Thousands flock to campus as University of Hertfordshire hosts its largest ever public event

 21 May 2024 21 May 2024
21 May 2024

Thousands of people celebrated a weekend of art, science and intellectual discussions at the successful, in-person debut Festival of Ideas at the University of Hertfordshire.

The Festival, which took place on 17 and 18 May, brought the best of the university’s research, enterprise and culture to the public for free, through over 70 exhibitions, performances, talks, workshops and more.

The lineup also featured headline talks from broadcast journalists Jon Sopel and Tom Hughes, known for The News Agents podcast, and former CEO of UK Sport Dame Liz Nicholl, who led a panel of other national sportswomen on the subject of breaking barriers for women in sport. Additionally, comedian Helen Lederer joined the bill for a witty and frank discussion about her career and the challenges faced by women in the comedy scene.

Around 4,500 people of all ages flocked to College Lane Campus in Hatfield over the two days, making it the largest ever public event in the university’s history.

Highlights included a workshop by renowned psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman, who taught people how to use magic to make themselves happier and improve their confidence.

Interactive public artworks, where attendees could paint with melting ice cubes infused with ink, explored issues of climate change and how human beings participate in natural cycles.

Cutting-edge robotic, virtual reality and artificial intelligence technology being researched at the university was also showcased at the festival’s “Future Tech Zone”.

Members of the public also learned from a panel of top film and TV execs about Hertfordshire’s thriving industry behind the screen.

A poignant tribute to acclaimed, late poet Gboyega Odubanjo saw his family, friends and fellow poets gather to celebrate his life and to read a selection of his poems alongside their own work. Gboyega, a multi-award-winning artist who was studying for his PhD in Creative Writing and working as a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, sadly passed away last summer.

The Festival was then closed with an unforgettable performance from the vibrant, charismatic London Community Gospel Choir.

Professor Quintin McKellar, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Hertfordshire, said:

“We’re so thrilled that the Festival  of Ideas has been such a success and that so many members of our local community joined us to experience some of the very best the University of Hertfordshire has to offer.

“We are a dynamic, diverse and innovative university with a long history of driving ambition and enterprise across the region. Through our education, research, future skills development and innovation we are powering tomorrow for the sake of everyone’s future – which is exactly what the Festival of Ideas celebrated. We hope this event helped more people to see, understand and be inspired by the work we do; enthused them to want to explore more ways they can work with us to achieve great things together; and gave them new ideas about how they can play their part to support, sustain and improve tomorrow’s world.

“Most importantly, we hope everyone had fun. I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who came along, to all the brilliant speakers and acts who made the weekend so special, and to all our staff and students who were fantastic ambassadors for Herts and worked so hard to make the Festival of Ideas a reality.”

Sign up to find out about other upcoming events by the University of Hertfordshire. More pictures from the Festival will be made available on our website in the coming weeks.


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