Families spoilt for choice at Cambridge Festival of Ideas

Families spoilt for choice at Cambridge Festival of Ideas

From tales of giants, gods and dragons, secret messages written thousands of years ago and shape-shifting art, to quiz show fun and 3D virtual reality experiences, children, teenagers and families are spoilt for choice at this year’s Cambridge Festival of Ideas.

The Festival starts next Monday 14th October and runs for two weeks, with the second week taking place across the half-term break. This year’s programme is jam-packed with free events for families, including storytelling from some of the regions most renowned storytellers, and a series of entertaining games, quizzes and hands-on activities. Most of the events are drop in but a few do require booking.

Events for young children kick off at the Fitzwilliam Museum with Art Rocks (16 Oct). This multi-sensory storytelling event for pre-schoolers explores how stones change over time, both by nature and by humans. The Fitzwilliam Museum hosts another event for young children later in the Festival: Ancient boats (22 Oct) offers a rare opportunity to join curator, Dr Anastasia Christophilopoulou, to learn about ancient migration around the Mediterranean, handle objects from the Museum's collection and create a boat using clay and fabric in the studio.

Other top picks for young children include Little explorers: Charlie and the blanket toss (18 Oct, Polar Museum) – a thrilling, interactive Alaskan story told by renowned storyteller Marion Leeper with a craft activity for under 5s – and Wolfson Arts Royal Academy Schools Graduate Prize: young artists workshop (19 Oct, Wolfson College), a fun art-making session to create colourful masterpieces. In the reading activity, Cambridge Ben and the poet (Faculty of Law, 19 Oct), children help fictional Ben solve a set of clues to discover a famous poet who once lived in Cambridge. After finishing, children and families can explore Cambridge to find the key places in the story. In Half term book worms (21 Oct, Milton Road Library) local author Michael Brown hosts a storytelling event based on Cambridge-themed stories read by retired members of Chesterton community. These events require booking. 

Events suitable for children over 8 include Terrific transformations (23 Oct, Museum of Classical Archaeology). The Ancient Romans loved to tell tales in which people turned into trees, animals and more. Children can discover some extraordinary ancient stories and make some shape-shifting art of their own. In the Metamorphosis: workshop (24 Oct, Cambridge Museum of Technology), children and families are encouraged to let their imaginations run riot and transform pieces of technology into art, poetry and music.

The Sedgwick Museum joins a range of University of Cambridge museums opening open their doors for a series of drop in events by hosting three events for children during the Festival. Rock ChYpPs (14-21 Oct) is an exhibition, co-curated with the City Council’s Children and Young People’s Participatory Services, featuring a selection of rocks and fossils from the collections of local children brought along to the ChYpPs Big Wednesday events. Tea-time tours of the Sedgwick Museum (15-18 Oct) – an exciting series of short informal tours of the Museum with a different tour guide each evening introducing selected highlights from the collection and showcasing their favourite object, and The family science sketch (23 Oct) is an entertaining family drawing event that involves sketching something in the Museum.

One of the top picks for all the family is the Pop-up world of languages at the Grafton Centre from 19-27 October. Families can discover the weird and wonderful world of languages and take a journey to uncover the hidden treasures of languages through a range of hands-on activities and games. 

Further drop in events suitable for all the family:

  • Arctic family day (19 Oct, Polar Museum). A day exploring all things Arctic, including the animals and people that live there. Drop-in activities and crafts available throughout the day for all ages.
  • Prehistory and archaeology day (19 Oct, Cambridge Archaeological Unit). Step back in time and get hands-on with rock art, spear throwing, archery and pottery making. Marvel at displays of metal smelting and flint knapping. Inspire your inner archaeologist with a mini dig. A fun and educational day out for the whole family.
  • We are Cambridge: family day (19 Oct, Kettles Yard). Join Kettle’s Yard for an interactive family day exploring what living in and around Cambridge means to you. With artist-led workshops and a chance to see The Cambridge Show, our exhibition of work by local artists.
  • Challenges of slum rehabilitation in India – a family design workshop (19 Oct). 42% of the population in Mumbai live in slums. It is time to rethink the design of these housing projects. Help design a slum rehabilitation housing unit for a family in Mumbai. A workshop for the whole family.
  • Re-play: swap & talk about toys and plastics (20 Oct, Cambridge Junction). Debate, conversation and activities for all the family to discuss the environmental impact of plastics and other materials used for toys. Bring a toy for Toy Swap and participate in family activities.
  • The write stuff (22 Oct, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology). Discover how people from different times and places wrote messages or recorded numbers. Decipher ancient languages and make your own secret message to take home.
  • Explore and draw evolution (23 Oct, Museum of Zoology). An evolutionary drawing event, where little tweaks + time = big changes in the way animals look and behave. Participate in art activities for all the family and see the Museum of Zoology in a new light.
  • Could you make it as an Anglo-Saxon (23 and 24 Oct, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology). Discover the burial of a local teenager, make a brooch and play Anglo-Saxon games. On 23 October, the Museum presents thrilling tales of giants, gods and dragons.
  • Dear Prime Minister (25 Oct, Faculty of Education). An opportunity for families to have their say about what government could do to help them to play more.
  • Playful learning zone at the Faculty of Education (25 Oct, Faculty of Education). The annual Playful Learning Zone for families and children returns, with the chance to see play and education research in action.
  • Build a day of the dead altar (25-27 Oct, 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.

Top picks for teenagers: 

  • Just a marmot (16 Oct, Museum of Zoology) – quiz-show fun as scientists are pitted against each other to talk about animal topics without hesitation, repetition or deviation.
  • Mother tongue other tongue celebration (16 Oct, Murray Edwards College). With poems performed by the winning poets and featuring a Slam Poetry session led by champion Slam Poet Joelle Taylor. Booking required.
  • Change and the British economy (Faculty of Economics, 16 & 17 Oct). For Y12 & Y13 students studying economics or related subjects. Take a series of decisions on government spending, taxation and monetary policy over ’10 years’. Professor Tony Cockerill guides this team game discussing the relevance of results to current economic analysis and policy formation. Booking required.
  • The bird life of Cambridgeshire: for better or worse? (17 Oct, Department of Geography). Birds represent a top tier in our biodiversity and are indicators of change. How has the bird life of our local environments in Cambridge and Cambridgeshire changed? There have been winners and losers; for better or for worse? You decide!
  • 3D virtual reality experience (19 Oct). FutureKitchen is developing an exciting new way of exploring the world of food, with their new 3D virtual reality videos. We are calling for feedback from the iGeneration (aged 12–21) and Millennials (aged 22–37) in order to encourage changes in attitudes towards food and nutrition.
  • 2050: a new world (19 Oct, Faculty of Law). Is your community futureproof? How will we adapt to climate change? What would you be willing to change for a resilient life? A decision-making game, exploring how our choices impact society in 2050.
  • Changing states: transformation, mystification, misinterpretation (19 Oct, Fitzwilliam Museum). A chance to meet the conservators for a close-up look at museum objects that are not quite as, or what, they seem to be.

In addition to all the events above, on 19 October The Faculty of Law hosts a day of exciting hands-on activities, from exploring the evolution of eyes and how information storage has changed through the ages, to the impact of travel and crocheting cells with scientist from the Gurdon Institute.

Topping off events for children and families are the Finals of the East Anglian young composer competition on Sunday 27 October at Newnham College. Audiences can enjoy listening to the entries for the East Anglian Young Composer Competition performed by the Marsyas Trio with feedback and composing advice provided by composer Ewan Campbell. In addition, the East Anglian Young Composers Concert is set to held at West Road Concert Hall later the same day. This is a short concert by the Marsyas Trio showcasing compositions by talented young composers, including winning entries in this year’s East Anglian Young Composer Competition. Both events are drop ins.

 *The programme is available in hard copy and online here. Booking lines are open from 11am-3pm each weekday. Please call 01223 766 766. Follow the Festival on Twitter and on Facebook



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