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Festival themes

The main theme for the Festival of Ideas in 2014 is Order and Chaos, but within this subject there is broad scope for a wide variety of topics and events. Each of our events is categorised into one of several themes, these are listed below.

Crossroads of Conflict.

Launch night: Crossroads of Conflict

Our two launch night events look at the world’s response to global crises.


An Appetite for Food

From Jane Austen’s use of food in her ordered world, to the challenges we now face in feeding a rapidly growing and increasingly hungry world population, join us to explore the order and chaos of food creation, suitability and history.


Structures of the Mind: Architecture and Innovation

Join us for a series of talks, art installations and presentations that explore the innovation of architecture.


Arts and Society: Order, Chaos and Culture

From the creation of storytelling to help us understand the chaos of the world, to the apparent order of Mondrian’s paintings, the Arts and Society events explore the artistic expression of order and chaos and how this has shaped our world. 


Revealing the Ancient World

The ancient Greeks were at the mercy of their Gods who ruled through order and chaos; the Romans carved their own orderly world, eliminating all opposing chaos. But was it really that straight forward?

Creative Writing

Explore and order your chaotic creativity through one of our creative writing workshops.


Empire and Trade

Empires are created through the desire of nations to order the world through their ideology, but does this not come with the chaotic price of war? Can trade smooth relations and bring order to empires and can the chaos in turn bring opportunity?


Economic growth for the many, not the few

The York Festival of Ideas in association with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation brings together a range of world-class economists, business leaders, policymakers and commentators to explore how to create fair and inclusive economic growth.


Interventions in Healthcare

Through talks, photographic exhibitions, interpretative dance and poetry, explore how interventions in healthcare help to bring order to the chaos of illness and disease.


Maps and Exploration

Explorers discover, maps order the unknown world, but how helpful are they in removing the chaos of confusion? Join us to find out what happens when maps go wrong, experience the excitement of exploration and discover how to create maps for the visually impaired.



A wealth of concerts, performances and workshops exploring the theme of order and chaos.

Empress Dowager Cixi.

The Hidden Stories of Leadership

From film stars to concubines, business leaders to empresses, our speakers explore the hidden and sometimes surprising stories of leaders and their influence on commanding order from chaos.


Eoforwic: A celebration of Anglian York

Order a Eoforwic ale and get ready for the chaos of an Anglo-Saxon feast. This series of events sheds light on York's medieval past, from Viking town-planning to the enigmatic Escrick ring.


The War that Changed our World

In the centenary year of the beginning of the Great War join us for talks, performances and exhibitions exploring the chaotic and devastating effects of the war that changed our world forever.


Murder They Wrote

Join us for a day of interviews and talks on the history and future of thrillers with some of the world's most exciting writers


Religion and Science

Religion and science, often pitted against each other, both ultimately attempt to order and explain the chaos of the world. Explore a fascinating line-up of events that journey amongst the dead, consider atheism as faith and debate the role of religion in the modern world of medicine. 


Science out of the Lab

From the creation of the Universe to our own DNA, order and chaos is all around us. Find out more at these exciting science events.


Shadows of War

The effects of war cast a lasting shadow. So how do nations and people ever hope to return to order after the chaos of conflict? The Shadows of War events explore life during and after war.



Events aimed to spark children’s imaginations, join us for story-telling events to hands-on activities all designed to inspire and excite – expect plenty of chaos and maybe a bit of order!
Sparks is supported by Shepherd Group


Our Brain: The unknown frontier

Join us to explore our brain, the most intricate and ordered organ in our body. Find out how it defines us, what happens when things become disordered and the chaotic processes affecting function and reason.


Transport and Tribulations: Going the extra mile

From tales of the Tour de France to discovering the orderly world of the Victorian train station porter, jump on board and join us for the Transport and tribulations events.