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Movie, TV and theatre star to discuss history of Britain’s black community at York Festival of Ideas

Posted on 9 May 2024

Paterson Joseph, who most recently starred in the movie, Wonka, will join a host of distinguished figures at the York Festival of Ideas.

Paterson Joseph is star of movies, TV and theatre

He will be in conversation with Gretchen Gerzina, author of Black England, as part of an online event to discuss the idea that Britain’s black community was established in the Georgian period, and not the mid-20th century as commonly thought.

They will pay tribute to individuals who were famous and well respected at the time; one such person was Ignatius Sancho, a correspondent of Irish novelist Laurence Sterne, and the subject of Paterson’s award-winning debut novel.  Paterson, also known for his roles in the TV series Vigil and Doctor Who, will be in conversation with Gretchen about the dramatic and often moving stories of Georgian England’s forgotten Black community. 

War Horse

Other events at this year’s Festival include, War Horse, the concert with Michael Morpurgo and Ben Murray, performed at Central Hall at the University of York.  War Horse is one of the most beloved children’s books, and will be re-told with music and songs from the National Theatre production, which Ben also starred in as the Songman.

Chief Medical Officer for England, Chris Whitty, will join a panel of speakers to discuss the power of chemistry to tackle air pollution and provide clean air solutions. Emphasising measurement and answers, the event marks the tenth anniversary of the Wolfson Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratories at the University of York. 

Composer and violinist Anna Phoebe will present an immersive concert at the National Centre for Early Music as part of her solo UK tour, while award-winning broadcaster, journalist and filmmaker, Zeinab Badawi, will provide a new account of the oldest inhabited continent on the planet at the online event An African History of Africa.

More than 200 events

York Festival of Ideas will run from 1 to 14 June 2024 with more than 200 mostly free events, in-person and online, under the theme of ‘the power of…’ with a range of topics that help improve understanding of our world - from the ‘power’ of nature to awe and inspire, to the ‘power’ of education to open minds, and the ‘power’ of history to help inform the present and future.

Joan Concannon, Director of the Festival, said: “In 2024, we are arguably more in need of ideas and inspiration than ever before as we face challenges on a global scale. Our Festival Focus sessions in particular are aimed at interrogating the complex challenges we face, offering audiences an opportunity to join in the conversation. 

“Our speakers will examine issues ranging from wealth and poverty, to the security of elections, to the challenges of preserving our heritage.”


The University of York leads the Festival, with key support from the Holbeck Charitable Trust, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Higher Education Investment Fund as well as a range of additional generous sponsors, donors and individuals committed to enabling the festival to deliver so many events for free to diverse audiences. 

The Festival works with more than 100 programme partners who help to co-curate and deliver an eclectic programme of events with something for all ages and experiences. . 

Tickets are now available to book. For more information visit the Festival website:

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