Educating, entertaining and inspiring through public engagement

York Festival of Ideas 2022 Impact Report

Image of space

A festival for public good
from a University for public good

Exploration, discovery, innovation - available to all.

York Festival of Ideas is built on a passionate belief in the power of education and ideas to transform lives. Through an eclectic programme of mostly free events, the Festival aims to educate, entertain and inspire audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

Established in 2011 and led by the University of York, the Festival takes place over 13 days each June, supported by Headline Sponsor, the Holbeck Charitable Trust, Higher Education Investment funding, and a range of generous organisations and individual sponsors.

In 2022, working in partnership with over 100 local, national and international sponsors and partners, York Festival of Ideas presented 195 mostly free events, attracting a worldwide audience of 40,000.

What a wonderful festival this is turning out to be @YorkFestofIdeas. It shows the breadth of thinking and creativity in York and beyond. We really hope this continues to grow and grow in future years.
York Medical Society - @york_med_soc (via Twitter)

A family learning together and enjoying themselves at the ‘Festival Family Fun Afternoon’ on the University of York campus

A family learning together and enjoying themselves at the ‘Festival Family Fun Afternoon’ on the University of York campus

Audiences enjoying the Festival finale, ‘Plotting Murder’, a fascinating event with award-winning crime writer Ann Cleeves and forensic soil science expert Professor Lorna Dawson

Audiences enjoying the Festival finale, ‘Plotting Murder’, a fascinating event with award-winning crime writer Ann Cleeves and forensic soil science expert Professor Lorna Dawson

‘The Next Chapter’ for the Festival

Joan Concannon, Director of York Festival of Ideas, said:

“The Festival team were delighted that this year, for the first time since 2019, our programme could be delivered without any restrictions in place, allowing us to welcome back local residents and visitors to York, to enjoy a lively programme of in-person events across our wonderful city.

At the same time, we also decided to continue with an online programme of talks and panel discussions, available as live broadcast, or to watch again on our YorkIdeas channel. This was in response to the incredibly positive feedback we received for our online events over the past two years, and because we want to ensure the Festival remains as accessible and global as possible.

Our hybrid approach heralded a new era for the Festival - reflecting our 2022 theme ‘The Next Chapter’ - and was indeed embraced by our audiences, who were enthusiastic in their praise for this year’s mixed-format programme. 

We believe that, looking back a few years from now, this year’s hybrid format will be viewed as a milestone in the history of the Festival. In a world increasingly beset by polarity, suspicion and complexity, we are passionate in our belief that bringing people together to debate and discover in a respectful environment is vital. And as a university for public good the University of York is honoured to use its convening power to broker those conversations. 

We look forward to continuing this approach and bringing people together through the Festival, to learn and engage and be inspired, both in virtual and physical spaces. We can’t wait to share our next step of this journey with you!”

Brilliant to see such a varied and interesting programme of online talks - my June diary is now looking a lot fuller than it was an hour ago! Thanks @YorkFestofIdeas for making it accessible to those who can’t attend in person 🙏
Tracy Rabaiotti - @TracyRabaiotti (via Twitter)

The 2022 Festival at a glance

Key facts

  • 39,405 audience members and counting 
  • Our partnership with ABC Australia is flourishing, with listeners on ABC ‘Big Ideas’ reaching, on average, 60,000 people per episode and approx. 600,000 downloads per month
  • 195 events
  • Working with 140 partners - an increase of more than 30 compared to the previous year, signalling the value partners see in collaborating with the Festival, one of the largest cultural collaborations in York
  • 220,885 website views from 153 countries - with audience members from over 20 new countries joining our global community this year
  • Over 17,600 followers across four social media platforms - an increase of more than 20% compared to last year

Almost 800 people responded to a survey circulated to ticket holders. Of these:

  • 99% would recommend the Festival to a friend
  • 94% rated the online Festival as Excellent, Very Good or Good
  • 91% rated the in-person Festival as Excellent, Very Good or Good
  • 55% had not attended the Festival before

Almost 30% of those who watched online events (live or recorded) did so with one or more family members or friends.

It was wonderful! It's great to make knowledge and research accessible to everyone, and I deeply appreciate these events being free.
Survey Respondent

An inclusive, hybrid festival for all

While the 2020 and 2021 Festival programmes took place almost entirely in a virtual setting, this year we were able to offer a mix of in-person and online events. This new hybrid programme: 

  • Helped create a feeling of community within York, 
  • Allowed people who would not normally be able to attend the Festival to enjoy a wide range of events,
  • Enabled us to focus on our goal of widening participation and expanding our local reach,
  • And opened up the Festival to global audiences, who were able to learn and engage, and share their own views and opinions.
I like the mix of in-person and online events. I am careful about what events/locations I attend in person, so the opportunity to choose a mode of attendance is good.
Survey Respondent

The Festival went truly hybrid this year, with audiences and speakers zooming in for online and in-person, live-streamed events (pictured: Gavin Esler and Brigid Laffan at a panel discussion on 'Europe’s Role in Defence and Security on a World Stage')

The Festival went truly hybrid this year, with audiences and speakers zooming in for online and in-person, live-streamed events (pictured: Gavin Esler and Brigid Laffan at a panel discussion on 'Europe’s Role in Defence and Security on a World Stage')

Many talks and panel discussions were live-streamed and recorded this year

Many talks and panel discussions were live-streamed and recorded this year

Creating a festival community

A major aim of this year’s Festival was to create opportunities for people to come together again in person, wherever possible - to learn, discuss and reflect on important and entertaining topics together, and to experience a feeling of community in a physical space.

There was a visceral sense of joy from our audience members at the return of in-person events, and it was wonderful to see the buzz the Festival created across the city of York, including the University campus.

We rejoiced at rooms filled with curiosity and wonder, as our audiences rediscovered the delight of learning together and experiencing the feeling of being deeply connected to something bigger - in person, once again.

The return of in-person performances was also incredibly exciting. From Syrian musician Maya Youssef at the National Centre for Early Music to acclaimed UK children’s author Michael Morpurgo in the stunning atmosphere of York Minster, this year’s talented performers moved and entertained audiences with their craft, creating unforgettable experiences for residents and visitors of our historic city.

I made some new friends and met people I hadn’t seen for a few years. I am considering joining a music group. It made me more proud of living in York!
Survey Respondent

Archaeologist and author David Wengrow in conversation with Penny Bickle of the University of York

Archaeologist and author David Wengrow in conversation with Penny Bickle of the University of York

Syrian musician Maya Youssef stunned audiences during her in-person performance at the National Centre for Early Music

Syrian musician Maya Youssef stunned audiences during her in-person performance at the National Centre for Early Music

Improving accessibility

The virtual aspect of this year’s hybrid Festival allowed those who wouldn’t normally be able to attend due to their geographical location, limited transport options, mobility restrictions, caring responsibilities, etc. to take part in a wide variety of online-only, in-person live-streamed and recorded events.

We are pleased to have received many positive comments from this year’s survey respondents in regard to accessibility, both in relation to online and in-person events.

We understand the importance of accessibility in all its forms, and remain committed to continuous work in this area. 

A wonderful festival - what incredible speakers! - looking forward to the next one. So glad there were online events. I have mobility problems and it meant I could access the festival too!
Survey Respondent

A festival for York(shire)

The return of in-person events this year also allowed us to focus on our goals of widening participation across a range of audiences from very different socio-economic backgrounds and expanding our local reach.

In cooperation with local libraries, we were able to bring a variety of hands-on family activities into communities across York, including those who don’t typically engage with universities. So we were particularly pleased that one of our events attracted 67% of attendees from groups least likely to engage in Higher Education.

Our partnership with Explore York: Libraries and Archives has been crucial to our engagement with local communities, not only through activities for the young, but also by welcoming people to talks on important topics such as dementia, and to drop-in events such as ‘Creating Inclusive Internet Communities’.

Broadening our reach across Yorkshire, the Festival also - for the first time - participated in the widely celebrated Malton Food Lovers Festival, allowing us to inspire and engage new audiences outside of, but not too far from, York.

Expanding our reach across younger age groups, this year’s Festival continued to encourage curiosity among young people of all backgrounds. It was especially wonderful to see a number of teachers attend Festival sessions together with their students, which, we hope, will have led to many inspiring and fruitful classroom discussions.

(Image Credit:

Brilliant event. So many opportunities to learn and also inspire the younger generation.
Festival Attendant

A truly global festival

From Australia to Zambia, from Shetland to Somerset.

Due to our hybrid Festival programme, we could again reach people from all over the UK and across the world this year, with tickets booked from over 150 countries.

In addition we had many international speakers joining us in person or ‘zooming in’ from abroad - for example, Ukraine student union president Vitalina Shevchenko; Aristea Ladas from the University of York’s Europe Campus in Thessaloniki, Greece; Syrian writer and refugee Eyad Awwadawnan; and trailblazer Fatima Haidari from Afghanistan. 

Dr Heli Tiirmaa-Klaar, Director of the Digital Society Institute at the European School of Management and Technology in Berlin, Polish political analyst Jaroslaw Kuisz, and 22-year-old climate and environmental justice advocate Nathan Méténier also contributed to the Festival, amongst many others.

We have continued to expand our reach this year also thanks to our collaboration with international partners such as the French Embassy in the UK, CITY College University of York Europe Campus and the Jaipur Literature Festival, who have significantly contributed to the global success of the 2022 Festival. 

Our collaboration with ABC ‘Big Ideas’ not only allowed us to increase our global reach, but also helped us deliver our promise to develop partnerships with digital platforms with international reach. On average, the ‘Big Ideas’ programme boasts 60,000 listeners per episode and approx. 600,000 downloads per month, providing a great outlet for the Festival to inspire even more people across the globe. We will actively be pursuing additional podcast partnerships in the coming years. 

The timing allows me to join in and have my lunch at the same time. Lovely. Will be watching from White Rock, British Columbia.
Glass Half Empty - @yul_native (via Twitter)

York Festival of Ideas 2022 welcomed audiences from 153 countries

York Festival of Ideas 2022 welcomed audiences from 153 countries

Inspirational world-class speakers and performers

Whether in person or online, one of the main strengths of York Festival of Ideas is its ability to provide audiences with access to world experts on a wide range of topics, as well as to a plethora of diverse, talented performers.

This year, a host of fantastic speakers and performers joined us physically and virtually, from all across the UK and from countries further afield, such as the USA, Canada, France, India, Lebanon and Nigeria, to name but a few. 

Our inspirational contributors included:

  • Oscar-winning film editor Joe Walker, 
  • Historian and broadcaster Tracy Borman, 
  • Acclaimed writer and former politician Michael Ignatieff, 
  • Notable physicist and broadcaster Jim Al-Khalili,
  • Actress Dame Harriet Walter,
  • Leading primatologist Frans de Waal,
  • Best-selling historian and author Alison Weir,
  • Celebrated children’s author Michael Morpurgo,
  • Award-winning crime writer Ann Cleeves

and many more, who over the course of the Festival engaged and interacted with our enthusiastic audiences.

We were happy to hear that our speakers enjoyed the Festival just as much as our audiences, who were praised by many contributors for their inquisitiveness and fascinating questions. Our in-person speakers and performers were also incredibly excited about being able to spend time in the beautiful city of York.

Thank YOU so much for a really wonderful event! It was an absolute joy from start to finish and you made it all so easy for me in the run up to the day. The York audience is always such a lovely one and I loved chatting to people at the book signing afterwards.
Historian and broacaster Tracy Borman - Crown & Sceptre: The British monarchy from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth II

Dame Harriet Walter performing in ‘I, Clara’, with creator Lucy Parham on the piano

Dame Harriet Walter performing in ‘I, Clara’, with creator Lucy Parham on the piano

Michael Morpurgo returned to York Minster for a powerful performance of his ‘Carnival of the Animals’, together with actress Natalie Walter and cellist Clare O’Connell

Michael Morpurgo returned to York Minster for a powerful performance of his ‘Carnival of the Animals’, together with actress Natalie Walter and cellist Clare O’Connell

Responding to society’s greatest challenges

Whilst restrictions due to COVID-19 have eased in many countries, we continue to grapple with the social and economic impact of the pandemic, as well as with a variety of other national and global challenges, many of which were discussed at this year’s Festival.

Audiences were able to engage with and reflect on important topics such as the climate crisis, global health, the war in Ukraine, the future of the UK economy, the challenges and opportunities of ‘Levelling Up’ the UK, the problems with the food system, the rise of the radical right in Europe, and many other challenges that our society faces.

The Festival also provided insights into the experiences of refugees, what it is like to live with dementia, how an incredible writing project is celebrating the voices of Afghan women, and more, educating and inspiring people across the world and encouraging important conversations.

We are especially grateful to the contributions of the French Embassy in the UK, The Morrell Centre for Legal and Political Philosophy, and the Resolution Foundation, which have allowed these conversations on society’s greatest challenges to take place at this year’s Festival.

The breadth of content was excellent leading to quite a number of debates and discussions.
Survey Respondent

Bringing university research to life

Led by the University of York, York Festival of Ideas provides audiences with unparalleled access to the inspiring and wide-ranging research taking place in York.

This year, over 270 members of the University community took part in delivering events in all kinds of subject areas, for people of all ages. From the family-friendly ‘Discovery Zone’ to workshops on historical dress accessories (as covered in the BBC History Magazine July 2022 issue) and panel discussions, for example by the FixOurFood team, local and global audiences were inspired by the fascinating cutting-edge projects being pursued at the University of York.

Other events involving members of the University focused on subjects as diverse as the Beatles, prehistoric cheese, paramedics, the history of the chapter, nuclear physics, and much more. And, once again, the final of the University’s 3 Minute Thesis competition opened up the exciting world of doctoral research to the public.

A special series of events was offered by the University’s StreetLife team, who brought the fascinating history and vibrant future of Coney Street to life, inviting York residents and visitors to explore the heritage of one of the city’s most familiar thoroughfares.

Our audiences were also given privileged access to the University’s brand-new Institute for Safe Autonomy, with its specialist laboratories and testing facilities dedicated to research into the safety of robotics and autonomous systems. Guided tours, including exciting drone demonstrations, offered attendees a glimpse into the fascinating research carried out at the Institute, which will help inform and shape the safety of robotics and autonomous systems - something that is of vital importance in an increasingly technology-driven world.

Research at the University of York is focused around seven research themes which align our academic strengths to best meet the grand scientific, social and environmental challenges of our time. Explore our research themes.

Always nice to feel the University is part of the city and welcomes residents to share in the love of learning
Survey Respondent

Creating a legacy through ‘Watch Again’

Audiences can experience talks and discussions beyond the 13 days the Festival takes place each year, as many recordings are available to watch on our YouTube channel, York Ideas

This channel serves as an ongoing resource for people of all ages and backgrounds, who can access and engage with Festival content, including that of previous years, for free. Uploaded videos can also be repackaged according to subject or for occasions such as International Women’s Day and Black History Month.

Many of this year’s survey respondents highlighted the benefits of (re)watching events at their own convenience and pace, underlining how this increases accessibility and allows for a deeper engagement with the topic as well as the sharing of ideas with family and friends.

Fantastic effort by all, really enjoyed the fact I could re-watch them on YouTube and share with others
Survey Respondent

The Three Rs: Rediscover, Reimagine, Rebuild

Looking ahead to 2023, we are not only excited to welcome audiences to next year’s Festival, but also to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the University of York, an important milestone.

The University was founded with a strong social purpose, drawing on a rich tradition of social justice and combating inequality in a way that is distinctive to the City of York. Both the University and the Festival are committed to the public good, and excited to use the 60th anniversary to reaffirm this commitment.

The cost of living crisis, climate change, inequality, global conflicts, and the impact of the pandemic are just a few of the uncertainties that we are facing, raising questions and concerns about the future - of humanity and our planet, of the universe and everyone and everything within it. But there are also questions about the past - have we ever learnt, can we ever learn from history? How?

What we have now, is the present. And in this present moment, we can reframe our challenges as an opportunity. An opportunity to rediscover, reimagine and rebuild our world and the systems governing it, our lives and the relationships formed within it, for a brighter and more stable future in which communities, and the individuals within these, can not only survive but thrive.

At next year’s Festival, let us rediscover hope, our potential, our shared humanity, our capacity for empathy and compassion. Let us reimagine the cornerstones of our society - democracy, leadership, education, economy, science, history, technology, the arts. Let us explore how to rebuild our socio-economic fabric by taking innovative action and funnelling resources into the right directions on a local and global scale. By coming together to share ideas and have fruitful discussions about the things that matter, to us personally and to the wider world.

Join us in 2023 for an exciting programme of in-person and online events that, we hope, will tap into our collective curiosity and our collective care, inspiring debates and actions, and helping us rediscover, reimagine and rebuild together.

I hope FoI continues for a very long time. It has been our pleasure to have enjoyed it for many years so far. It is always so very well organised and efficient and everyone is so friendly. Well done all.
Jane (Survey Respondent)

Thank you

Supporters and donors

Thanks to the generosity of our supporters and donors we continue to be able to offer the majority of the Festival to our audience for free. We are so grateful for their continued commitment and generosity.

  • The Holbeck Charitable Trust
  • University of York
  • C & JB Morrell Trust and the Morrell Centre for Legal and Political Philosophy
  • Shepherd Group
  • French Embassy in the UK
  • John Templeton Foundation 
  • York Cocoa House
  • The Institution of Engineering and Technology
  • Jane Moody Fund
  • Athena Swan
  • Lorna and David Foster 
  • Professor Tom McLeish, FRS, FRSC

Our sincere thanks also to those donors and supporters who wish to remain anonymous, and to all the audience members who very kindly donated through YuStart. Your contributions are very much appreciated.


The Festival could not go ahead without our local, national and international partners. With gratitude to our 2022 partners:

  • 100% Digital York
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
  • Athena Swan
  • Aylmer Lecture
  • BBC History Magazine
  • Bentley Crudgington
  • Beverley Minster Old Fund
  • Beverley Minster
  • Bloomsbury Publishing
  • Bootham School
  • Books for Thought
  • Borthwick Institute for Archives
  • British Institute of Persian Studies
  • Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies
  • Centre for Medieval Studies
  • City of York Council
  • Death and Culture Network DACNet
  • Department of Physics
  • Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media
  • Digital Creativity Labs
  • Digital Museum of Dress Accessories
  • EU National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC)
  • Explore York Libraries and Archives
  • Faber and Faber
  • Fishergate, Fulford and Heslington Local History Society
  • FixOurFood
  • Fox Lane Books
  • French Embassy in the UK
  • Good Business Charter
  • Government’s Community Renewal Fund
  • Granta
  • Headline
  • Heslington Church
  • Holgate Windmill
  • Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate
  • HM Government
  • Hodder & Stoughton Publishers
  • Institute français du Royaume-Uni
  • Institute for Safe Autonomy
  • Institution of Engineering and Technology
  • Interactive Media Showcase
  • Institute for Public Understanding of the Past
  • Invented Futures
  • Jaipur Literature Festival
  • Jane Moody Fund
  • John Templeton Foundation
  • JRF
  • Kyra Women's Project
  • LUMA
  • Macmillan Publishers
  • Make it York
  • Malton Food Lovers Festival
  • Manonabeach@
  • Manasamitra
  • Manchester University Press
  • Morrell Centre for Legal and Political Philosophy
  • National Centre for Early Music
  • National Railway Museum
  • National Lottery Community Fund
  • National Lottery Fund
  • Next Door But One Community Arts Collective
  • Orion Publishing Group
  • Penguin Press
  • Penguin Random House
  • Pilot Theatre
  • PR Collective
  • Princeton Press
  • PsychYork!
  • Resolution Foundation
  • Ruth Killick Publicity
  • Saqui Books
  • Shepherd Group
  • Spark:York
  • St Helen's Church
  • St Peter's School
  • Thames and Hudson
  • The Company of Merchant Taylors of the City of York
  • The Friends of Beverley Minster
  • The Guildhall
  • The Holbeck Charitable Trust
  • The Mansion House
  • The National Archives
  • The Sutton Hoo Ship’s Company
  • The Rowntree Society
  • Three Minute Thesis
  • Thorganby Folk
  • UK Community Renewal Fund
  • University of York
  • University of York Europe Campus, CITY College
  • Untold Narratives CIC
  • Visit York
  • Women in Rugby League
  • Woodmeadow Trust
  • Writers at York
  • XR Stories
  • York Archaeological Trust
  • York BID
  • York Biomedical Research Institute
  • York Centre for Conflict and Security (YCCS)
  • York Civic Trust
  • York Cocoa House
  • York Concerts
  • York Conservation Trust
  • York Crime Walk
  • York Death & Culture Walk
  • York Design Awards
  • York Independent State School Partnership (ISSP)
  • York Minster
  • York Music Venue Network
  • York Sport
  • York St John University
  • York Theatre Royal
  • York Walls Festival
  • YorkLife Festival
  • Yorkshire Philosophical Society

Joan Concannon

Director, York Festival of Ideas
Director of External Relations, University of York

Telephone: +44 (0)1904 322193

For sponsorship and donation opportunities, please contact:

Edward Joyner

Relationship Manager, Corporate and Foundation Philanthropy, University of York

Telephone: +44 (0)1904 324389

Connect with the Festival online:


Photographs by: Ian Martindale Photography, Alex Holland - University of York

Stock images from:, Unsplash