Teenage boys eating street food

A new theory of the universe and the link between popular music and political conflict are among the diverse topics set to be addressed during this year’s Cambridge Festival.

The 2023 programme launches today with the festival itself running from March 17 to April 2, Coordinated by the University of Cambridge it includes over 360 in person and online events, mostly free to attend.

Highlights include On the Origin of Time: Stephen Hawking’s Final Theory on March 31. Based on a new book by Stephen Hawking and his close collaborator cosmologist Professor Thomas Hertog, the talk will see Professor Hertog discusses the book and the theories it contains.

How popular music has addressed political conflict is explored in Combat Rock: Popular Music and the Northern Ireland Conflict on March 22, when Dr Sean Campbell will examine how popular musicians engaged with the Northern Ireland conflict in the 1980s.

Another conflict – the war in Ukraine – and climate disasters have focused people’s minds on issues of food security. In an discussion event on 27 March, Professor Tim Lang, a former consultant to the WHO and the UN; Anoop Tripathi, a PhD researcher into rice yields; David Christian Rose, Professor of Sustainable Agricultural Systems; and Dr Emelyn Rude, founding editor of Eaten: the Food History Magazine will discuss how food security can be improved.

Staying with the topic of food, in Growing up In a Changing Environment: What Really Influences What Young People Eat? on March 29, Dr Eleanor Winpenny, Dr Tiago Canelas and Mr Struan Tait from the MRC Epidemiology Unit in Cambridge present evidence from recent research in the UK and abroad, investigating how people’s diet changes as they go through adolescence and early adulthood.

Climate Change: From Despair to Action on March 30 will look at how our political structures can adapt to the necessary pace of change and how we can better confront climate misinformation.

The role of technology will feature in several events, including panel discussions Big Tech: The New Colonialists? on March 29 and Artificial Intelligence: Can Systems Like ChatGPT Automate Empathy? on March 31.

On a lighter note, Festival favourite Dr Jack Ashby, Director of the Museum of Zoology in Cambridge, presents two lively talks about the weird and wonderful animals of Australia. During Don’t Call Me Weird: Australia’s Amazing Mammals on March 26, he explains why he thinks Australia’s mammals are the best in the world, with a particular focus on one member of that group on March 29 in Platypus Matters: The Extraordinary Story of Australian Mammals.

The full programme launches today with bookings on the Cambridge Festival website.