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Secrets and discoveries await York Festival of Ideas 2015

Posted on 6 May 2015

An international line up of authors, journalists, experts and performers will feature in this year’s York Festival of Ideas.

York Festival of Ideas

Headline speakers include: Michael Morpurgo, former children’s laureate and award-winning author of War Horse, Major General Gordon ‘Skip’ Davies, NATO’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations and Intelligence, philosopher A.C. Grayling, Andrew Davies, screenwriter as well as BAFTA Fellow, Guardian columnists Zoe Williams, Polly Toynbee and Tim Dowling, Sir Mark Walport, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government, Sir Dermot Turing, Trustee of the Bletchley Park Trust and nephew of Alan Turing, Nobel Laureate, economist and philosopher Amartya Sen, Horrible Histories author Greg Jenner and popular science writer and physicist Professor Paul Halpern.

Over 100 inspiring events on the theme of ‘secrets and discoveries’ will take place at venues across the city, including the University of York campus, from 9 – 21 June.

The events, the majority of which are free, encompass art, design, food, technology, health, social affairs, the economy and the environment. Focus days on Surveillance, Snowden and Security, the Future of Food, the Future of Democracy and Economic Growth and events including the Big Telescopes exhibition and the LUMA film festival are also programmed.

Working with over 45 local and national organisations, the 2015 festival is supported by sponsors including The Holbeck Trust, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and corporate sponsors Quorn, Aviva, and the Shepherd Group. Together with media partnerships with Classic FM, the Guardian, and Prospect, festival alliances include English Heritage, the V&A, City of York Council, York Minster, York Museums Trust, Bettys and the National Railway Museum.
Festival highlights include:

  • Explore the controversial world of intelligence gathering, surveillance states and the future of cyber security in ‘Surveillance, Snowden and Security’ on 20 June. Speakers include Major General Gordon Davies, Lindsey Hilsum, International Editor at Channel 4 News, Ewen MacAskill, lead investigative journalist on the Edward Snowden Story, Mina Al Oraibi, Davos Council on the Arab World, Lyse Doucet, and Jonathan Powell, former Chief of Staff to Tony Blair.
  • Attend a focus day of talks and panel discussions exploring ‘New Economic Models for a Fairer Future’ in partnership with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on 19 June, with leading policymakers, business leaders and economists discussing the winners and losers of financial austerity, the future of cities, the Conservative legacy and the future of work. Speakers include a keynote introduction by Katrine Marcal, author of the acclaimed Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner, Guardian columnists Polly Toynbee and Zoe Williams, David Walker, former Director of Public Reporting at the Audit Commission, Richard Davies, Economics Editor at The Economist, Euan Munro from Aviva, and Professors Kate Pickett, John Kay and Patrick Minford.
  • Enjoy family events with ‘Sparks’, from a Storytelling Festival in the Museum Gardens, the chance to be a chocolatier for the day with York Cocoa House, building York’s landmarks with Lego in ‘Map Attack!’, to live music, fairground games and food at Goodfest on 13 June.
  • In partnership with York Minster, join Michael Morpurgo for a special performance of The Mozart Question, featuring actress Alison Reid, violinist Daniel Pioro and The Storyteller’s Ensemble. Interweaving words and music, it is a haunting tale of survival against the odds against the backdrop of the Holocaust.
  • A fascinating look at history around the city, from a Victorian walk through York to uncovering memories of Rowntree factory life. Tour behind the scenes at the York Archaeological Trust, meet millers at Holgate Windmill and explore York’s printing and publishing history with a guided tour.
  • Celebrate 150 years since the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with a talk by author Robert Douglas-Fairhurst and Penguin Editor Hugh Haughton, complete with Magic Lantern slides.
  • Spend a day debating the future of food on 15 June, exploring the issues of food and sustainability with a keynote address by Dr Tara Garnett from Oxford University. Tim Spector, author of The Diet Myth, and Sue Dibb from the Eat Better Alliance will lead on a discussion with renowned food writer Alex Renton on food, consumer behaviour and diet change.
  • Hear Claire Wilcox, Senior Curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, speak about the exhibition Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, the first and largest retrospective of McQueen’s work to be presented in Europe. This is just one of the highlights of ‘Curiouser and Curiouser’, a weekend celebrating art, design, technology and architecture sponsored by Channel 4 on 13 and 14 June.
  • Go behind the lens with the LUMA Film Festival featuring workshops and film screenings from the University of York’s Department of Film, Theatre and Television on 13 and 14 June. View heritage footage of York with the Yorkshire Film Archive and discover the art of literary adaptation with Andrew Davies, whose screenplays include Pride and Prejudice and House of Cards.
  • Discover how tea and feminism go hand-in-hand, why coffee could be dangerous if you’re a man and find out what the world’s most notorious dictators liked to eat for dinner with events at Bettys Tea Rooms on 10 and 18 June.
  • Join journalist and author Sam Delaney, whose recent book Mad Men and Bad Men: What Happened When British Politics Met Advertising, delves behind election campaigns of the last four decades. How much influence do advertisers have over politicians, and do political ads really make a difference to the way we vote?
  • Visit a city centre marquee demonstrating ‘Science Out of the Lab’, bringing a range of scientific experiments to the streets of York on 29 and 30 May.
  • Celebrate Anglian-era York with events on Anglo-Saxon astronomy, tour Fishergate’s Postern Tower and attend a beer hall event to sample a specially brewed ‘Eoforwic Ale’.
  • See performances and concerts all over the city, from Carnival street drumming to a performance from Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat, inspiring Iranian musicians who are banned from performing their Persian music publicly to mixed audiences in Iran.

Joan Concannon, Director of the Festival and Director of External Relations at the University of York said: “The University of York is proud to lead on the development of the York Festival of Ideas – the largest free festival in the UK. We created the festival in 2011, with just three festival partners. We are now working with more than 45 partners across the city and nationally.

“We share a passionate belief in the power of education and ideas to transform lives, and, that by working together, we deliver a festival that engages diverse audiences and demonstrates what a collaborative and dynamic city York is. We work together because in doing so we are stronger and more interesting. We believe that the programme has something of interest for everyone of all ages and backgrounds. But most of all we believe that we are a more interesting festival because our audiences are driven by an innate sense of curiosity. So for two weeks in June, join us to be entertained, educated and inspired.”

Now in its fifth year, the festival was established in 2011 with just 24 events over nine days. Now an annual highlight on York’s cultural calendar, audiences of over 30,000 were reached in 2014 through a mix of performances, exhibitions, talks, focus days, tours, panel discussions and workshops.

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