Festival Themes

This year's Festival explores 'The Power Of...' To make it easier for you to identify which events are of interest to you, we have grouped them into 15 broad themes . Browse our programme by theme:

A Date with History

Join us to explore the history of goth, find out what ‘Orwellian’ really means and rediscover the UK’s lost football grounds. Don’t miss our history-themed guided tours.

Arts and Creativity

Our experts discuss the role of creativity in grief and why sewing is enjoying a resurgence. View a host of exhibitions and take part in a printing or dance workshop.

Eoforwic: Anglian-era York

Find out what archaeological sites at Rendlesham and near the Humber estuary reveal about the Anglo-Saxon period, and hear about the life and world of Bede.

Evolving Society

Our Festival Focus sessions examine elections, wealth and poverty, and the science of sport. Other events highlight disability inclusion, food stories and politeness.

Exploring York

Take a sociological tour of York, attend an open day at De Grey House or step into history at Herbert House. Join us and discover something new about our amazing city and its trailblazing people.

Fun for Families

Spark children’s imaginations as you search for fairies, hunt for masons’ marks and take part in a Kamishibai storytelling session. Don’t miss our interactive activities.

Health and Wellbeing

Our experts reflect on the nature of fear, unpack mental health challenges in schools and explain how research is improving the experience of children with cancer.

Natural World

Delve into the cat’s most misunderstood behaviours, learn more about sharks and play a bird-themed board game. Look out for our interactive nature tours.

Of Women

Women struck out of historical records, Muslim womanhood in the UK today and prehistoric women’s right to roam. Join us to learn about these and other fascinating topics.


This year’s festival offers an array of plays, concerts and films, from Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse: The concert to immersive experiences and Brahms Requiem.

Power of Politics

Political commentator Gavin Esler explores a British political system in peril, while other events discuss the gendered language of leadership and US elections.

Revealing the Ancient World

Discover how China’s great tombs provide a route to the past and the country today, and how a range of ancient societies rose to power and tipped into collapse.

Science and Technology

Join us as we investigate ageing, dancing DNA and the work of biomedical scientists. Watch an aerial drone display and find out about the Solar City York project.

The Mind and the Brain

Explore the wonders of the human mind and brain as our experts discuss topics including why we remember, how the human brain develops and the value of dreaming.

Way with Words

From Viking poetry to linguistics, and Gulliver’s Travels to the works of Norwegian author Jon Fosse, our events reveal the power of words.

Watch again

Missed an event that sounded fantastic? Want to see a talk you enjoyed once more? Good news - we are recording many of our festival events. Watch these as well as previous years' content on our YouTube channel.