Could a new theory of the universe be Stephen Hawking's biggest legacy? How has popular music addressed political conflict? Are the big tech firms the new colonialists? And is the education system making the crisis in young women and girls' mental health worse? 

These questions and more are set to be addressed during the annual Cambridge Festival, which this week launched its programme for 2023.

The festival, coordinated by the University of Cambridge, runs from March 17 to April 2.

There are more than 360 mostly free events, in person and online. Subjects range from politics and technology to health and climate change, with five core themes: power, society, health, environment and discovery.

One of the events is the talk 'On the Origin of Time: Stephen Hawking's Final Theory' on March 31, promoting a book by Stephen Hawking's close collaborator, cosmologist Professor Thomas Hertog.

On March 22, Dr Sean Campbell of Anglia Ruskin University, examines how popular musicians engaged with conflict in Northern Ireland in 'Combat Rock: Popular Music and the Northern Ireland Conflict'.

The war in Ukraine has highlighted the issue of food security, which is discussed in 'How Can We Improve Our Food Security?' on March 27.


Young people come into focus in two talks 'Growing Up in a Changing Environment - What Influences What Young People Eat?' on March 29, and 'Climate Change: From Despair to Action' on March 30.

Other topics covered include artificial intelligence with Dr Marcus Tomalin of the University of Cambridge, and a discussion on assisted dying with Professor Emily Jackson from the London School of Economics.

Emily Maitlis, former BBC Newsnight anchor, and PhD Cambridge scholar Ayala Panievsky will explore the impact of populism on the media, in an online event on March 20.

Royston Crow: Dr Jack Ashby will discuss Australia's weird and wonderful animals, including the platypus, at Cambridge FestivalDr Jack Ashby will discuss Australia's weird and wonderful animals, including the platypus, at Cambridge Festival (Image: University of Cambridge)

On a lighter note, Dr Jack Ashby, director of the Museum of Zoology in Cambridge, will present two lively talks on the weird and wonderful animals of Australia.

Cambridge Festival manager David Cain said: "The Festival is often meaty and though-provoking, but it also has a lighter element with performance, comedy, and loads of fun things for kids and families to do."

The full programme can be accessed at