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Cambridge Festival of Ideas culminates with another packed weekend

The annual two-week celebration of arts, humanities and social sciences draws to a close this weekend, following a packed programme of many sell-out events investigating the theme of truth.

What does it mean to make, keep, or break a promise? What are the consequences of judging a book by its cover? Are we all thin enough yet? What are the causes of bad leadership?

These questions and more will be explored during the final packed weekend of the 2017 Cambridge Festival of Ideas, with over 40 events including talks, debates, exhibitions and performances.

Several talks and debates are hosted at Anglia Ruskin University on Saturday afternoon. Three of the most popular include Principal Lecturer in Philosophy Dr Alison Ainley’s talk, The Philosophy of promising, during which she asks if we can really be true to our word. In another event, Judging the book by its cover: the psychological truth about myths, beliefs and prejudice a leading group of social psychologists, including Professor Viren Swami, explore our tendency to judge a book by its cover and the consequences of doing so in terms of victim derogation, sexuality, mental illness, racism, Islamophobia and Brexit. Later in the afternoon, Professor Viren Swami, author of Attraction Explained, The Psychology of Physical Attraction, returns for another event, Are we all thin enough yet?  Busting the myth that beauty ideals are ‘natural’ during which he presents a history of the thin ideal of beauty, showing how this ideal – far from being natural – has been shaped by culture, politics and patriarchy.

Further talks include Coast Lines, during which John Rayment talks about his experience of walking the whole coast of Great Britain between 1 August 2012 and 30 November 2013. John Rayment returns later in the afternoon to discuss the causes and consequences of poor leadership in his talk Misleadership: can you tell the truth? Meanwhile, internet shopping comes under the spotlight when consumer psychologist, Cathrine Jansson-Boyd, discusses Why shopping on the internet is not always a pleasant experience.

Performances form a big part of the coming weekend. These include The Colour blue: an operatic boxing game, which is a daring music theatre challenge that playfully dissects the epistemological issues defining our post-truth era. Composed by Simone Spagnolo, this performance features four singer-actors, four musicians and one boxing ring.

There are also several musical performances including guitarist Mathew James stunning Cuban guitar performance; a musical trio comprised of Mifune Tsuji on violin, Paul Jackson on piano and Jin Theriault on saxophone play an eclectic range of music by composers whose lives had been changed by the great wars of the 20th century in Mifune Tsuji trio: composers and war heroes; and the superb period-instrument group The Revolutionary Drawing Room perform three ground-breaking string quartets by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

There are also several hands-on events including the opportunity to wander through the beautiful gardens of Emmanuel College with Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination to explore true stories and wild flights of imagination in You are where? exploring real and fantastical worlds in a garden full of stories.  In Codes in Clay, visitors get to create their own secret, coded message in clay. This exhibition celebrates two remarkable intellectual achievements, the result of teamwork across different areas of study and the brilliance of some beautiful minds: the breaking of the Enigma codes, the most famous of war codes, and the decoding of the Linear B script, Europe’s oldest readable writing system.

For those who enjoy word play, drop in to the delightfully fun Trout pout and bucket list: is there a true meaning in novel word combinations? where Martin Schaefer explores the fascinating world of word creation and novel combinations, and asks, do these new combinations have a single true meaning?

We all use languages to interact with each other daily. What more can there be to learn about them? New exciting ways of thinking about language and multilingualism are explored through a series of drop-in interactive games and activities, and short talks on Saturday afternoon at Anglia Ruskin University during Different languages, different perspectives: understanding our multilingual world. There are many fascinating truths to unearth about our multilingual world – whether a classic literary tome, or a tweet of 140 characters, a lengthy political debate, or a quick phone call. The languages we use, the way we use them, and the different ways we perceive truth in language, say something important about who we are. This event invites visitors to share their own beliefs about and experiences with languages, and perhaps learn something new about them too.

Speaking ahead of the coming weekend, Festival Coordinator Ariel Retik said: “We’re thrilled to be hosting the Festival with our partner, Anglia Ruskin University, this weekend and very much looking forward to welcoming everyone to a fascinating and informative programme of events.”

“This has been an exceptional year for the Festival with many events sold out and record numbers attending. This is testament to the level of research that takes place at both Universities here in Cambridge – research that captures the imagination of both adults and children alike. Roll on 2018!”

The Cambridge Festival of Ideas, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, ends on Sunday 29th October. The 2018 Festival features a packed programme of over 230 events focused on the theme of ‘truth’, and range from debates, talks, exhibitions, films and performances that showcase the arts, humanities and social sciences. The events, most of which are free, are held in lecture theatres, museums and galleries around Cambridge.