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IF Oxford 2021 - discovering more about Oxford's science and ideas festival

IF Oxford, the city’s much-loved science and ideas festival returns this year for its 30th year with an array of events both in real venues to visit and on-line for those from further afield, who prefer the comfort of the sofa or who are safeguarding precious petrol (although the venues are all easily accessible by bus and bike). We caught up with the IF team to find out more:

Daily Info: Congratulations on reaching your 30th year of IF! For those who haven’t been to the festival, please could you tell us what makes it so special.

Although centred on science, the festival is unique in that it spreads it wings further than traditional science festivals and reaches ideas from every corner of curiosity and knowledge from baking to heartbreak, hip-hop to poetry and origami.

It’s a case of expect the unexpected, as IF Oxford offers combinations to surprise and intrigue all ages and interests. For example, there’s the idea of an Antibody explored through dance at Oxford Playhouse (26 Oct 7.30pm); the ups and downs of relationships reimagined through comedy (15 Oct 7pm); an exhibition of animals in art along the Cowley Road (9-26 Oct, varied opening hours); and orchestral-backed poetry highlighting asylum seekers’ cultural heritage and their new lives in Oxford.

Expecting the unexpected sounds good! What do you think might surprise us?

Did you know that Africans were alongside popularly celebrated explorers as they first reached the North Pole but are normally little mentioned. “If you talk of Arctic exploration, people will mention Shackleton, Scott or Amundsen, but very few are likely to mention, or have even heard of Olaudah Equiano, who was the first black man ever to set foot in the Arctic Circle,” says Natty Mark of the Oxford African School, a regular contributor to the festival who is redressing that balance in a digital event Africans as well as Amundsen (Sat 16 Oct 2-3pm)

During the festival visitors can not only travel locally – and there’s an event about the movements of animal populations in Oxfordshire and what we can all do to help them (Fri 22 Oct 7pm) – or follow African explorers to the end of the earth. You can also circumnavigate the globe with Wonderland’s Alice who appears, reinvigorated for the 21st century, in a specially-commissioned audio-story which you can hear on the IF Oxford website. As Alice descends into a curious world deep beyond the Oxford canal, she meets fascinating characters who mirror some of those in her original adventures. Stepping into the unknown she discovers new truths about herself, about language-learning and machines, Canadian orcas and other galaxies, and is reminded of an important home truth too.


So there’s a lot going on! What else would you like people to know?

Whilst there’s masses of whimsy and fun galore for children and families including a Maths Game Show and a Cloud Factory in Oxford Town Hall (alongside the Explorazone Sat 9 and Sun 10 Oct where there’s also a designated quiet hours for adults and children on the autism spectrum), there’s plenty of serious science too throughout the festival - presented in engaging formats.

To give you a few examples, this year is the centenary of the discovery of insulin, a life-changing medicine for millions, and researchers continue to study its effects and how best to manage diabetes. We have events on Tue 19 Oct at 6.30pm and 7.30pm. In Adolescent Self-Harm (Wed 13 Oct 6pm), Consultant Clinical Psychologist Prof Paul Stallard looks at what we can do about it and a new app designed to help. You can hear from two pioneering ventures in Oxfordshire about the boundaries they’re pushing in Fusion Energy (Thu 14 Oct 6.30pm). And you can ponder political science and democracy in times of pandemic (Thu 14 Oct 5pm). They explore the question of whether the state and big corporations taken over our lives. And neither last nor least, and definitely important, the festival invites everyone to consider why getting it wrong can be good for science (Sat 23 Oct 7pm). We often think of science as a fixed truth or a guaranteed fact but often that isn’t the case! So we are interested in exploring the issue of trust in the science behind discoveries.

Cloud Factory

To see more on all these events and dozens of others visit

Tickets can be booked for free because the IF-Oxford team want you to have a good time, to try something new, take a tour or enjoy the power or performance. There’s a Pay What You Decide system so you can simply pay whatever you choose or can afford when booking or after the event so that the festival continues to run for another 30 years!

IF logo

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