Bookings open for the first Cambridge Festival

Inspiring, engaging, exciting - bookings open for Cambridge's new festival

Words and Design: Zoe Smith

Booking is now open for the inaugural Cambridge Festival -  an extensive series of free, online events between 26 March – 4 April this year.

The new festival brings together the hugely popular Cambridge Science Festival and the Cambridge Festival of Ideas, aiming to tackle and offer solutions for humanity’s most pressing issues, from pandemics, climate change and global economics, to human rights and the future of democracy.

Divided into four key themes: health, environment, society and ‘explore’, the festival includes over 350 events spanning debates, discussions, talks, exhibitions, lab tours, workshops, films and performances, presenting new ideas, research and insight into our daily lives and the issues that are affecting all of us.

Given the current global pandemic, sharing Cambridge’s latest research has never been more important. With panel discussions on everything from COVID research and the impact on children of growing up in an increasingly insecure world, to the future of genome editing, our events showcase the depth of world-leading research at Cambridge.

Virus mask coronavirus © cromaconceptovisual via Pixabay

Virus mask coronavirus © cromaconceptovisual via Pixabay

It is impossible to ignore the current global COVID-19 pandemic, and by extension infectious diseases, when talking about health in 2021. A range of events, from talks to online games, take us inside the science during this unprecedented time. 

  • Pathogen: 2020 Lockdown version is an online game which puts you in the heart of the World Health Organisation, assigned to one of five teams to investigate reports of an emerging pandemic. Work with your team to quickly understand this emerging crisis to make fast moral decisions and solve science-based puzzles.
  • Hear about the ground-breaking research being undertaken by scientists and medical professionals at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, which is helping us understand the virus better, as well as developing new diagnostics and treatments for the disease.
  • What have we learnt one year on from the coronavirus outbreak? Join a panel of experts from diverse fields, including policy makers, virologists with expertise in pandemics, vaccine specialists, and epidemiologists to discuss the legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Join a discussion with Dr Tim Baker, an Academic Clinical Fellow and ICU Specialist Registrar at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and creator of a ground-breaking iPad app that allows critically ill patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) communicate with health-care professionals and loved ones when mechanical ventilation makes talking impossible. The app, which is free to download, was initially developed with the help of a £40,000 development grant from the hospital’s NHS charity, Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust - and features easy-to-use touch screen technology, allowing patients to tap on simple icons to respond to questions.

Clinicians at Addenbrooke's using myICUvoice app on iPad. © Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust

Clinicians at Addenbrooke's using myICUvoice app on iPad. © Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust

In May 2020, the law in England changed and an ‘opt out’ organ donation system was introduced meaning all adults in England are now considered potential organ donors, unless they choose to opt out or are in one of the excluded groups.

Model of lungs. © Robina Weermeijer via UnSplash

Model of lungs. © Robina Weermeijer via UnSplash

  • During the festival, learn more about the history, and the bright future, of organ donation and join surgeons Professor Mike Nicholson and Mr Paul Gibbs for a whistle-stop tour of the history of organ transplantation and preservation, including some of the latest research supported by the NIHR BTRU in Organ Donation and Transplantation.
  • What are organoids? Where do they come from? Join BBC’s Science Correspondent Richard Westcott, Dr Emma Rawlins, from the Gurdon Institute, transplant surgeon and research scientist Mr Kourosh Saeb-Parsy and Professor Nick Hopwood who studies the history of science and medicine, to discuss how organoids might be used to help us understand and treat human diseases.

Research co-led by Mr Kourosh Saeb-Parsy has shown that lab grown bile duct organoids could be used to repair damaged human livers.

This year, we are hosting two special events with one of our festival sponsors, AstraZeneca. The first, ‘Learnings from a pandemic: Accelerating the research and development of new medicines’, will give us the opportunity to reflect on the pace of innovation seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how we can build on this for the future.

Biomedical engineer develops blood filtering treatment © ThisisEngineering RAEng via UnSplashed

Biomedical engineer develops blood filtering treatment © ThisisEngineering RAEng via UnSplashed

Our second joint event will look at data science and AI and their potential to transform the discovery and development of medicines. During this panel discussion, the speakers will look at what has been achieved so far and what is realistic to expect from data science and AI in the next 5 to 10 years.

Medical technology concept © phonlamaiphoto on Adobe Stock

Medical technology concept © phonlamaiphoto on Adobe Stock

We all know the environment needs our help. The Cambridge Festival brings together a range of experts to discuss the key issues affecting our environment today and what we as individuals can do to help. 

Climate change, and finding ways to move forward into a more sustainable world, is one of the key questions facing our world today. The Cambridge Conservation Initiative's Earth Optimism’ movement will take centre stage at this year's Cambridge Festival. 

With over 30 events, including talks from leading conservations and passionate naturalists to film premieres and documentaries highlighting our successes and where to go next.

One of the highlights is an exclusive interview with beloved natural historian, Sir David Attenborough. Sir David will be joining us to discuss his hope for the future of our planet, alongside a brief Q&A session. Register by 1st March for the chance to submit your questions to Sir David.

Another TV darling of the conservation world, Springwatch presenter Chris Packham, will be joining us for a special Q&A and telling us why he thinks there are reasons to be positive about the future of our planet. Again, if you register in advance, you will be able to submit a question. 

Other events include a trip to the peatlands of Belarus, a talk from Caroline Laurie, the Kingfisher Group's Head of Sustainability, where she will discuss how one of the UK's biggest retailers switched entirely to sustainably-sourced wood and paper products, as well as a talk with Welsh conservation biologist, Carl Jones, as he discusses some amazing stories of his work saving animals and habitats from extinction. 

Dark blue © Elion Jashari via UnSplash

Dark blue © Elion Jashari via UnSplash

Have you ever wondered what lies at the bottom of the world’s deepest and unexplored oceans? Writer, broadcaster and marine biologist, Dr Helen Scales, will be taking us on an incredible journey to the deepest, darkest depths of our oceans, discovering the hidden life on the sea bed. 

Helen will be discussing her new book, The Brilliant Abyss, which explores the extraordinary living wonders of the deep and the importance of this vast biome. She will also discuss the  growing threats from humanity’s deepening impact on the oceans.

The University of Cambridge is home to a state-of-the-art carbon zero initiative, Cambridge Zero, and they will be joining the festival to showcase some of the world-leading climate change research happening here in Cambridge.

ONE WORLD. Global climate change protest demonstration strike. © Markus Spiske via UnSplash

ONE WORLD. Global climate change protest demonstration strike. © Markus Spiske via UnSplash

Join Dr. Tyson Yunkaporta, author, academic, educator, artist, researcher and poet who belongs to the Apalech Clan in far north Queensland and senior lecturer in Indigenous Knowledges at Deakin University in Melbourne, as he reflects on traditional knowledge, Indigenous Peoples and what lessons we can learn to help planet earth.  

Closer to home in Cambridge, how has the community been responding to the climate crisis? Join a panel from across local government and community groups, as they discuss what they have been doing and what solutions they are implementing to make local communities active participants of that change. 

Protest models © stuarthampton via Pixabay

Protest models © stuarthampton via Pixabay

Have you thought about how climate change is influencing the arts? We have a panel of experts and artists to discuss climate change and how it is influencing their work.

If you are a fan of podcasts, be sure to check out the University of Cambridge’s new research podcast, Mind Over Chatter. With in-depth and thought-provoking conversations around the tipping points of climate change and what this actually means to finding ways to feed 10 billion people sustainability. 

Society. The term to describe human beings together. During this time of global political upheaval, our communities have never felt more important and necessary.

Shibuya Crossing Intersection, Japan © Ryoji Iwata via UnSplash

Shibuya Crossing Intersection, Japan © Ryoji Iwata via UnSplash

We have a host of events to help us reflect and question not only our own beliefs, but that of the world around us. From asking whether the Black Lives Matter movement has really changed anything to learning about feminist forerunners, to discussing religion and its wider impact on the world.  

2020 will not only be remembered for the coronavirus pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement spread around the world calling for actions rather than words to tackle racism. It has been nearly a year since the shocking death of George Floyd, but has anything fundamentally changed in that time? How much have governments, institutions, the media and society generally taken those calls on board?

Man walks in front of a Black Lives Matter flag. © Clay Banks via UnSplash

Man walks in front of a Black Lives Matter flag. © Clay Banks via UnSplash

Join us for a panel discussion with Pragya Agarwal, an award-winning behavioural scientist and author, Kehinde Andrews, professor of Black Studies at Birmingham University, activist and author, Ali Meghji, Lecturer in Social Inequalities at the University of Cambridge; and Monica Moreno Figueroa, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Cambridge as they try to navigate the role of education and decolonisation of the curriculum.

One of the highlights of the festival is an exclusive conversation between human rights QC and author Phillippe Sands and Cambridge Vice Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope. This event is facilitated by Jessica Simor QC.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope taken by Nick Saffell © Cambridge University

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope taken by Nick Saffell © Cambridge University

Phillippe and Stephen cover a fascinating range of topics in their discussion, including Cambridge's place as a cradle for ideas of international human rights, and Phillippe's books East West Street and The Ratline.

Talking about their academic careers to date, the conversation also shares insights into how law and literature interact - with discussions around the writing of John Le Carre and Leonard Cohen - and how the two subjects have much to teach each other. 

Left: Hortense Mancini by Jacob Ferdinand Voet; Centre: Nell Gwyn by Sir Peter Lely; Right: Louise de Kéroualle by Sir Peter Lely

Left: Hortense Mancini by Jacob Ferdinand Voet; Centre: Nell Gwyn by Sir Peter Lely; Right: Louise de Kéroualle by Sir Peter Lely

Life during the reign of King Charles II was anything but stable. The memory of the Civil Wars and the Interregnum hung heavily in the air, and religious divides continued to divide communities. But the Restoration was also a period of pleasure and merriment, embodied by the Merry Monarch himself.

This vivacious atmosphere witnessed mounting public interest in royal, courtly, and cultural figures.  Nurtured by an ever-growing volume of printed media, this fascination with public figures soared to new heights to become what we now recognise as celebrity culture. And pride of place amongst the celebrities of the Restoration are the mistresses of Charles II.

Join PhD candidate Annalisa Nicholson as she speaks to historian Nick Patrick about some of the inspiring women of this time, sharing their stories, roles and influence in late seventeenth-century England.

And then there is everything else - and more! 

Cambridge University Library will be hosting a number of fascinating events delving into some of the extraordinary manuscripts in its collection. 

Cambridge libraries contain hundreds of manuscripts written in Greek between the fifth and 18th centuries, from ancient Bibles to copies of Sophocles and Aristotle. Watch a short film and meet photographer Raffaella, conservator Sam and cataloguer Chris from the Polonsky Greek Research project, and follow the process involved in bringing these precious, often fragile books from the library shelf to the computer screen. There will also be the opportunity to meet the team in an online live Q&A to ask any questions.

A research inspecting a manuscript © Cambridge University Library

A research inspecting a manuscript © Cambridge University Library

Learn about the importance of spectral imaging - an efficient and non-invasive tool for research on historical artefacts - and how this is being used to bring ancient manuscripts a new life. Join Professor Haida Liang from Nottingham Trent University to find out the science behind this technique and how it is being applied to historical projects, from libraries to archaeological sites.

Manuscript under spectral imaging © Cambridge University Library

Manuscript under spectral imaging © Cambridge University Library

For something a bit different, why not join our zoology experts in an epic battle of the beasts, as they compete for your votes for the best adaptation in the animal kingdom, most creative tool use and more!

Museum of Zoology, © Julieta Sarmiento Photography

Museum of Zoology, © Julieta Sarmiento Photography

Cambridge local? You will enjoy some of these Cambridge-centred events. 

Not a Cambridge local? Don’t worry, you too can enjoy them!

Would you survive a zombie apocalypse? Now you can find out thanks to a virtual game brought to the festival by the Wellcome Genome Campus. There’s a mysterious virus spreading through Cambridge and turning everyone into zombies - eeek! You have one hour to complete three tasks in order to figure out the origin of the virus and how it is transmitting so quickly across the city and help save the city - good luck!

If crime and punishment is your thing, then join the Museum of Cambridge as they take you on a journey through of crime in Victorian Cambridge using the personal stories of those recorded in Cambridge gaol in the 1851 census.

People go to the night. © Sergey Voevodin via Shuttershock

People go to the night. © Sergey Voevodin via Shuttershock

Map of Cambridge County Gaol © Cambridge Digital Library

Map of Cambridge County Gaol © Cambridge Digital Library

Cambridge University Herbarium © Fu Xiang Quah

Cambridge University Herbarium © Fu Xiang Quah

Go behind the scenes of the University herbarium and join Curator Dr Lauren Gardiner, on a virtual tour of one of Cambridge’s least known collections, a treasure trove of over a million preserved plant specimens collected from all over the world over more than 300 years.

Join Lauren as she works to make the collection more accessible for researchers and the public and see some of the highlights from the collection – including Darwin specimens, unpublished 19th century botanical artwork, and material from the early 18th century.

Why not join the LGBT+ Cambridge Network for a celebration of diversity among our community? Hear from a wide range of our LGBT+ researchers as they talk about their work and their experiences of being out in academia.

The rainbow flag being flown above the Old Schools. © Cambridge University

The rainbow flag being flown above the Old Schools. © Cambridge University

Need help with homeschooling? Why not get the kids involved with one of our hands-on events happening across the festival - there’s plenty to choose from, from the science behind ice-cream to the truth about worms!

© Cambridge University Botanic Garden

© Cambridge University Botanic Garden

If you’re local to Cambridge - and it is safe to do so, why not head down to the Cambridge Botanic Gardens this Easter and have a game of outdoor bingo! To join in the fun simply pick up your free bingo sheet on your way into the Garden, get hunting for different springtime sights and claim your prize at the end. The bingo includes lots of amazing springtime plants and animals including the brightly coloured Brimstone butterfly, beautiful cherry blossoms and the elusive Purple Toothwort plant.

Cherry blossom and Purple Toothwort plant at Cambridge Botanic Garden. © Howard Rice/Cambridge University Botanic Garden

Cherry blossom and Purple Toothwort plant at Cambridge Botanic Garden. © Howard Rice/Cambridge University Botanic Garden

The week before the festival begins, you will be able to pick up a copy of the Festival Zine through food hubs around Cambridge. Full of ‘try this at home’ activities, including hands-on investigations/experiments and knowledge-boosting quizzes, you can even try your hand at creating your own windowsill garden to making your own Giant Sea-Scorpion. For those of you not able to pick up a copy, it is available to download online for free.

Silhouette of man looking at sky. © Greg Rakozy via UnSplash

Silhouette of man looking at sky. © Greg Rakozy via UnSplash

Young people from across Cambridge have been submitting their questions to our scientists and now they’re ready to answer them; everything from volcanoes, aliens, space and the big bang! Join the Cambridge University Press Book Shop and their experts and get ready to be amazed.

What are cells and how are they made? Using objects in the Whipple Museum collections to find out how our cells work, you will then be invited to create or draw your own cell model to remind yourself of how everything works. 

Is electricity your thing? Why not join the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy in an interactive workshop where you will learn about where the energy which powers our lights comes from, and why some light bulbs waste lots of energy. Their experts will also talk you through making a special spinning toy, which will let you explore how energy is wasted in your home, with help from your responsible grown-up!

View from Great St Mary's Church, Cambridge. © Sir Cam

View from Great St Mary's Church, Cambridge. © Sir Cam

You can now search and browse the complete Cambridge Festival 2021 programme by visiting our website and make sure to follow us on social media to keep up to date with all the news and events as they happen.

All that’s left to say is welcome to the Cambridge Festival 2021.

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The Cambridge Festival 2021 is kindly sponsored by