York Festival of Ideas 2020 launches online

21st May 2020

York Festival of Ideas 2020 launches online

The double award-winning York Festival of ideas will return from 2-14 June 2020 with a programme of more than 60 mostly free online events on the theme of “Virtual Horizons”.

While Covid-19 has meant York Festival of Ideas’ 10th year celebrations are postponed until 2021, a wide range of events will go ahead virtually during its original planned dates.


The Festival will launch on 2 June with a panel discussion, in partnership with Make It York, on the City of York’s response, resilience and recovery in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event will be chaired by Greg Dyke, Chair of Make It York, and will highlight how York has driven positive solutions to the crisis and the major role York could play in the UK’s recovery. Speakers include University of York Vice-Chancellor Charlie Jeffery, and Signe Jungersted, an expert on city economic development from Copenhagen.

Festival highlights

Headline speakers at the Festival include journalist Emily Maitlis, the presenter of BBC Two’s flagship Newsnight programme; physicist, author and broadcaster, Jim Al-Khalili; Philip Alston, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty; Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee; behavioural scientist Dr Pragya Agarwal; V&A Museum’s Keeper of the Asian Department, Anna Jackson; and LBC radio presenter and broadcaster Iain Dale.

Other highlights include a panel discussion featuring York Museums Trust Director, Rehayn King, and Tate Modern Director, Frances Morris, on how museums and galleries can recover from the pandemic. The final day will feature performances and conversation with guests led by composer Anna Phoebe, as well as a closing event with journalist Tim Dowling, live from his garden shed.

Events for all

The Festival’s programme features talks, interactive Q&As, online workshops, virtual performances, and walking trails around the city; with events covering topics ranging from kimonos to space, from The Beatles to the future of reality, and from world leaders’ responses to COVID-19 to sustainable living.

Family events include the Discovery Zone – a series of short videos of hands-on activities designed to spark children’s imaginations.

Joan Concannon, Director of York Festival of Ideas, said: “We are thrilled to be able to bring some of the Festival’s magic into people’s lives during these difficult times, and can’t wait to welcome audiences old and new to our virtual festival. Our 10th anniversary had been planned under the banner theme of ‘Infinite Horizons’ but for perhaps obvious reasons we’re adapting to our new world and will deliver a programme entitled ‘Virtual Horizons’.

“Of course we are disappointed not to be able to bring the full Festival to the city, but going online offers exciting new opportunities, and speakers from around the world who might not otherwise have been able to join us. We hope to offer audiences daily treats from the comfort of their own homes that offer entertainment, stimulation and a shared sense of engagement. And we hope our audiences will create their own online lounges with their friends to discuss the events and carry on the conversation.

“I’d like to thank all our partners, supporters and speakers for helping us to pull together such an amazing programme in record time.”

Local partners

York Festival of Ideas is led by the University of York in collaboration with nearly 30 local and national partners. Taking place for 13 days each June, last year’s Festival welcomed an audience of over 33,000 to 220 events at nearly 50 venues across the city.

After winning the award for Best Cultural Event or Festival at the York Culture awards in 2017, the Festival scooped the award for Outstanding Cultural Festival (Large) in 2018.

For more information please visit the University of York website.