The University of Cambridge’s Festival of Ideas will begin on Monday – but be careful who you tell. The theme this year, ‘Power and Resistance’, covers a range of topics; from censorship to surveillance, data tracking to Tory-themed doom metal, and much more.
The festival, which runs from Monday 19th October to Sunday 1st November, will revolve around a core series of events, highlighting oppression and surveillance as key topics.
The internet will come under scrutiny as experts muse upon its increasing capacity to monitor its users.
The annual event will feature a wide range of well-known speakers, including BBC Creative Director Alan Yentob, Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens, and former Archbishop of Canterbury and current Master of Magdalene College, Rowan Williams.
Events will take place across the town, with the University of Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin University opening their doors, along with many theatres, faculties, pubs, colleges and halls.
Among the highlights will be ‘Data Shadow’, created by artist Mark Farid. The installation will allow individuals to enter a shipping container placed in central Cambridge, and face their own ‘data shadow’ – all the information they have shared online for anyone to see. In the wake of the Ashley Madison data scandal, Farid hopes the exhibition will prompt the public to become more aware of how much information they reveal online, and raise questions about the value of privacy in an interconnected world.
The Cambridge Junction will play host on Wednesday 21st October to #TORYCORE, an austerity-inspired fusing of ‘sludge and doom metal’ with the words of Chancellor George Osborne’s July Budget. The event, ‘part metal-recital, part exorcism’, has been designed to be the musical equivalent of “a government ripping out society’s guts” in “a pounding, subverbal deathgrowl”. Entry will be free, but those who attend are encouraged to donate to Cambridge Food Bank and other local charities.
Elsewhere, journalists Bidisha and Peter Hitchens, feminist writer Julie Bindel and Cambridge sociologist Ella McPherson will discuss censorship through omission, and the new challenges and questions regarding freedom of expression raised by the internet, as part of the topic of ‘Hidden Voices’. BBC Creative Director Alan Yentob will discuss the past, present and future of the corporation, and Rowan Williams will participate in a debate on religion in schools. Alan Sked, founder of UKIP, will take part in a debate on the European Union’s role as a peacekeeping organisation. The author Helen Moss will speak at an event examining the depiction of the antagonism between children and adults in children’s mystery fiction.
The festival, which is in its eighth year, will also play host to a varied cohort of academics, Cambridge professors and local experts. RAND Europe analyst Dr Chris Giacomantonio will discuss the unlikely role of horses in criminal justice, a capacity in which they have shown “unexpected resilience”. The event will also be attended by two police horses from the City of London Mounted Branch and their riders.
Astronomer Royal and Cambridge professor Lord Martin Rees will spearhead a series of scientific talks, including such topics as the state of humanity in 2050, artificial intelligence, and territorial disputes in outer space, covering themes of technology, ethics and the future.
Film fans can join university experts on right-wing violence and gender for a viewing of Andres Veiel’s award-winning film Der Kick (The Kick, 2006), followed by a group Q&A. The film, which depicts neo-Nazi crime in Germany, portrays themes of brutality and alienation.
There also promises to be some light-hearted soul-searching in the shape of Kindness, the latest show by comedian and failed Buddhist monk Sam Brady. Brady, who left monasticism behind after three years, will reflect on the struggles of being a ‘good person’, and questioning why kindness is such an undervalued quality.
Last year, the festival sparked international discussion after Cambridge researchers launched ‘Hip Hop Psych’, an organisation promoting the use of hip-hop music in psychiatric therapy.
Rhyme aficionados must be sated this year with something a little more old-school, as Shakespeare experts Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells discuss the bard’s personal life, friends and family, and how they influenced his work.
As well as a wide-range of talks, there are also a number of workshops to attend, including reading poetry, learning meditation, interpreting scripture and exploring the power of selfies. For those who yearn for a hands-on role in the UK’s finances, the Faculty of Economics will play host to a team-based interactive British economy videogame.
The full list of events and details on how to book can be found at www.festivalofideas.cam.ac.uk.
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