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Speaker spotlights

Throughout the Festival period, we turn the spotlight onto one of the speakers each day in a series of Q&As aimed at discovering more about the speaker and their particular area of research or speciality. Informative and insightful, the spotlights offer readers the chance to understand a little more about an area of research prior to the speaker’s event. 

  • Simon Daw and Zoe Svendson describe how the ideas for World Factory evolved and why the interactive drama performance has been so popular with audiences.

  • Lorena Bushell, Education and Outreach Assistant at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA), talks about the Museum’s latest exhibition – a rarely seen collection of children’s objects dating from 1 million years ago to the early 20th century. The Museum is hosting an event, MAA’s childhood challenge on Tuesday 25 October – Thursday 27 October.

  • Ahead of her event, Journeys to personhood and parenthood, on 22 October, Professor Claire Hughes, from the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge, discusses a new study of maternal and paternal influences on infant development. The study asks, do the views of these new parents highlight distinct opportunities and challenges for 21st century families or does history repeat itself?

  • Dr Mia Gray, from the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge, discusses the collaboration with Menagerie Theatre that explores austerity’s effects on people, policies and places through an interactive performance. Is austerity inevitable? Is it fair? What are the alternatives?

  • Ahead of the panel event, Is Shakespeare still relevant today? on Saturday 22 October, Dr Preti Taneja from the University of Cambridge talks about Shakespeare and what, if anything, we can still learn from the Bard.  

  • Professor Roberto Simanowski takes us on an unsettling tour through the psychological and political implications of mobile media. ‘Sharing’ every moment, he argues, is a flight from solitude and from society in a digital nation whose only actual shared value is desiring to ‘share’. But can social media prepare us for dissent? Can there be robust, anti-essentialist perspectives without real-world engagement?

  • Artist Joey Holder discusses her latest exhibition, Ophiux – an art installation and film which, taking current scientific research as a starting point, creates a speculative sci-fi future for human and animal biology. 

  • In terms of gender and sexuality, are fixed identities a myth? The Director of the UK Intersex Association, Dr Jay Hayes-Light discusses.

  • It’s 30 years since the most dramatic of the superpower summits: Reagan and Gorbachev at Reykjavik. Professor David Reynolds, University of Cambridge, and Dr Kristina Spohr, London School of Economics, draw on their new book Transcending the Cold War to bring alive the personalities and the arguments. Was this, they ask, the great missed opportunity of the nuclear age? 

  • Dr Alex Sutherland, a senior researcher at RAND Europe, discusses the collaborations between himself and Dr Barak Ariel from the University of Cambridge investigating the effects of police body-worn cameras. The projects and police body-worn cameras will be discussed in the opening session of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas on Monday 17 October.

  • University of Cambridge neurologist, Dr Nicholas Evans, explores how Sherlock Holmes was shaped by physicians, how deduction influences how we learn, and how the character is shaped by our own preconceptions.

  • Dr Beth Singler, a post-doctoral researcher at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, discusses her Cambridge Shorts film exploring whether robots should feel pain.

  • International relations expert, Dr Ayşe Zarakol from the University of Cambridge, discusses the state of play Putin’s Russia and whether he is dangerous of misunderstood. 

  • In a world where too often, it seems, only the economy matters, Fiona Reynolds argues that beauty should shape our lives. Dame Fiona is Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and was formerly Director-General of The National Trust.