macbook pro

Photo by Soundtrap on Unsplash

Photo by Soundtrap on Unsplash

over 40,000 youtube views
festival of podcast launched showcasing podcasts across the University

The Festival’s YouTube Channel, alongside a playlist on the University of Cambridge's YouTube channel, hosted the video content. These Included digital online events ( Live and on-demand) alongside live streams of in person events.

Most people (70%) seem to be finding our videos through the “suggested videos” option on YouTube and 89% of viewers have been non-subscribers. Most watched video is On the Origin of Time with 6K views.

Geographical reach by watch-time ( a good comparison, as populations differ greatly between countries) shows the top three countries for digital engagement  being the United Kingdom (40%) India (4.8%) (USA 4.6%). This is broadly in-line with the previous two years of digital delivery.

Social media engagement

black iphone 4 on brown wooden table

Photo by dole777 on Unsplash

Photo by dole777 on Unsplash

smart phone mock ups showing the festival social media channels
CamFest on social media: Impressions: 898,700 Engagements: 26,057 New followers: 1,012 (not including 200+ new subscribers on YouTube) Link clicks:14,288

Engagement across the dedicated Festival and University Social media channels enabled people to engage with research content, and acted as a promotional tool for in- person and digital events.

Across all social media channels detailed below, our reach increased by 86% on delivery in 2022, and our engagements increased this year by 68%.

Popular posts

Print engagement

front cover of Matter, the festival newspaper
Matter, the festival newspaper launched. 8,000 copies distributed across the city.

Press coverage

Business newspaper article

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

105 articles about Festival  appeared in print/online outlets. . Nationally, there were stories in The Sunday Times, The Observer, The Daily Mail,  The i paper, The Independent and Yahoo News.
72 radio interviews and TV packages  about Festival events. Regional TV coverage included packages on ITV Anglia and That’s TV Cambridge. In addition, there was national radio coverage via Times Radio and Radio 4 Woman’s Hour.

The third year of the Cambridge Festival saw widespread local and regional coverage, and some national and international press coverage of the research, events and individuals featured in the Festival programme.

Including all print, broadcast and web coverage detailed below, the conservative estimate is that 8 million+ people could have read articles or watched reports and listened to radio broadcasts about the Cambridge Festival.

Examples of national press coverage

Visitor experience

a researcher engages with the public during the festival family weekend

We carried out visitor evaluation across a number of formats. This included via an online survey sent out to those attending festival events and via direct feedback collation at events. To date, this feedback on visitor evaluation encompasses 500 distinct responses.

over 80% of people stated that the festival felt relevant to them
nearly 90% of people would come to something like this again
75% of respondents feel University of Cambridge research has an impact on their lives

How did people find out about the Festival?

What would you like to see more of in 2024?

Professional Staff and Researcher Feedback

volunteers at the festival family weekend

We asked Professional Staff and Researchers to provide feedback on the Festival. To date we have received 50 unique survey responses.

73% of respondents had taken part in the festival previously
4.5 is the average rating for their experience participating in the festival

Key reasons given for this score are:

  • The Cambridge Festival team were immensely helpful! Pretty much always prompt to reply and provided any information I needed about the venue, booking system etc.
  • Everything went smoothly, the support staff on site were really helpful & I felt that my team and I had all the information/support we needed.
  • You make it easy for us to take part
  • Very swift and positive communications with the festival team
  • It was great to interact with members of the public and talk about science, including my own research. It helped me really think about the aim and benefits that my work may have.
  • We hugely enjoyed the Cambridge Festival event that we ran - we ended up running a huge waitlist, so there was clearly an appetite for the kind of thing we wanted to do and the festival helped us to reach new audiences, who hadn't heard of us before.

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Read the report in full

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Partners in the Cambridge Festival include Anglia Ruskin University, The Cambridge School of Visual and Performing Arts, Cambridge Regional College, Cambridge Academy of Science and Technology and Cambridge Carbon Footprint. 

Festival events were either hosted by, or featured engagement from, over 20 of the Colleges. This included the hosting of our Vice Chancellors festival launch event at St John's College. This event was attended by the Acting Vice Chancellor Dr Antony Freeling, Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, and Aliko Ahmed, Director for Public Health East of England.

We thank everyone who contributed to the Festival this year. Thanks to the support of the University of Cambridge and the continued generosity of our sponsors, AstraZeneca and RAND Europe, we are able to ensure that the majority of events remain free.