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The Cambridge Literary Festival in association with the New Statesman: Spring 2020

  • Thursday, 16. April 2020 to Sunday, 19. April 2020
  • Venues around Cambridge

Call us:

0203 096 5789

The Cambridge Literary Festival’s spring edition, in association with the New Statesman, is guest-directed by Caroline Lucas. It features novelists Anne Enright and Tessa Hadley; former Children’s Laureate Jacqueline Wilson; journalists Polly Toynbee and David Walker; and philosophers AC Grayling and Jonathan Sacks; as well as highlights below, chaired by New Statesman staff. The full programme is here


Fintan O’Toole, David Reynolds, Catherine Barnard and Robert Saunders

Our Disunited Kingdom

6-7.30pm, Thursday | Union Chamber | £14/10

Don’t miss this stellar line-up of speakers who launch one of our major festival themes, Our Disunited Kingdom. The panel features Fintan O’Toole (Heroic Failure and new book Three Years in Hell: The Brexit Chronicles), David Reynolds (Emeritus Professor of International History and author of Island Stories), Robert Saunders (Yes to Europe! The 1975 Referendum and Seventies Britain) and Catherine Barnard (Professor of European Union and Labour Law). Chaired by Jason Cowley, Editor-in-Chief, New Statesman. Book tickets.

Oliver Letwin

Technology and the Threat of Disaster

5.30-6.30pm, Friday | TTP Stage | £12/10

Former minister and Conservative MP turned independent, Oliver Letwin has seen power up close and knows how fragile it is. In his ground-breaking book Apocalypse How?, he imagines a future when the complexity and interdependence of our technology mean that the national grid, GPS, electric cars and law and order itself are all vulnerable to disruption and collapse. In addition, argues Letwin, that future is just a whisper away. Join him to hear how we can, and should, face up to it. In conversation with George Eaton, Senior Online Editor, New Statesman. Book tickets


Maya Goodfellow

Hostile Environment: How Immigrants Became Scapegoats

4pm-5pm, Saturday | Palmerston Room | £12/10

While a government keen to tell voters that it could control immigration created the “hostile environment”, our television screens showed us refugees drowning in the Mediterranean and a country riven with discord unleashed by the EU referendum. When studies show the benefits of immigration and refute the idea that it strains public services, where does this scapegoating come from? Maya Goodfellow marshals the latest research in this sharp-eyed investigation. In conversation with Anoosh Chakelian, Britain Editor, New Statesman. Book tickets.


New Statesman Debate

This house believes that capitalism needs to fail in order for the planet to survive

4pm-5.30pm, Saturday | Union Chamber | £12/10

It is now widely agreed that we face a global climate crisis, and we are already seeing the effects: rising temperatures and sea levels, species extinction and extreme weather. There is consensus that carbon emissions need to start falling fast. But there is less agreement on how this should be achieved. Is capitalism the problem or the solution? Can our current economic model have a role to play, with companies and consumers modifying their behaviour and investing in clean technologies? Or does the whole system of ownership, work and capital need a radical overhaul in order to create a sustainable society? We know where we need to be, but this debate will address the world’s most pressing issue: how do we get there?

Speakers include: Professor Tim Jackson, author of Prosperity Without Growth and Director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity at the University of Surrey; Noga Levy-Rapoport, climate justice advocate at the UK Student Climate Network; Caroline Lucas, former leader of the Green Party and MP for Brighton Pavilion; Baroness Verma, Conservative peer and former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change; Dimitri Zenghelis, former Head of Economic Forecasting at HM Treasury and Senior Associate at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership. Chaired by Alona Ferber, Special Projects Editor, New Statesman. Book tickets


Esther Rutter

Unravelling Britain’s Knitted History

5.30-6.30pm, Saturday | Old Divinity School | £12/10

Perhaps Esther Rutter was always destined to be a knitter – she grew up on a sheep farm, and learned how to spin and weave early on. But in This Golden Fleece, her eye-opening history, she explains why so many of us feel connected to the craft of knitting – and takes us on a journey around the British Isles, from the Shetlands to the Channel Islands, via funeral stockings and fishermen’s jumpers, to bring us a wonderful yarn. In conversation with Anna Leszkiewicz, Culture Editor, New Statesman. Book tickets.


Helen Lewis

Difficult Women

10-11am, Sunday | Palmerston Room | £12/10

Acclaimed journalist and festival favourite Helen Lewis presents her first book – a survey of the women who refused to shut up and sit down. Including the working-class suffragettes advocating bombings and arson, the “striker in a sari” who terrified Margaret Thatcher and the 21st-century feminists fighting for access to abortion services, Lewis’s funny, fearless and sometimes shocking book is both celebration and call to arms. In conversation with Tom Gatti, Deputy Editor, New Statesman. Book tickets


Hashi Mohamed

What It Takes To Make It In Modern Britain

2.30-3.30pm, Sunday | Palmerston Room | £12/10

Hashi Mohamed was nine when civil war in Somalia brought him to Britain, where he attended some of the country’s worst schools and was raised exclusively on social benefits. He grew up to study at Oxford and became a successful barrister. But, he argues, his story is not typical – and in a hard-hitting examination of the systems and structures that act as obstacles to society’s most disadvantaged, he explores why, and how these can change. In conversation with Anoosh Chakelian, Britain Editor, New Statesman. Book tickets


Jason Cowley, Stephen Bush and Helen Thompson

The Story of a Magazine and British Politics

2.30pm, Sunday | Old Divinity School | £12/10

Since its founding in 1913, the New Statesman has been at the centre of British political and cultural life. And through writers such as HG Wells, George Orwell, Virginia Woolf and John Gray, the new anthology Statesmanship tells the story of modern Britain. To mark its launch, the magazine’s editor-in-chief Jason Cowley and political editor Stephen Bush are joined by Helen Thompson, Professor of Political Economy at the University of Cambridge and New Statesman columnist, to discuss the magazine’s journey through more than a century of turbulent change.

Chaired by Helen Lewis, Staff Writer, the Atlantic, and former Deputy Editor, New Statesman. Book tickets


Orlando Figes

The Making of a Cosmopolitan Culture

4pm, Sunday | Old Divinity School | £12/10

A great French soprano, her impresario husband and a feted Russian writer, and their interwoven lives: it sounds like the stuff of fiction. But in a fascinating group portrait, historian Orlando Figes brings us the very real lives of Pauline and Louis Viardot and Ivan Turgenev, showing how their devotion to their art relates to a rapidly changing Europe, and how the middle of the 19th century saw the creation of a “European canon” of culture. In conversation with Michael Prodger, Associate Editor, New Statesman. Book tickets


Eimear McBride

Attraction, Love and Grief

4pm, Sunday | Palmerston Room | £12/10

Strange Hotel already has the stamp of immortality on it.” Sebastian Barry Women’s Prize for Fiction and Goldsmiths Prize winner Eimear McBride returns with a stunning fiction based on a single conceit – that of a woman entering a series of hotel rooms, and therein grappling with her memories and desires. But McBride’s talent turns a plain premise into a magical journey – and one that her many readers will be all too willing to accompany her on. In conversation with Tom Gatti, Deputy Editor, New Statesman. Book tickets


David Lammy


5.30pm, Sunday | Union Chamber | £12/10

David Lammy, the first black Briton to attend Harvard Law School, and Tottenham MP since 2000, took a DNA test in 2007 to explore his own heritage. He found that his ancestors belonged to several tribes across Niger, Sierra Leone, and South Africa. This prompted Lammy’s thinking on tribalism and belonging: how should we navigate the positive aspects of belonging with the pernicious problem of excluding and marginalising? How have digitisation and globalisation led to new, pernicious forms of tribalism? Join this inspiring politician to find out more. In conversation with Anoosh Chakelian, Britain Editor, New Statesman. Book tickets


Mark O’Connell

Notes From an Apocalypse

7pm, Sunday | Baillie Gifford Stage | £12/10

Mark O’Connell, whose book To Be a Machine won the Wellcome Book Prize in 2018, describes his new project as “a personal journey to the end of the world and back” – in which his own worries about looming devastation feed into his travels among those who are determinedly preparing to face the apocalypse. Ranging from mountains in Scotland and bunkers in South Dakota, to the lush valleys of New Zealand, O’Connell’s encounters with environmentalists, survivalists, entrepreneurs and conspiracists is essential reading for the end of days. Notes from an Apocalypse is an affecting, humorous, and surprisingly hopeful meditation on our present moment. With insight, humanity, and wit, O’Connell leaves you to wonder: What if the end of the world isn’t the end of the world? In conversation with Sarah Manavis, Digital Culture Writer, New Statesman. Book tickets

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