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Children and families spoilt for choice at this year’s Cambridge Festival of Ideas

Ever wondered what it’s like to live in the arctic or medieval times? How do you mix up words to create giants? Who exactly is the king with the bling?

From comedy for kids, adventures galore, and interactive story-telling, to exploring the weird world of language and journeys into the Arctic, families are spoilt for choice at this year’s Cambridge Festival of Ideas (15-28 October), which opens for bookings this coming Monday 24 September.

The second week falls during the school holidays and there are plenty of events that provide the perfect antidote to half-term boredom. The following are a few of our top picks across the two-week Festival.

Top picks for younger children and families include:

Little explorers: a symphony of whales (15 Oct, Polar Museum). An interactive story of the Chukchi people that saved a group of stranded Beluga Whales in the Arctic. Story and craft activity with renowned storyteller Marion Leeper. For under 5s only.

Mini movers in the museum (17 Oct, Fitzwilliam Museum). A chance to dance, inspired by the museum collections. Explore artworks through music and movement with guidance from elders who participated in the Dancing at the Museum project and dance artist Filipa Pereira-Stubbs. For 3–5-year-olds.

The library presents: make art from nature workshop (18 Oct, Cambridge Central Library). Work with artist Jane Thewlis to create a unique 'jewelled flag' by tearing, layering and arranging carefully selected leaves and grasses. Children can use pine needles to stitch and join the materials together, then decorate their flag with petals or berries.

The library presents: comedy 4 kids (20 Oct, Cherry Hinton Library). Making fun of everything from couscous to penguins to Nintendo Wii, James Campbell’s unique blend of storytelling and anecdotes will have the whole family in stitches.

Languages: your passport to the world (20 Oct, Sidgwick Site). Explore the weird and wonderful world of languages, travelling around the different activities, receiving a stamp for each one that you visit. These activities are perfect for late-primary/early-secondary students.

Writing big, making giants (20 Oct, Faculty of English). ‘I is a very mixed up giant,’ said the BFG. In this workshop with Amy Morris, kids learn how words need to get mixed up to make giants, using examples and visualisation. This workshop involves listening, making collages, drawing and writing, as we explore the literary techniques used to create giants.

Living in the arctic: family day, (20 Oct, Polar Museum). A day spent exploring the Arctic and the people and animals that live there. Crafts and activities throughout the day, as well as a chance to see live reindeer and find out about the people that live and work with them.

Prehistory and archaeology day (20 Oct, Cambridge Archaeological Unit). Step back in time and get hands-on with rock art, spear throwing, archery and pottery making; even bake bread the prehistoric way. Marvel at displays of metal smelting and flint knapping. Inspire your inner archaeologist!

Follow marcel, our intrepid mascot around the hispanic world! (20 Oct, Dept of Linguistics). The perfect chance to explore the similarities and differences of the French and Hispanic worlds. A must-see selection of tourist sites, food and famous people. This workshop mixes words, drawings, crafts, group games and more.

Tall tales: giants in literature (20 Oct, Faculty of English drama centre). This illustrated talk from Amy Morris includes giants from children’s stories (The BFG and The Selfish Giant), giants from literary classics (Pilgrim’s Progress, Gulliver’s Travels), and giants you probably haven’t met yet.

Face to face with medieval Cambridge (21 Oct, city centre). Ever wondered what life was like in medieval Cambridge? Take a trail around the city to meet various people who lived in Cambridge during the 12th to 16th century. Explore how skeletal biologists reconstruct the lives of past people from the analyses of bones. Pick up a free trail map and information from the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Suitable for all ages.

Philosophy for families workshop (22 Oct, Hughes Hall). Would you eat a hamster?…and other questions. Join us for an afternoon discussing big ideas and interesting questions in our Playground of Ideas. Refreshments and cake provided. Suitable for over 8s, but younger siblings are welcome.

The library presents: Ingo’s war, (23 Oct, Barnwell Baptist Church). A heart-warming tale of bravery, hope and finding courage. This is a beautifully told puppet show about a dog called Ingo, who is separated from his owner during WWII evacuation. Ingo is plunged into an adventure that turns his world upside down and he experiences many aspects of wartime life. Join the puppetry workshop after the show.

The king with the bling (23 Oct, Museum of Classical Archaeology). Hear the story of the king with the bling, King Midas, who turned everything he touched to gold. We'll also be doing crafts so you, too, can turn things to gold!

Under the (plastic) sea (23-25 Oct, Museum of Archaeology). Go fishing in the Museum’s ocean and discover how much plastic ends up in our seas. Be inspired and create art and useful objects from plastic waste.

Build a day of the dead altar (26-28 October, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology). Take part in the Day of the Dead celebrations by helping the Museum and the Mexican Society build an altar.

Playful learning at the faculty of education (26 Oct). The popular annual ‘Playful Learning Zone’ for families and children is back. Children can take part in fun activities, whilst the grown-ups have a look around the Faculty’s observation laboratory to discover how we observe, film and code our young research participants’ behaviours.

Family print workshop (27 Oct at Cambridge Museum of Technology). Block printing has been used to duplicate images for over 5,000 years and has recently become a popular hobby. This workshop shows you how to create blocks using materials found around the home and gives you the opportunity to use a printing press to make cards, gift tags or a poster.

From the miniature to the gigantic! (28 Oct, Kettles Yard). This free artist-led drop-in workshop, explores and celebrates drawing with hands-on challenges for all ages. Explore themes of Nature, Light and Space and take on drawing challenges, from miniature mark making to gigantic gestures.

Top picks for older children and teenagers include:

Running the British economy (17 & 18 Oct, Faculty of Economics). Designed for schools with students in Years 12 and 13 who are studying economics and/or related subjects. In teams of four or five, students take a series of decisions on government spending, taxation and monetary policy over a period of ten ‘years’. Professor Tony Cockerill guides them through the game and discusses the relevance of the results to current economic analysis and policy formation.

Sailing into extremes! (18 Oct, Betty and Gordon Moore Library). In 2016, at the age of just 14, Ben Edwards became the youngest person ever to sail around the North Pole. He worked as one of the six-person crew on ‘Northabout’, which sailed via the North West Passage, in a single summer season. Come and listen to details of Ben’s sometimes terrifying trip of seasickness, storms and polar bears.

Young Britain: culture and identity (19 Oct, Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology). Throughout human history, individuals and groups of people have worked to form their identities. Yet, we don't often pause to ask: What is culture? How does culture influence the way we view the world? Why might an increased cultural awareness be beneficial to the individual and wider society? Join Claire Barrett and pupils from Bedford Girls' School as they investigate.

Make! Fantastic creations (20 Oct, Fitzwilliam Museum). Enjoy art and want to develop your own ideas and art skills? Join us in the friendly environment of the Museum art studio. Think big, think show stoppers, see the fabulous jewellery in our exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum and design your own extravagant pieces with artist Iona McCuaig. For 11-13-year olds.

Resource: shine on (20 Oct, Fitzwilliam Museum). Check out the exhibition of spectacular sculptural gothic jewellery and design your own sculptural pieces in a range of different materials with artist Iona McCuaig. For 13–18-year olds.

From selfies to runes: how do we want to be remembered? (20 Oct, Faculty of Law). Through social media everyone can project an image of themselves to the world, but how would someone do this 200 or 1,000 years ago? Take a journey through time in an interactive workshop on the tools people use to be remembered.

Language skills for the 21st century (27 Oct, English Faculty). How can we inspire love for languages in young people and nurture strong linguists for our globalised world? Academics from linguistics, education and modern languages exchange ideas with a teachers, parents and pupils in an afternoon of talks followed by an open discussion.

Frankenstein: extreme read (27 Oct, Polar Museum). Join us for our extreme read-a-thon of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. Sit back and close your eyes and we will take you on an Arctic voyage, a journey across Europe and into the mind of a scientist unhinged. Bring a cushion and pull up a seat to experience the whole story, or drop-in throughout the day for your favourite bits. Suitable for ages 15+

Bookings open on Monday 24 September and can be made by telephone 01223 766766 or online: