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York Festival of Ideas unveils 2023 programme

Posted on 28 April 2023

York Festival of Ideas has unveiled its programme for 2023, based on the theme of ‘Rediscover, Reimagine, Rebuild’.

Tickets are available now for more than 150 mostly free events - online talks, discussions and performances plus a host of family-friendly activities.

The 2023 Festival programme can be viewed online and paper brochures are available at the Visit York Information Centre as well as at public libraries across the city.

Running from 2 to 15 June, the Festival presents an eclectic programme split between in-person and online events, and featuring a line-up of distinguished international contributors.

Acclaimed authors

The University of York leads the Festival, with the Holbeck Charitable Trust returning as headline sponsor, with further support from Higher Education Investment Fund. 

The Festival is further supported through partnerships with more than 100 local, national and international cultural, social and business partners including the Resolution Foundation, the National Centre for Early Music, York Theatre Royal, York St John University, York Pride, York Army Museum and Ignite Music to name but a few. 

This year’s Festival showcases contributions from an array of world-class speakers and performers, including acclaimed author, Sir Michael Morpurgo; violinist, Anna Phoebe; former BBC presenter and Team GB triathlete, Louise Minchin; actor, Tim McInnerny; solicitor and former Chief Prosecutor, Nazir Afzal; former leader of the SNP in the House of Commons, Ian Blackford; and broadcaster and journalist Gavin Esler.

Focus events

The programme also features author, historian and broadcaster, Tracy Borman;, vocalist and storyteller, Supriya Nagarajan; with sound artist and musician, Duncan Chapman; GRAMMY-nominated counter-tenor, Reginald Mobley; visionary photographer, Sunil Gupta; and politician and campaigner, Michael Cashman.

This year’s Festival focus events are sponsored by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the French Embassy in the UK, Aviva and the Morrell Centre for Legal and Political Philosophy. These focus events will explore community-led solutions to poverty, the potential for imaginative regeneration in the city of York, the relationships between Africa and Europe, and the challenges facing our criminal justice system. 

Panels of experts who will re-appraise our approaches to these challenges include the University of York’s Vice-Chancellor and chair of the N8 Research Partnership, Professor Charlie Jeffery; philosopher, Dr Norman Ajari; managing director of Ford Family Foundation, Laura Pulleyn; academic, Professor Benedicte Faivre Tavignot; and the Northern Correspondent of the Financial Times, Jen Williams.

Big Tent

The Festival’s partnership with Big Tent Ideas Festival, the cross-party platform for constructive debate and civil disagreement, which comes to York for the first time on Saturday 17 June in Dean’s Park, provides a fitting coda to the programme. 

Joan Concannon, Director of York Festival of Ideas, said: “We are proud to unveil our programme for 2023. It is topical, timely and absorbing while retaining a broad appeal for inquiring minds, a spirit that is true to our founding ethos to educate, entertain and inspire audiences of all ages. 

“This year, in recognition of the immense challenges facing humankind, we want to help our audiences to rediscover our shared humanity, to reimagine the cornerstones of our society and rebuild our socio-economic contract both locally and globally. 

“The Festival, as well as our sponsors, are united in a commitment to the importance of sharing knowledge and ideas. Without their outstanding support, we would be unable to deliver so many events for free to our wonderfully engaged and enthusiastic audiences.”

Family events

The Festival continues to inspire and nurture young people’s creativity and curiosity with events ranging from hands-on nature activities to an interactive family fun afternoon.

Families are encouraged to take part in a series of fun events in public libraries in York on 30 May, which will give children the opportunity to explore space in virtual reality and experience what it might feel like to be an astronaut.

Further information:

Tickets for the York Festival of Ideas 2023 will be available from Friday, 28 April. To see the full Festival programme and to book tickets visit

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