Accessibility statement

You're viewing an archived page from a previous Festival of Ideas. See this year's festival »

Theme - Cultural identity

Explore the diverse elements that define who we are, including our history, accent, DNA and influence from other cultures.


Living up North

15 June, 7pm, Ron Cooke Hub, University of York

An exploration of living in the North. Judith O’Reilly, author of Wife in the North, recounts one woman’s attempt to move her family and her life from cosmopolitan London to rural Northumberland; while journalist Paul Morley, author of "The North (and almost everything in it)explores what it means to be northern, and why those who consider themselves to be so, believe it so strongly.

Admission: Free, ticketed

Renaissance Reincarnations on the Page

16 June, 1.30pm, St William's School

This event explores how Renaissance afterlives are created in Historical Fiction and Biography. Open to all, ‘Renaissance Reincarnations on the Page’ on Saturday, 15 June at St William’s College, offers a chance to hear Germaine Greer and Robert Hutchinson as they discuss the process of re-creating early modern personalities for a modern audience.

Admission: Free, ticketed

The histories of nations

17 June, 6pm, Berrick Saul Building, University of York

Why write the history of the world? Many attempts have been made by western scholars to create order from the chaos of the past. Maybe there are other ways of doing it. Author and former Editor of History Today, Peter Furtado, explores the options in this thought-provoking talk.

Admission: Free, ticketed

Accent the positive

17 June, 6pm, Ron Cooke Hub, University of York

How people speak tells a lot about their geographical and social origins. But when you can only speak with the aid of an artificial voice, conventional expectations are subverted. Alistair Edwards of the University of York and Christopher Newell of the University of Hull explore some of the limitations – and new possibilities – of speech technology. Their talk will include a number of interactive exhibits with which the audience will be able to experience the technology in practice

Admission: Free, ticketed

Identity, Romanisation and Regionality in Roman Britain

17 June, 6:30pm, ATB/057, Seebohm Rowntree Building, University of York

What did the Romans ever do for the North? By examining the spread of coinage and coin use, the nature and persistence of Iron-Age tribal exchange systems, and the presence and role of the army, the archaeologist Barry Crump will consider the prospect of a North-South divide in Roman Britain.

Admission: Free, ticketed

Brian Sewell in conversation

18 June, 6.30pm, Ron Cooke Hub, University of York

Author and art critic, Brian Sewell, talks about his life and his thoughts on English contemporary art in conversation with James Boaden from the University’s Department of History of Art.

Admission: Free, ticketed

In praise of Eric Bloodaxe: Viking poetry from York

20 June, 7pm, Barley Hall, Coffee Yard

Eric Bloodaxe was the last, and most famous, Viking king of York, driven out and killed in 954. He is also the only Viking king of York to have surviving Norse poetry composed in his honour. Enjoy a goblet of mead as Matthew Townend of the University of York explores this unique northern poetry to see what we can learn about kingship and culture in Viking Age York.

Admission: Free, ticketed

The YorkshiresDNA project

26 June, 6pm, Ron Cooke Hub, University of York

Hidden in our DNA are the origins of our lineages, when and where they first arose and the immense journey our ancestors took to reach Britain’s shores. Join Alistair Moffat of the Yorkshire DNA project, as he reveals the rich mosaic of ancient lineages found so far, with some very interesting results for Yorkshire.

Admission: Free, ticketed

Austin Wright, dryads and the lure of the North

26 June, 6.30pm, D/056, Derwent College, University of York

The career of York-based sculptor Austin Wright (1911–1997) is said to have been limited by his decision to live and work in the North of England rather than court favour in the South. One of his works, Dryad (1984), situated by Heslington Hall, will provide a focus for a discussion around the importance of place and the pull of the metropolis as defining factors in how artists develop their ideas and reputations.

Admission: Free, ticketed

Servants: A downstairs view of 20th-century Britain

27 June, 12.30pm, Betty's York

Discover the social history of the last century through the eyes of those who served. From the butler, the maid and the cook of 1900 to theau pairs, cleaners and childminders who took their place seventy years later, author Lucy Lethbridge will bring to life the voices of servants and domestic staff, largely ignored by history. This presentation will include a delicious Cream Tea, which includes home-made scones, jam and cream.

Admission: £12.95, through Betty's York, 01904 659142

Grim tales: How literature has demonised the North of England

27 June, 2pm, Berrick Saul Building, University of York

Writing about the north of England has for years woefully concentrated on the bleak and dour. This is one of the themes of True North, a book by Northern Editor of The Guardian, Martin Wainwright.  In this talk he shows that where authors have achieved a balanced, contextual description of the North, their good work has been undone by critics, the media and others via the selection only of the glum side. Wainwright presents a contrary image and argues that it is important to do so if the present, shameful, imbalance between northern and metropolitan England is to be put right, as it must be.

Admission: Free, ticketed

Capital of the North

13-29 June, 10am-5pm, Yorkshire Museum

In the medieval kingdoms of Britain, the north was ruled from York. It was a place of power, art, greed and bloodshed and the Capital of the North. Featuring some of the most prestigious and significant medieval objects ever found, this exhibition explores the lives of the most powerful people of the time and tells the story of how great swathes of the country were once ruled from York.

Admission: £7.50, concessions £6.50, children under 16 and York Card holders free

Revealing York Minster - a heroic, historic, human journey

13-29 June, see for opening times

Revealing York Minster is an interactive and fascinating exhibition in the Minster’s Undercroft which highlights its pivotal role as the mother church of the North. Visitors journey through 1,000s of years as they encounter Roman, Anglo-Scandinavian, Norman and Medieval archaeology which illustrates the significance of York Minster in the development of Christianity through the centuries.

Admission: Ticketed

After the ice: Yorkshire's prehistoric people

13-29 June, 10am-5pm, Yorkshire Museum

Eleven thousand years ago at Star Carr, near Scarborough, Mesolithic people lived, hunted and worshipped. They built Britain’s oldest known house and wore deer skull headdresses to hunt or to worship unknown Gods. Some of the most remarkable and complete finds from the site are brought together for the first time in this special exhibition

Admission: £7.50, concessions £6.50, children under 16 and York Card holders free

In conversation: The voices of servants

28 June, 5pm, Ron Cooke Hub, University of York

Discover the real 'below-stairs' experience of houses like Downton Abbey through the eyes of those who served. From the butler, the maid and the cook of 1900 to the au pairs, cleaners and childminders who took their place 70 years later, Author Lucy Lethbridge will discuss, in an interview, how she brought to life the voices of servants and domestic staff, largely ignored by history.

Admission: Free, ticketed

The Sitwells

28 June, 1pm, York Mansion House

William Sitwell, great-nephew of Dame Edith Sitwell, gives a talk on his illustrious forebears. During a witty history of his family, he’ll discuss the impact that they had on the literary scene of the 20th century and investigate the family’s unique links with Scarborough.

Admission: Free, ticketed

Grace and Mary: A new novel by Melvyn Bragg

28 June, 8pm, Ron Cooke Hub, University of York

Join the writer and TV presenter Melvyn Bragg as he talks about his new novel, Grace and Mary. In the novel, John visits his ageing mother Mary in her nursing home by the sea, and mourns the slow fading of her mind. Hoping to shore up her memory, he prompts her with songs, photographs and questions about the 1940s, when she was a young woman and he a child in a small Cumbrian town.

Admission: Free, ticketed

Discovering ancient Greece

29 June, 6pm, Ron Cooke Hub, University of York

How and why do we know what we know about ancient Greece? Historian and TV presenter, Michael C Scott follows the lives of the people in the 17th to 21st centuries who put ancient Greece quite literally back on the map, and who have shaped the legacy that ancient Greece still holds in our society today.

Admission: Free, ticketed

The Eighteenth Century in the present day

28-29 June, 9am-5pm King's Manor

As the field of eighteenth century studies continues to boom within the academy, the eighteenth century – invoked around names like Rousseau, Voltaire, and Adam Smith – is becoming an increasingly frequent interlocutor in contemporary debates in the international media about society, democracy, human rights, and the economy.

Admission: Free