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York Festival of Ideas to ignite minds around ‘Order and Chaos’

Posted on 9 May 2014

An international line up of diplomats, political commentators and conflict specialists will open the York Festival of Ideas on 12 June with a debate on the crises in Syria and Ukraine.

James Rubin, former Assistant Secretary of State in the Clinton administration, Sir Richard Dalton, former Ambassador to Iran and Libya, Lyse Doucet, the BBC’s Chief International Correspondent and Oliver Bullough, expert on Russia and Ukraine, will debate whether the international response to events in the Middle East and Ukraine are appropriate or effective.

More than 140 inspiring and varied events – on the theme of ‘order and chaos’– will feature in the 2014 York Festival of Ideas programme. The events, the majority of which will be free, will take place at venues across the city and the University of York campus from 12 – 22 June.

Respected authors, thinkers and experts will speak on themes including war and peace, the classical world, architecture, health, arts and society. Focus days on the Future of Food, the Global Economy, Religion, Science, Medicine and crime writing, and special events surrounding the First World War centenary and the Tour de France are also programmed.

Headline speakers include: Michael Morpurgo, former children’s laureate and award-winning author of War Horse, comedian and writer Charlie Higson, crime writer Anthony Horowitz, biographers Dame Hermione Lee and Patrick French, poets Blake Morrison, Simon Armitage and Ian McMillan, Irish Ambassador and Joycean expert Dan Mulhall, and Anne Frank’s stepsister, Eva Shloss.

Economists Diane Coyle, Danny Quah and Bob Swarup, business leaders including Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe, blogger and finance expert Margaret Heffernan and Japanese economy expert Richard Werner will feature along with scientists including physicist Jon Butterworth and Public Astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, Marek Kukula. Journalists and commentators Michael Billington, Jonathan Derbyshire, Zoe Williams and Andrew Lycett will also take part.

The 2014 festival is supported by a range of local and national organisations, including headline sponsors The Holbeck Trust, the Joseph Rowntree Trust, and corporate sponsors Quorn, Shepherd Group, and the Institute of Engineering and Technology. The festival has secured media partnerships with Prospect, BBC Radio 4, and Yorkshire Life, and further alliances have been forged with English Heritage, Tate Britain, City of York Council, York Theatre Royal, York Museums Trust, Bettys and the National Railway Museum.

Further highlights of the festival include:

  • A fascinating look at architecture and history around the city, with tours of York Minster to York’s Cold War bunker, and an exhibition of projects submitted for the York Design Awards 2014
  • A celebration of Anglian York - events on King Arthur, tour Roman cemeteries and attend a ‘Beer and Beowulf’ evening to sample a specially brewed ‘Eoforwic Ale’
  • Powerful events on the shadows of war, from a guided tour of Castle Howard to the experiences of life during and after the Holocaust. Special events remember the Great War with talks, exhibitions and a centenary concert featuring flapper classics at the National Centre for Early Music.
  • ‘Murder They Wrote’ – an exploration into crime writing and the national fascination with enduring fictional heroes including Sherlock Holmes and James Bond
  • A day celebrating and debating food – discover food in Jane Austen’s novels at ‘Dinner with Mr Darcy’, hosted by Bettys, talks on sustainability and the future of GM food and learn the science behind the traditional cream tea
  • An exploration of art in the public realm, from art trails around the city with York Curiouser to talks from artists and curators including Michael White from Tate Liverpool
  • A city centre marquee demonstrating ‘science out of the lab’ bringing a range of scientific experiments to the streets of York
  • A series of events on ‘Economic growth for the many not the few’ with leading policymakers, business leaders and economists discussing money markets from ancient Rome to predicting the next global financial crash, the impact of citystate economies on job creation, the threat of emerging markets, the future of democracy and Britain and the Eurozone
  • The topic of healthcare and how we deal with illness, sponsored by the Centre for Chronic Diseases and Disorders, including an event on the relationship between poetry and illness at the York Theatre Royal and a discussion on the historical conflicts and alliances between religion, science and medicine featuring an international cast of experts from Australia, the US and the UK.
  • Performances and concerts all over the city, from a concert by the Texan Flower Mound Chamber Singers to a production of The Jekyll & Hyde Case in the city centre
  • Ned Boulting recounts stories from 12 years following the Tour de France for ITV, and Michael Hutchinson talks about the science behind cycling
  • The order and chaos of the railways, from Victorian planning to a day in the life of a porter at the National Railway Museum

Joan Concannon, Director of the Festival and Director of External Relations at the University of York said: “The Festival of Ideas is truly a collective cooperative of endeavour showcasing an incredibly diverse and rich range of subjects and speakers.

“We are delighted that so many organisations in the city have chosen to include events in the Festival. We are thrilled The Holbeck Trust and Quorn Foods have chosen to commit to the festival in individual three-year sponsorship deals, and we are also extremely grateful to all of the other festival sponsors and partners for their enthusiastic support.

“The Festival’s ethos is to educate, entertain and inspire – we hope the programme does just that. No specialist knowledge is required to attend any event – just an enquiring mind. We believe that the festival embodies the adventurous spirit of the city of York – a city that has always been open to new ideas.”

Currently in its fourth year, the festival was established in 2011 with just 24 events over nine days. Now on a much bigger scale, attracting audiences of over 30,000 in 2013, it has established its reputation as an annual highlight on York’s cultural calendar.

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