Festival of Ideas returns to York


The annual Festival of Ideas returns to York.

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Image by Nadia Sayed

By James Clay

The annual Festival of Ideas returned to York with over 100 events. The festival hosted hundreds of academics, industry practitioners, authors and performances in York.

This year, the main themes of the festival were rediscover, reimagine and rebuild. These themes set up the various talks and discussions happening across the festival. Amongst other topics, History, Science, Psychology, Politics and the natural world were particularly important throughout the festival. As it was held in York, a lot of talks centred around the history and the development of York as a city.

Kicking off the festival with technical demonstrations around robotics and other automated machinery, the University of York’s Institute for SafeAutonomy opened its doors to members of the public.

There were also a number of theatrical, musical and dance demonstrations with performances across the city. One student who went to see the performance of Vaughan William’s A Sea Symphony commented that: “it was really fulfilling to hear the compositions of the former socialist VaughanWilliam at the Minster, in which I felt more blessed and lucky to live when such opportunities are not as often as they should be. The atmosphere could not have been created in a more perfect place to hear the beautiful compositions and magnificent voices in such grand architecture.”

To commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of York Law School, lawyer and former Chief Prosecutor Nazir Afzal spoke at the Piazza Building on Campus East. It attracted a large audience who came to listen to Afzal’sexperience as a leading lawyer dealing with child sexual abuse cases.

Speaking exclusively to Nouse after his talk, Nazir Afzal commented that: “I think the Festival of Ideas is a phenomenal idea where you have two or three weeks allowing people to share what they think and challenge ideas. It’s really inspiring and really motivating.”

Representing an emerging academic research field, the Festival also hosted a talk about the cultural context of tattoos. Entitled ‘Tattoo: The theBody of Archive’, this talk included academics from across the field. Commenting on this particular talk, Co-organiser Dr Nina Willment, Research Associate in the School of Arts and Creative Technologies at the University of York, said: “It is such an interesting, vibrant, and interdisciplinary research area, and we can’t wait to bring together tattoo artists, practitioners, academics and people with an interest in tattoos together for what we hope will be a wonderful event for festival visitors.

Nouse spoke to Joan Concannon, Director of External Affairs and a joint organizer of the Festival. She commented: “There really appears to be a concern on an individual level about issues they perceive to be really problematic, extremely complex, and the question that comes up most often is what can I do. There isn’t an easy answer to that. One of the things we try to highlight, and one of the reasons the university coordinates the festival, is that we want to try to create a safe environment for people to debate those issues.”