THIS year’s Festival of Ideas has been hailed the most successful to date with attendance expected to have well exceeded last year.

Organisers of the 17-day long festival – which has included talks by Melvyn Bragg, a reading by Seamus Heaney and an appearance by comic Ross Noble – say attendance figures are expected to be above the 20,000 mark achieved last year.

About 10,000 tickets have been downloaded from the festival website with many thousands more are known to have gone to events at museums and other attractions. The festival comes to an end tomorrow with a series of talk and events at the Ron Cooke Hub at the University of York based on the influence and legacy of women since the 18th Century. The day will be dedicated in memory of festival co-counder Professor Jane Moody.

Organiser Joan Concannon said: “The support we are getting from the city of York in terms of engaging is very pleasing and we are delighted about how many new people we are getting on to the campus. We want people to come to the campus and be part of it. In terms of highlights, Seamus Heaney was utterly spellbinding, he was wonderful - I was looking around the hall and you could have heard a pin drop.”

She said the national coverage given to the festival promoted York as a “dynamic and innovative” place.

Meanwhile, Princess Anne last night attended an event at the hub hosted by Sir John Parker, president of the Royal Academy of Engineering. The event exhibition, Engineering: Design For Living – which forms a key part of the university’s 50th anniversary celebrations – showcases the many hidden and surprising ways that engineering influences and underpins key research in areas such as climate change, environmental sustainability, history, archaeology and biology – and the economic opportunities engineering creates.

Other festival highlights have been talks by author and art critic Brian Sewell and Peter Lord of Aardman Animations – creators of Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit. Interactive lectures have been well-attended including a discussion about the welfare state, Skivers vs Strivers. Tomorrow’s schedule will include speakers Wendy Moore, Shirly Foster and Heidi Thomas. For details visit

HERE are the remaining events in the festival. (At Ron Cooke hub, University of York, unless otherwise stated.)


Noon: St Helen’s Church, Celtic worship.

1pm: The Mansion House, The Sitwells.

5pm: In conversation: The voices of servants.

6.30pm: The history of food in 100 recipes.

7.30pm: National Centre For Early Music, Ayanna.

8pm: Grace And Mary: a new novel by Melvyn Bragg.


10am: Faber Academy: From idea to first draft.

11am: Seeking perfection: The quest for an ideal woman.

11.45am: 3Graces: Women artists, visibility and exchange.

Noon: St Helen’s Church, Celtic worship.

Noon: The legacy of Elizabeth Gaskell.

1.45pm: 3Graces: Women artists, visibility and exchange.

2pm: Faber Academy: How to get published.

2pm: Passions and parsonages.

3.30pm: British Library literature online.

4.30pm: Fabulous fictional females.

6pm: Discovering Ancient Greece