Time, crime and how can the arts interact with a Natural World in decline? 

Performance, exhibitions and films take centre stage at the Cambridge Festival 2024

Each year the Cambridge Festival’s (13-28 March 2024) rich programme of events celebrates the arts across the city and this year is no exception.

With exhibitions on time and crime fiction, film screenings, music and dance performances, comedy and poetry, the events celebrate the rich research being done at the University of Cambridge and beyond. 

How can the arts interact with a Natural World in decline? Songs of Sea and Air (27 March) will start with a pre-concert talk and exhibition, chaired by environmentalist, author and curator John Fanshawe, for a discussion between artists and environmental scientists will examine how the arts have drawn inspiration from the environment and how they can continue to interact in a changing world. 

This will be followed by an immersive multimedia concert experience presented by London-based Marsyas Trio featuring different composers’ responses to the natural world. The concert also features the premiere of Ewan Campbell’s collaboration with Spanish photographer Xavi Bou in a series of short movements written directly onto images of birds in flight. 

‘To Make Much of Time’: Calendars, chronicles, coyness and clocks will take place in the beautiful Old Library at St John’s College, Cambridge on Saturday 23 March (10am-4pm).

Curated by Dr Adam Crothers, Special Collections Assistant, will focus on time and how our views by how we measure it have changed over the centuries. Across medieval manuscripts, rare-printed books and personal papers, the exhibition sees theology, physics, poetry, horology and science fiction facing down clock-faces, making destinies of dates, and taking stock of ticks and tocks. 

“We were all made aware, after a couple of years of lockdowns, of the subjective flexibility of time and the way that a week could come to seem like a month”, says Crothers. The exhibition will look to shed more light on how humans have for centuries measured, recorded, used and wasted it.    

Detail of Zodiac signs and monthly labours from St John's College manuscript B.20, folio 2v. By permission of the Master and Fellows of St John's College, Cambridge

Detail of Zodiac signs and monthly labours from St John's College manuscript B.20, folio 2v. By permission of the Master and Fellows of St John's College, Cambridge

Detail of Zodiac signs and monthly labours from St John's College manuscript B.20, folio 2v. By permission of the Master and Fellows of St John's College, Cambridge

Cambridge University Library’s latest exhibition, Murder by the Book: A Celebration of 20th Century British Crime Fiction, will open on Saturday 23 March.

Crime fiction is the UK's most read, bought and borrowed genre, and the exhibition brings together literature, culture and heritage to celebrate the stories of the UK’s most popular fiction writing. Curated by award-winning crime novelist Nicola Upson, the Library's exhibition challenges traditional distinctions between literary fiction and genre fiction. 

Running from 18 March – 12 April, inReach: a mixed media exhibition of lived expertise, will consider the creative work of those usually closed off from academic and artistic production because of addiction, perceived incapacity, or lack of permanent home.

The artists included in this exhibition directly address the ways they have each been categorised by wider British society: rough-sleepers; addicts; disabled people; Travellers; migrants; and children. 

Organised by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), the exhibition will critically question the Euro-American category of “Outsider Art,” favouring instead understanding the works’ value not only on its artistic merit, but also through what it performs for the artists themselves and how it facilitates connection with others. 

The Precious Cells exhibition (From 13 March) delves into the artistic, sociological and linguistic aspects of biological research using human tissues, including early human embryos. There will be three artworks on display as part of the exhibition by Anna Dumitriu, David Blandy and Mariana Wilde. 

How do we talk about the future of science? How does film help us picture that future? How close are sci-fi and sci-fact? The Kavli Centre for Ethics, Science, and the Public are launching their new film festival (22 March), Just. Good. Science. Film Festival, with an entertaining evening considering these questions with help from creative storytellers and career scientists. 

Your ticket provides entry to ‘Chattaca’ and the complimentary double bill of Human Nature and Gattaca beforehand at the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse.

The Mirror Trap (20 March) is an online immersive experience about psychology and quantum physics. You will meet Paul Gato who has been signed off from the university again. His colleagues say he has not been himself. He has been sending them e-mails filled with ramblings and Feynman diagrams.

He said, “There is nothing more dangerous than being trapped between mirrors”. Paul might be losing his mind, but he might still be right. Dare you take part in his final experiment? 

The Centre for Music Performance will be marking the 300th anniversary of the first performance of Bach’s towering masterpiece, the St John Passion (8 March) which debuted on Good Friday in 1724 in Leipzig. Still revered today, it remains among the composer’s most cherished works.  

Taking place in the Great Hall at Girton College, the performance will be in an historically informed immersive experience. Performed in the round, the concert is designed to bring the audience into direct contact with the bodily enactment of this affective journey. 

electro acoustic day banner

The electro//acoustic day (14 March) will bring together both classical instrumental, vocal repertoire and cutting-edge electronic music inviting the audience to explore diverse performances and listening modalities. It will encourage non-traditional modes of listening and create new relationships with music. Sonic and physical space, spatialization and embodiment of sound will be at the centre of all the concerts and the installation creating an immersive environment. 

Commoners’ Comedy and Custard Comedy are delighted to present an evening of thought-provoking humour, beginning with Samantha Day – The Booby Trap (20 March). Breasts loom large in our culture, but why are we so obsessed with them? Award-winning comedian Samantha Day gets her tit jokes out and exposes some big issues. 

Comedian Samantha Day

Comedian Samantha Day

Comedian Samantha Day

The Cambridge Festival is a unique festival of events brought to you by the University of Cambridge. With over 350 events from exhibitions, walks, talks, workshops, performances, hands-on activities, films and more!

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