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York celebrates ideas with eye-catching new festival

Posted on 1 June 2011

A new festival celebrating York's rich tradition of artistic creativity and intellectual thought starts this month.

Focusing on the themes of Beckett, the body and the Bible, the inaugural York Festival of Ideas, is a partnership between the University of York, York Theatre Royal, the National Centre for Early Music, York St John University and York Museums Trust. It will feature events that will appeal to people of all ages, to residents and visitors alike.

It brings together a range of world-class speakers, exhibitions, and artistic performances exploring a series of intriguing links between past and present as well as showcasing contemporary ideas, arts and culture. The Festival, which has a clear community focus,  runs from 16 June to 10 July.

It will explore the work of seminal 20th century dramatist Samuel Beckett, through readings by Nobel Laureate, J M Coetzee, and fellow novelist John Banville (a winner of the Booker Prize). The Festival will feature performances of the playwright’s works by the Gare St Lazare Players.

The theme of the body, as a site of pleasure, or as a catalyst for artistic and racial controversy, will see the City Art Gallery showcasing the controversial career of York painter William Etty.  Inspired by Rubens and Titian, Etty became the first major British artist to specialise in depicting the nude will be showcased at the City Art Gallery.

Writer Kester Aspden will discuss the case of David Oluwale, the Nigerian migrant whose body was found in the River Aire in 1969 and explore its significance in the history of race relations in Britain. There will be a landmark performance of A Mad World, My Masters, Thomas Middleton’s comedy of conmen and sexual intrigues, first staged in 1605.

The Festival will bring ideas into conversation with the heritage of the city to reveal new and exciting stories about York, Britain and the world

Professor Jane Moody

The Festival will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, with a series of events including a fascinating exhibition A Book Fit for a King at York Minster’s Old Palace and a unique blend of early Renaissance music and digital imagery in The Greatest Story Ever Told, inspired by the Mystery Plays, at the National Centre for Early Music.

Children at York primary schools create their own art inspired by sixteenth-century woodcuts from the King James Bible, and the Festival will challenge young people to write and design their own Ten Commandments for the 21st century.

People will have the chance to learn about Viking ice-skates and medieval stained glass, the history of the Jews in York, as well as discovering the history of Museum Gardens’ Champion trees in a series of interpretation sessions and trails at the Yorkshire Museum.

‘Bring your Family Bible’, an intriguing event at Spelman’s Rare Books in Micklegate modelled on Antiques Roadshow, will allow families who own a Bible to find out how they become a storehouse of historical information about their forbears.

Anthony Minghella’s play, Two Planks and a Passion, about the people and the history of York, is being performed at the Theatre Royal. Adventurous fans of Charles Dickens will have the chance to sample an authentic mouthful of the Victorian gruel, as served to Oliver Twist, at the Sensory Stories cafe to be held at University of York.

One of the organisers Professor Jane Moody, the Director of the Humanities Research Centre at the University of York, said: “The Festival will bring ideas into conversation with the heritage of the city to reveal new and exciting stories about York, Britain and the world.

“It is a celebration of ideas that has the community at its heart and features a huge and varied tapestry of events, the overwhelmingly majority of which are free. We hope to make the York Festival of Ideas an unmissable feature of the Yorkshire calendar.”

Notes to editors:

Contact details

David Garner
Senior Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322153

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