Cambridge Festival unveils first 2022 programme details ahead of full launch

Robot Nao shaking hands with researcher Micol Spitale

Robot Nao shaking hands with researcher Micol Spitale - Credit: Supplied by Cambridge Festival

This year’s Cambridge Festival returns next month with an extensive line-up of events. 

The festival's 2022 itinerary covers politics, health, AI and tech, history, climate change, children and family-focussed events. 

The full programme launches on Monday, February 28 with bookings opening on the same day for the series of free public events run by the University of Cambridge.

Robot Nao with researcher Micol Spitale

Robot Nao with researcher Micol Spitale - Credit: Supplied by Cambridge Festival

Running between March 31 and April 10, the Cambridge Festival replaces the former Cambridge Science Festival and Cambridge Festival of Ideas.

Following a hugely successful inaugural year in 2021 – which saw well over 100,000 online global views during the 10-day festival period – the festival returns to host over 350 in-person and online events, which can be viewed by anyone, anywhere in the world.

Cambridge Festival manager David Cain said: “We are absolutely delighted to be back in person this year with a programme that covers the full spectrum of what it means to be human in the 21st century.

"We're also excited to be able to present a festival that combines both our new online event format as well as the chance to meet researchers in person again."

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The programme tackles and offers solutions for some of our most pressing issues, from the multiple crises in politics, health and climate change to global economics and human rights.

Prominent figures and experts in the world of current affairs, science, arts, and culture are speaking at this year’s festival.

Jeanette Winterson

Bestselling author Jeanette Winterson's book 12 Bytes looks at how artificial intelligence will change the way we live and love. - Credit: Sam Churchill

They include author Jeanette Winterson, the UK's Astronomer Royal, Professor Lord Martin Rees, Dorothy Byrne, the former head of news and current affairs at Channel 4 and president of Murray Edwards College, and Gideon Rachman, chief foreign affairs commentator at the Financial Times.

Lord Martin Rees is the Astronomer Royal.

Lord Martin Rees is the Astronomer Royal. - Credit: Supplied by Cambridge Festival

Others taking part include geneticist, obesity researcher and broadcaster Dr Giles Yeo, virologist and broadcaster Dr Chris Smith, and David Runciman, Professor of Politics at the University of Cambridge where he also hosts the weekly politics podcast ‘Talking Politics’.

The festival is divided into four key themes – society, health, environment and discovery – and the extensive programme includes debates, talks, exhibitions, lab tours, workshops, films, and performances.

The aim is to present new ideas, cutting-edge research and historical insight into the issues that affect us all.

Online harms: how AI can protect us

Online harms: how AI can protect us - Credit: Supplied by Cambridge Festival

“Alongside all the events sharing the latest innovative research here in Cambridge, there are performances, comedy, art exhibitions and so much more," added David Cain.

"A few of my personal highlights include the Manga workshops; a talk about John Davis’ new book, Waterloo Sunset, which is due out in March and is all about London in the swinging 60s and 70s; a fascinating comparison between plague poetry in the 14th and 21st Century; and a playful trip through the online disinformation maze with Hugo Leal from the Minderoo Centre. I can’t wait!

“We’re very much looking forward to welcoming everyone in person and online to share the work of the University of Cambridge and its collaborators during the 11 days of the Cambridge Festival.” 

The Discovery theme explores some of the new and emerging research taking place at Cambridge across different subject areas.

Researchers Micol Spitale, left, and Nikhil Churamani, right, with Robot Pepper

Researchers Micol Spitale, left, and Nikhil Churamani, right, with Robot Pepper - Credit: Supplied by Cambridge Festival

Events not to be missed include a chance to meet ‘Pepper’, the robot wellbeing coach, a discussion on the future possibilities for mixed reality holographic video projections, and a debate about the future of feminism.


Robot Nao

Robot Nao - Credit: Supplied by Cambridge Festival

There is no shortage of things to see and do for children, young people, and families.

They can choose from hundreds of fun, engaging events – from game shows, escape rooms and live experiments, to hands-on workshops, explosive demos and much more.  

On April 2-3, the Festival also welcomes back one of the most popular events from the previous Cambridge Science Festival, the family weekend at the Guildhall.

The Deception Island Hut.

The Deception Island Hut. - Credit: Adam Barnes

Tipped to be another firm favourite with families is the Deception Island Hut.

Visitors are invited to embark on an immersive poetry, sound, and film expedition as they step inside a replica 1959 Antarctic hut and are transported to Deception Island, a tiny caldera in the Antarctic Ocean, battered by the fiercest seas in the world and shaken by volcanic activity.

The Deception hut.

The Deception hut. - Credit: Adam Barnes

The full programme is due to be launched on February 28 via the festival website at www.festival.cam.ac.uk Bookings open on the same day from 10am. 

Cambridge Festival sponsors and partners are AstraZeneca and RAND Europe.

The University of Cambridge is staging the Cambridge Festival

The University of Cambridge is staging the Cambridge Festival - Credit: Cambridge Festival