Thought-provoking debates on contested identities lead Cambridge Festival of Ideas 2014

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Cyberbullying, climate conspiracies, gender politics and how to teach history are just a few of the important and contentious topics covered in this year’s Cambridge Festival of Ideas.

We all subscribe to identities that are in permanent states of flux, personally and politically. This year's Festival of Ideas will aim to address the most important identity crises of the day.

Malavika Andersen, Festival of Ideas Coordinator

The Festival - which runs from 20 October to 2 November - will focus on ‘Identities’, and features leading thinkers, academics, writers and performers including Ha-Joon Chang, Professor Sir Richard Evans, Ben Okri, Carol Ann Duffy, Caroline Criado-Perez, Alexander McCall Smith and Bridget Christie.

Now in its seventh year, the Festival aims to explore some of the most essential and thought-provoking ideas of our time, from rising nationalism, gender and racial politics to digital rights and innovation.  It celebrates the very best of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Over 250 events ranging from talks, debates and film screenings to exhibitions and comedy nights are held in lecture halls, theatres, museums and galleries around Cambridge and entry to many is free.

The Festival continues to develop its special mix of events for all ages, with an exciting programme for young people and families that accompanies the events offered for adult audiences. The Festival team are collaborating with the University of Cambridge Museums and partners across Cambridge to kick off a month-long cultural season, Curating Cambridge. For the first time, they are also partnering with the Women of the World Festival with a special day of events on gender politics, including a panel discussion on cyberbullying with feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, herself the victim of internet 'trolls'. The Women of the World Festival celebrates women’s achievements and discusses the obstacles that prevent them from achieving their full potential and contributing to the world.

Highlights of the Festival of Ideas include the following:

Leading economist Ha-Joon Chang discusses the idea that economics is a science and addresses the failures in economics thinking that he says led to our current predicament

Learning to Remember: how should we teach history? A debate with Professor Sir Richard Evans, Professor David Cesarani, teacher Katherine Edwards and Damian Collins MP, chaired by BBC Cambridgeshire's Chris Mann

Booker prize winner Ben Okri speaks about his life and work

Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy presents an event where stars of the ‘Routes into Languages East: Mother Tongue Other Tongue’ 2014 competition perform their shortlisted entries

Author Alexander McCall Smith, one of the world’s most popular and prolific authors, discusses the art of combining traditional publishing formats with contemporary writing

Award-winning comic and Radio 4 regular Bridget Christie talks gender equality as she brings her smash-hit Edinburgh show to Cambridge

The Festival celebrates the very best of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Over 250 events, which range from talks, debates and film screenings to exhibitions and comedy nights, are held in lecture halls, theatres, museums and galleries around Cambridge and entry to most is free.

The Identities theme is picked up in a series of debates:

- Mixed Race: the future of identity politics in Britain. Journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown chairs a discussion with journalist and broadcaster Sarfraz Manzoor, campaigner Dinah Morley and Research Associate Nathaniel Coleman and Senior Research Fellow Chamion Caballero.

- Nationalism 101 - should we be afraid? This debate encompasses the Arab Spring, the events in Ukraine, and the tensions of English and Catalan nationalism with Professors Mike Kenny and Montserrat Guibernau, Professor Margot Light and Glen Rangwala, lecturer on the politics of the modern Middle East.

- Common European Identity: a myth, a reality or an aspiration? This panel discussion welcomes academics with anthropological, historical, legal and political science backgrounds, and students’ personal views and experiences

- Challenges to Sexual Identities. Campaigner Peter Tatchell, Anthony Obidike of Justice for Gay Africans, Professor Susan Golombok and Dr Katherine Browne debate the rise in extremism against gay people in some parts of the world and what drives tolerance and diversity

- Remembering the Benefits of Multi-Cultural Britain. Author and playwright Bonnie Greer explores how the UK’s cultural and ethnic diversity enriches our communities and how the UK benefits both socially and economically from its diversity

- Identity Politics and the Anglican Church. This panel discussion will address women, homosexuality and the Global South in the Anglican Communion.

The Festival will see a host of inspiring interactive sessions for people of all ages, including a pre-history day, a comic creation master class, a hip hop event which explores mental illness through hip hop beats and lyrics, medieval storytelling, family drawing workshops and a speed mentoring session for women. Heffers will run a unique Classics Forum with experts including Professor Paul Cartledge, Tom Holland and Professor Maria Wyke.

The University of Cambridge Festival of Ideas is sponsored by Cambridge University Press and Anglia Ruskin University. Event partners include Heffers, University of Cambridge Museums, RAND Europe, the Junction. The Festival's media partner is BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.

Malavika Anderson, the Festival of Ideas Coordinator, said: “We all subscribe to identities that are in permanent states of flux, personally and politically. This year's Festival of Ideas will aim to address the most important identity crises of the day with a wide-ranging and diverse programme of events. Last year we welcomed over 18,000 visitors, and we look forward to even more participating this time around.”

The programme will be published on 26 August. More information from: www.cam.ac.uk/festivalofideas.


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