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The clock is ticking… launch of York Festival of Ideas 2016

Posted on 4 May 2016

The York Festival of Ideas returns this year, from 7 – 19 June, with a packed programme of over 150 diverse and stimulating events delivered under the overarching theme of ‘Tick Tock’.

With free events across the city, featuring world-class speakers, exhibitions, performances and interactive experiences, the annual festival aims to educate, entertain and inspire people of all ages and interests.

The Festival’s opening night is inspired by the publication of the US Board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock report 3 Minutes to Midnight - measuring humanity’s close proximity to global catastrophe. Professor Sivan Kartha, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Board Member, Nuclear Arms expert Dr Beyza Unal, from Chatham House, and Oliver Morton, author of Planet Remade and Briefings Editor of The Economist, will explore report’s assessment of the rising threat of climate change and nuclear arms proliferation.

A series of seven focus days will further delve into some of today’s most complex global challenges, including the forthcoming EU Referendum, the causes and consequences of the refugee crisis, living with floods, securing sustainable food sources, and health and wellbeing.

Headline speakers will include: former Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Lawson; former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Yvette Cooper MP; comedian Sara Pascoe; composer Sir Karl Jenkins; Justice Brenda Hale; Classic FM’s Tim Lihoreau; economist John Kay; journalists Owen Jones, Zoe Williams, David Aaronovitch, Stephanie Flanders and Rachel Sylvester; former Consul-General, Jerusalem, Sir Vincent Fean; Sicilian humanitarian, Princess Vittoria Alliata; and the Director General of Amnesty International Italy, Gianni Rufini.

Encompassing broader ideas around time - past, present and future - the Festival programme will also explore themes such as York Pathways to the Past, Performance Through Time, Science: The Final Frontier, The Future: What’s Next?, and much more.

Festival highlights include:

  • Festival launch night: The Doomsday Clock was created by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists nearly 70 years ago as an annual measure of humanity’s closeness to catastrophe. In January, the latest report places us at three minutes to midnight... How do we combat the threat of climate change and the proliferation of nuclear arms in fragile states? What kind of multilateral agreements will be effective? World-class speakers will discuss (Tuesday 7 June).
  • Find out how we can prevent and live with floods in the future with the Living with Floods Festival Focus Day. Leading environmental scientists, insurance industry leaders, policy-makers, engineers, farmers and city planners will discuss recent floods in Yorkshire and the North West and the effects of climate change (11 June).
  • Introduce children to the magic of theatre with the Little Feet Festival of Children’s Theatre at the York Theatre Royal. Co-hosted by tutti frutti productions, spaces in the theatre will transform into beautiful and imaginative play areas. Enjoy free craft activities, plus a host of performances, interactive experiences and workshops for children of all ages and their families (7-12 June)
  • Attend interactive exhibitions, learn more about the history of the surgical revolution and explore the role of music therapy at the Mysterious Minds and Bothersome Bodies Focus Weekend (11-12 June).
  • Delve into the extraordinary work of Quentin Blake with author, curator and lecturer Ghislaine Kenyon. Often collaborating with Blake, Ghislaine offers a unique insight into his working and studio practice (Tuesday 7 June).
  • Discover a medley of different music with jazz concerts from award-winning musicians, talks about the history of Motown and Britain’s music venues, listen to Classic FM’s Creative Director Tim Lihoreau redefining classical music, and join renowned DJ Rob Tissera as he gives a masterclass in remixing classic pop for the dancefloor.
  • Debate the EU Referendum with arguments for and against ‘Brexit’, and find out the likely legal, social and economic consequences of remaining or leaving with a dedicated Festival Focus Day. Headline speakers include former Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Lawson, Labour MP Yvette Cooper and Financial Times journalist Tony Barber (Thursday 16 June)
  • Visit a city centre marquee demonstrating ‘Science Out of the Lab’, bringing a range of scientific experiments to the streets of York (3-4 June).
  • Celebrate Shakespeare’s anniversary year with leading experts Farah Karim-Cooper, Paul Edmondson and Judith Buchanan as they unlock key moments in Shakespeare that resonate powerfully with them, with actor interludes (Monday 13 June).
  • Hear from humanitarian leaders, journalists, educators, security specialists and refugees at the Fragile States: The Causes and Consequences of the Refugee Crisis Festival Focus Day. Speakers include Rear Admiral Chris Parry; Sir Vincent Fean, former Consul-General, Jerusalem; Mary Kaldor of the London School of Economics and Political Science; Gianni Rufini, Director General of Amnesty International Italy; Ambassador Tarald Brautaset; and Sicilian humanitarian, Princess Vittoria Alliata (Saturday 18 June).
  • Hear Hilary Roberts of the Imperial War Museum trace Lee Miller’s remarkable career as a photographer for Vogue Magazine during World War II. Recognised today as one of the most important female war photographers of the 20th century, find out how her work helps us understand the impact of modern conflict on women’s lives (Wednesday 15 June)
  • Discover the Chemistry of Breaking Bad with the University of York’s Professor David Smith as he explores some of the fundamental chemistry underpinning the show (Thursday 16 June)
  • Explore the responses and reactions to the damage taking place in the Middle East with the Fragile Heritage Festival Focus Day. With nine of ten World Heritage Sites in Syria and Iraq in danger or already damaged by the Islamic State group, listen to cultural heritage experts discuss the significance of this.
  • Watch University of York scientists dissect a captured zombie and study the infectious agent causing the outbreak as you examine the zombie’s blood, play with its brains and more. An interactive, hands-on workshop aimed at children aged eight to 12 – but fun for adults too (13-14 June).
  • Go on a journey to the frontier of intelligent robotics, find out how artificial intelligence is being used to make robots more independent, and where these smart robots will be used in the near future with a talk on Friday 10 June.
  • See performances and concerts all over the city, from live poetry performance events to the Grammy-nominated New Budapest Orpheum Society as they perform recently rediscovered pieces from the Jewish archives.

Joan Concannon, Director of York Festival of Ideas, said: “Each year, the Festival showcases the power of ideas and research by York academics and brings fantastic speakers and performers to York. We are really proud that the Festival has become a key part of the cultural and intellectual life of our city and region and thanks to our incredible sponsors is able to provide so many wonderful free events. I would like to encourage everyone to come along and help us celebrate the rich and diverse strengths of our amazing city and the incredible power of ideas.”

Now in its sixth year, the Festival has grown to become one of the largest free festivals in the UK, last year attracting over 31,500 people to 170 events.

The Festival is led by the University in collaboration with more than 60 city and national organisations, including The Holbeck Trust, The Centre for Chronic Diseases and Disorders, The Morrell Centre for Toleration, Classic FM, Aviva, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Shepherd Group, Quorn Foods and Virgin Trains.

Further information:

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