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York celebrates 'ideas' with events for everyone

Posted on 30 April 2012

A celebration of the way ideas have the potential to inspire everyone will be the focus of the second York Festival of Ideas featuring world-class speakers, exhibitions and performances.

The York Festival of Ideas, running from 14 to 30 June, promises a host of stimulating and interactive experiences for people of all ages, with over 50 events aimed at both residents and visitors.

The aim of the festival is to put York on the ‘ideas map’ and to showcase the city as a centre of innovation, thought and great ideas

Joan Concannon

Under the banner of Metamorphoses, this year’s festival will focus on themes such as the turbulence of the financial markets, architecture in heritage cities, the perceptions and perils of ageing, how conflict transforms lives and introducing a wave of new writers destined for great things.

Speakers include best-selling authors Anthony Horowitz, creator of the children’s spy thrillers featuring Alex Rider, and Chinese writer Jung Chang, author of Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, John Lanchester, whose fictionalised account of the financial markets crash, Capital, is generating a huge buzz in the publishing world and Professor Marina Warner.

Sculptor Jane McAdam Freud, daughter of artist Lucien Freud and great granddaughter of Sigmund Freud, will be introducing the drawings and sculptures she made of her father in the last weeks of his life. Her work will be available to view at the New School House Gallery on Peasholme Green throughout the festival.

The York Festival of Ideas is a partnership between organisations across the city including the University of York, City of York Council, York Museums Trust, York 800, York Theatre Royal, the National Centre for Early Music, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the York Civic Trust, Fairfax House and the New School House Gallery.

This year’s festival is supported by Wellcome Trust via the University of York’s Centre for Chronic Diseases and Disorders (C2D2), as well as the Split Infinitive Trust and the Holbeck Charitable Trust.  

One of the organisers, Joan Concannon, Director of External Relations at the University of York, said: “York is an incredibly vibrant and diverse city, rich in heritage and discovery where ideas spring to life and flourish. The aim of the festival is to put York on the ‘ideas map’ and to showcase the city as a centre of innovation, thought and great ideas.

“The festival is providing something for everybody and many of the events are free. We’d encourage people to become a part of this great event and be inspired.” 

Professor Carlos Frenk, from Durham University, will provide an explosive start to the festival. His public lecture on how cosmology confronts some of the most fundamental questions in the world of science, will be accompanied by an installation especially designed for the University of York’s 3Sixty immersive technology demonstration space which will recreate the beginnings of the Universe.

A Brazilian carnival day at the National Centre for Early Music will provide inspiration for children from nine to 14 years old, while nature enthusiasts can learn about the animals and plants to be found in the Yorkshire Museum Gardens. A marquee in St Sampson’s Square on 22 June will take science out of the laboratory into the centre of the city and provide hands-on free fun for all the family.

Budding writers can attend Faber Academy creative writing sessions, while new writers such as Chibundu Onuzo and Noo Saro Wiwa will read from their work.

As part of a series of events on the potential and perils of an ageing society, Lewis Wolpert, distinguished biologist and octogenarian, will explore the scientific background and implications of our ageing population. By 2050, over a third of the developed world will be over 60. In a witty, frank and inspiring talk, Lewis Wolpert will question how we should deal with this phenomenon.  

The organiser of last year’s inaugural Festival of Ideas, Professor Jane Moody, who died in October after a four-year battle with cancer, will be remembered at The Jane Moody Memorial Event, a stimulating debate on the social value of public organisations, with contributions from Caroline Thomson, Chief Operating Officer of the BBC and the Higher Education Funding Council’s CEO, Sir Alan Langlands.

York Theatre Royal and tutti frutti productions are collaborating to bring the second Little Feet Festival of children's theatre to life. Events will include some of the best theatre companies in the country presenting work for children, young people and families, plus the whole theatre will be transformed into a place to play, participate and enjoy. With roving story tellers, craft activities and participatory sessions happening throughout the week there will be lots to see and do.

For more information on the Festival of Ideas visit or call the University of York’s events office on 01904 324466.

Notes to editors:

  • For more information on the Festival of Ideas visit
  • Tickets are available to download on the festival website – all events being organised by the University of York are free.
  • Tickets are available for sale for events being held at the York Theatre Royal and the National Centre for Early Music.
  • Festival partners include BAFTA, Blackwell's Book Shop, City of York Council, Fairfax House, Faber Academy, Holgate Windmill Trust, the National Centre for Early Music, Natural England, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the New School House Gallery, OUI, Opal, Royal Court Theatre London, York Civic Trust, York Museums Trust, York 800, York Theatre Royal and York St John University.

Contact details

Caron Lett
Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322029

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