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The Cambridge Festival 2021 report

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Four themes, ten days, 364 online events, and more than 100,000 views across 175 different countries. This could only be the Cambridge Festival.

This year, the latest research taking place at the University was brought to a global audience through the inaugural Cambridge Festival.

You can now read the interactive news story about the 2021 Cambridge Festival, sharing all the insights, interviews, facts and audience feedback.

The Cambridge Festival in 2021

2021 was unique in many ways – not least in being the very first Cambridge Festival, combining a cross-disciplinary approach across four themes; Health, Society, Environment and Explore!

It was also a year shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing with it the necessity to deliver our public engagement activities digitally for the first time. The Festival ran across ten days, 31 March to 4 April 2021, and successfully delivered over 360 online events. 

We thank everyone who contributed to the Festival this year. Thanks to the support of the University of Cambridge and the continued generosity of our sponsors, the majority of events remain free. The Festival is produced by the University of Cambridge Public Engagement team and supported by our sponsors and partners Astra Zeneca, RAND Europe, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, and the Cambridge Independent. 

Festival Overview

  • The Cambridge Festival comprised 350+ events and received over 100,000 views across its digital delivery. 115 different departments, museums, colleges, and external organisations contributed content.
  • We launched a Festival Zine as a community engagement activity, shared throughout our local community & distributed in partnership with ChYpPS, Cambridge City Council.
  • The website (www. received 450K unique views from programme release to Festival end. Website users came from over 170 countries, across six continents. 
  • An estimated 10 million people watched, listened to, or read media coverage of the Cambridge Festival (between 25 January and 8 April 2021). This included 119 articles and 54 radio and TV broadcast packages, including national UK radio, South African television, and content syndicated to ABC Radio in Australia. 
  • The top three words used to share peoples experience at the festival were Curious, Inspired, and Entertained.  
  • 91% of our audience rated the Festival as 4 or 5 stars (out of 5).
  • 90 % believed that research from the University of Cambridge has an impact on people’s lives. 
  • Whilst digital delivery was driven by necessity, 66% of people stated that they would like the Festival to maintain digital in the future, with only 9 % stating that we should return to only engaging through in-person events. 
  • The new Festival kept our traditional audience and expanded: 52% had attended public events from the University of Cambridge previously, 48 % were new to the University’s public events, and 23% had not interacted with Cambridge in any way previously. 

Contributors in 2021 included:

  • Sir David Attenborough
  • Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore
  • The University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Toope
  • Philippe Sands
  • Dr Emily Shuckbourgh
  • Professor David Spieglhalter
  • David Lammy MP
  • Sir Hillary Beckles, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies
  • Marine biologist, broadcaster and writer Helen Scales
  • Tom Rivett-Carnac, widely credited for achieving the Paris agreement, 
  • Theatre director and producer and Founder of the WOW Foundation Jude Kelly
  • Professor of Politics David Runciman
  • Psychologist Professor Sir Simon Baron-Cohen
  • Author and broadcaster Nina Schick
  • Dr Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury.

Selected festival feedback

The move to online is extremely welcome - I am now able to watch recorded sessions that I would have missed if they were in-person only.  You have viewers all over the world - the Antarctica talk had questions from Australia and I think Japan and USA. That enhances your brand in a way that events which are in-person cannot. 

As a parent of three small children, there are somethings more accessible to me online than they would have been in person. No babysitter needed for the two of us to attend an online seminar and ok for one person to be late or pop out to attend to a child.

I found this event through a Facebook ad, and will now search online to see if there are others, I can access. The format of a live online event, also recorded to watch later is brilliant - so accessible. 

We've attended lots of events in person in the past, but please continue to do some online events, or include recordings of future live events - it opens up what we are able to attend.

Although we would normally attend in person we would only come on one day. The virtual events mean that we have chosen a selection of things over the whole week. 

I have never attended a Cambridge Festival event I’m too far away, I hugely enjoyed being able to attend virtually and I sincerely hope thought will be given to each dept having online events for us to attend in future. It’s more ecological too.

The Cambridge Festival 2022 

The Cambridge Festival will take place between 31 March and 10 April 2022. We aim to deliver in-person events, alongside digital engagement opportunities. 

Please write to us at for a PDF of the above report and if you would like a copy of the full evaluation document.