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The Story of Things: York Festival of Ideas 2017 launches biggest programme yet

Posted on 27 April 2017

The York Festival of Ideas returns this year, from 6-18 June, with a unique launch event with BBC Radio 3 and a programme of over 200 diverse events surrounding the theme The Story of Things: a celebration of human ingenuity and invention.

York Festival of Ideas 2017

With over 150 free events across the city, headline speakers include: Michael Rosen, novelist and poet; Harriet Harman MP; Ed Balls, former Shadow Chancellor and star of Strictly Come Dancing 2016; Peter Lord, Co-founder and Creative Director of Academy Award®-winning studio Aardman; Tim Dowling, Guardian columnist; cultural commentator Peter York; Reverend Richard Coles, cleric, broadcaster and former Communard; and the V&A curatorial teams.

Now in its seventh year, the Festival’s opening night features a special collaboration with BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) with talks from five ‘New Generation Thinkers’ and choral music by The 24.

Three Focus Days, tackling issues from the future of democracy and work to what history tells us about Europe’s future, gives audiences the chance to listen to in-depth discussions.

Through talks, exhibitions, theatre, music, films, guided walks, children’s activities and workshops on an array of topics, the Festival will offer something to interest everyone.

Highlights include:

  • Festival launch night: join BBC Radio 3’s New Generation Thinkers – a scheme run with the AHRC to find the brightest academic minds at the start of their careers – as they speak on a broad range of topics from the history of fasting and breastfeeding to how we deal with tyrants. Talks will be followed by music from The 24 – conducted by Robert Hollingworth, founder and Director of the award-winning I Fagiolini – and a drinks reception (6 June).
  • Go behind the scenes of Strictly Come Dancing with Executive Producer Louise Rainbow, Communications Manager Chris McCluskey and former contestant Ed Balls. From costume fittings to training sessions, find out the secrets of the show’s glittering success (10 June).
  • In an exciting new collaboration with the French Embassy and the Institut français du Royaume-Uni, the A Date with History Focus Day brings together leading historians from France and the UK to discuss European identity, migration and Franco-British relations (9 June).
  • Debate the future of democracy and the rise of extremist political parties at the Democracy Under Threat Focus Day. Hear from journalists including the Guardian’s Nesrine Malik, Channel 4’s Deputy Head of News Daniel Pearl and other figures such as Mark Laity of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) speak on Brexit, Trump and the power of social media (10 June).
  • Meet Peter Lord, Co-founder and Creative Director of Academy Award®-winning studio Aardman, and Director of animation classics such as Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run, Creature Comforts and Morph to hear his story and watch as he makes a special Festival Morph in aid of scholarship fundraising (7 June).
  • Have tea with a refugee – meet artist and activist Alketa Xhafa Mripa as she parks up her van in York with a sitting room interior. Join her for a cup of tea to hear about her experiences of being welcomed to the UK as a refugee and what you can do to help those seeking refuge (17 June).
  • Join one of many walking tours across the city to take in York’s history including its chocolate industry heritage, the unique Garden Village of New Earswick and architectural award-winning buildings (various dates).
  • Join Harriet Harman MP and Guy Standing, founder of the Basic Income Earth Network at the Future of Work Focus Day in association with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Hear about the influence of robotics on jobs and how we derive meaning from work (16 June).
  • Join the Festival finale on Sunday 18 June in a Father’s Day celebration as author and columnist Tim Dowling talks about the difficult task of being a dad.

Joan Concannon, Director of York Festival of Ideas, said: “This year’s Festival is set to be the biggest ever, showcasing the power of ideas and research by York academics and bringing fantastic speakers and performers to the city. A huge thank you goes to the 60 plus city and national partners helping us deliver such a compelling Festival programme, which will educate, entertain and inspire tens of thousands of people from the Yorkshire region and beyond.

“Events will explore an array of topics ranging from the ancient and natural worlds, to science and creative writing, and from cycling to the human mind. We’re confident our packed programme contains something to interest everyone. York truly is a city of ideas, innovation and inspiration. Join us!”

Matthew Dodd, Head of Speech Programming and Presentation at BBC Radio 3, said: “BBC Radio 3 is delighted to be part of this year’s opening event at York Festival of ideas. The New Generation Thinkers are a group of academics at the start of their careers who Radio 3 supports and nurtures, providing a platform to bring their fascinating research to a broad public, both on-air and at events across the country.

"The York Festival of Ideas is an excellent place to carry out that task, because it shares Radio 3’s aspirations of engaging in discussion and opening the world of academic research to as many people as possible. The line-up of New Generation Thinkers for the first night bring stories intrigue, entertain and offer real food for thought.”

Now in its seventh year, the Festival has grown to become one of the largest free festivals in the UK, last year attracting over 19,000 people to over 150 events.

The Festival is led by the University in collaboration with more than 60 city and national organisations, including Aviva, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Morrell Centre for Toleration, the Shepherd Group, the British Academy, and IBM United Kingdom.

Further information:

Media enquiries

Saskia Angenent
Press Officer

Tel: 01904 323918