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Tenth anniversary York Festival of Ideas looks to ‘Infinite Horizons’

Posted on 30 April 2021

York Festival of Ideas has unveiled its 2021 programme on the theme of Infinite Horizons to mark its 10th anniversary.

The Festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a special day of events

This year’s Festival, with headline sponsor Holbeck Charitable Trust, offers headline speakers, including acclaimed children’s author Sir Michael Morpurgo; Channel 4’s Editor-at-large Dorothy Byrne; and historians Greg Jenner, William Dalrymple and Timothy Garton Ash.

Speakers also include leading economists Mariana Mazzucato and Kate Raworth; political philosopher Michael Sandel; poet, Salena Godden, broadcaster, Krista Tippett; musicians, Supriya Nagarajan and Anna Phoebe; forensic anthropologist, Sue Black; and journalist Lina Attalah.

York Festival of Ideas runs from 8-20 June, with a special day of events to celebrate its 10th anniversary on Monday, 7 June.  The programme has partnerships spanning Bangladesh, France, Greece, The Netherlands, India, and the USA.


Joan Concannon, Director of York Festival of Ideas at the University of York, said: “We are enormously proud to announce this exciting and inspirational programme for the 2021 York Festival of Ideas. We have radically adapted our model of engaging audiences in the light of Covid-19 restrictions but our programme for 2021 is as ambitious as any we have attempted in the last decade.

“We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to all our sponsors and partners without whose support we would be unable to deliver the Festival free to our audiences.

“I am especially delighted that we have an opportunity to build on our relationship with partners from across the world – ideas and knowledge have no borders and we are honoured to work with such inspiring partners from around the world.

“With our fascinating city centre walking trail to mark our 10th anniversary, we are honoured to showcase our 10 Trailblazers -- the men and women who have helped to make York a city of ideas, innovation and inspiration through the ages.”

Anniversary special

As part of a special 10th anniversary celebration day on Monday 7 June, children’s author Sir Michael Morpurgo will be reading A Song of Gladness and will reveal what inspired the story, in a YouTube premiere of the work.  Other high-profile Festival speakers in the last ten years will join him in explaining the objects and ideas that have inspired them.

Influential economist Mariana Mazzucato and epidemiologist Kate Pickett will also lead an event discussing the need for a radical approach to restructuring capitalism and the continuing impact of economic policymaking on health and mental health. Brooke Masters, Chief Business Commentator at the Financial Times, will chair the discussion.

Rounding off the anniversary celebration day, She-Energy begins with a live broadcast panel discussion celebrating women’s creativity, with writers, musicians and poets joining the event from Bangladesh, India, London and York. This will be followed by a performance co-produced with composer and violinist Anna Phoebe and poet Salena Godden, filmed in York Minster, and co-curated with the Dhaka Lit Fest and the Jaipur Literature Festival.

Trailblazing York

To mark its 10th anniversary, the Festival has also established Trailblazing York, a walking trail for all ages in the heart of York. It showcases ten of the city’s most inspirational pioneers. The Trailblazers either bucked the social norms of the day or, through an invention or innovation, created new paths for others to follow.

The anniversary Festival will feature contributions from a host of world-class speakers including novelists, Jung Chang and Sharlene Teo; astronomer, Avi Loeb; psychiatrist, Veronica O’Keane; justice activist, Magid Magid; beauty expert, Katie Service; author, Simon Garfield and journalists, John Crace and Tim Dowling.

York Festival of Ideas includes a series of sponsored focus events which place the spotlight on some of the most pressing questions facing humankind. Panels of experts will explore how to create a fairer economy, the role of imagination in science, and the challenge of restoring serious debate in a politically polarised world.

The York Festival of Ideas 2021 website goes live on Friday, 30 April, and tickets for all festival events are available from Tuesday 4 May. To see the full festival programme and to book tickets visit 

Further information:

York Festival of Ideas is delivered in partnership with nearly 100 organisations including the York-Maastricht Partnership; the French Embassy in the UK; CITY College; University of York Europe Campus: Joseph Rowntree Foundation; the Friends Provident Foundation; the Morrell Centre for Legal and Political Philosophy; the Shepherd Group; the National Centre for Early Music; and York St John University.