Imagining the Impossible

Head to York for the Festival of Ideas

You are warmly invited to join us for the award-winning York Festival of Ideas on now until 17 June. Our biggest festival to date, it includes over 200 diverse and inspiring events under the theme of Imagining the Impossible.

This year’s exciting programme features world-class speakers, exhibitions, theatre, music, films, guided walks, children’s activities and much more, with events taking place across the University campus and city.


Joan Concannon, Director of York Festival of Ideas, told us: “This year’s theme is inspired by the idea of celebrating human achievement while also reflecting on the damage that humans can cause.

“In that context we are delighted to welcome back Michael Morpurgo for an opening night performance of The Mozart Question at York Minster. We also welcome back Gavin Esler, this time with the ‘How to do good’ philanthropy tour. We are truly honoured to have been chosen to host the second of the 2018 BBC Radio 4 Reith Lectures with distinguished historian Margaret MacMillan.”

One hundred years on from the campaign for women’s suffrage, the Festival programme welcomes a range of inspirational women, including human rights campaigner Shami Chakrabarti, broadcaster June Sarpong, photo-journalist Alixandra Fazzina and gender equality expert Joan C. Williams, who presents the inaugural Athena SWAN Gender Equality Talk.


Other headline speakers include Lord Michael Howard, former Leader of the Conservative Party; Ambassador Martin Indyk, former U.S. Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiation at the U.S. Department of States; World Wide Web pioneer Bebo White; Margaret Gardner, Vice-Chancellor of Monash University, Australia; and John Zeppetelli, Director at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, who will be talking about a major exhibition on the extraordinary Leonard Cohen.

Festival Focus Days will explore complex issues, such as peace in the Middle East; creating inclusive economies; public trust and robotics; the future of UK higher education; ‘re-imagining the city’, and ‘A Date with History’, our annual collaboration with the French Embassy in the UK.

The Festival is led by the University in collaboration with more than 80 cultural, social and business organisations. It is generously supported by donors, whose support allows us to deliver so many events for free to our audience.

Last year’s festival was enjoyed by over 32,000 people, with a further 153,000 listening to the opening night on BBC Radio 3 and downloading festival and BBC podcasts. It was also named Best Cultural Event or Festival at the York Culture Awards.