Festival of Ideas: Preview

The Festival of Ideas has written itself into York’s cultural calendar. Now only in its second year, this annual treat is taking place 14th - 30th June. Themed Metamorphoses, it will feature a diverse range of concerts, exhibitions, talks, and performances either on the university campus itself, or somewhere within the city walls. Here, then, is a preview of artistic and literary highlights of the festival transforming the city into a trove of cultural treasures.


Daughter of Lucien Freud, and great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud, sculptor Jane McAdam Freud introduces Flesh & Stone on June 16th at the New School House Gallery. Featuring works based on sketches the artist made of her father during his very last weeks, her exhibition will also engage in what it really means to be a ‘Freud.’

The festival's theme: Metamorphoses ©Jeremiah Blatz

Art and Music is an exhibition that matches the works of artists, from LS Lowry to Andy Warhol, to a different kind of composition. Beginning in the second week of the festival, this will be hosted by York Art Gallery.

Temple of a Thousand Bells, meanwhile, will see one thousand fragile glass bells suspended in St Mary's Church. Inspired by an ancient tale about a shipwrecked sailor, who tried to hear the song of the thousand bells which had been swallowed up by the sea, this exhibition will run throughout the summer to evoke a picture of watery air, fragility, and evanescence.


On 16th June, Anthony Horowitz will be on campus to discuss writing fiction, and screen-writing. Author of the best-selling Alex Rider series and the latest Sherlock Holmes , creator of the televisual Foyle's War, and writer of screenplays for the big screen as well as the small, Horowitz shows curiosity in tales of trickiness and deceit.

Author and historian Alison Weir presents on her latest novel Dangerous Inheritance on Saturday 17th, in a talk that will also approach the use of sources in authoring historical fiction. Continuing through history, two figures from the university's own department will discuss the challenges of re-writing medieval and Tudor England in their own, published reconstructions of the stories of Edward III and Francis Walsingham on the 18th.

Jung Chang, the author of Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, will be at York Theatre Royal on June 21. A best-seller, her unsettling book, which narrates a tale of three generations, has sold over ten million copies.

Also on 21st is Prison Fictions and Writing Imprisonment. This talk will grapple with a range of approaches to writing about the experience of being incarcerated itself, from multiple different perspectives.

The University's own Judith Buchanan and Hugh Haughton will discuss Ovid’s Metamorphoses on the 22nd, exploring how the strange tales are woven through later literary works.

Booker-nominated and Whitbread award-winning author Jennifer Johnston will give a reading on 29 June from her latest novel Shadowstory.

Author of the Horrible Science series, Nick Arnold will reveal more about his life and writing on Saturday 30th June.

Although the majority of festival events are free to enter, all are ticketed. Other events include an opening talk on the Big Bang, jazz concerts, and discussions on architecture. Book here

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