Festival of the Mind returns this September with a vibrant programme of events

Festival of the Mind, our University's unique collaborative festival showcasing pioneering science, art, engineering and culture across Sheffield is back 20-30 September 2018.

Festival of the MindThe biannual festival, now in its fourth year, sees our academic colleagues collaborating with some of the city’s most talented professionals in the cultural, creative and digital industries through a series of exhibitions, workshops, performances and events to showcase their world class research. The festival is supported by Sheffield City Council, the Moor Markets and our Students’ Union.

From an augmented reality (AR) experience of Sheffield’s long-lost medieval castle to an exhibition by the renowned artist Pete McKee highlighting the stigma older people often experience when it comes to being open about sex and relationships. Festival of the Mind will feature a series of interactive, informative and engaging events over a 10 day period.

The last Festival of the Mind in 2016 attracted 50,000 visitors to its performances, talks, exhibitions, virtual reality experiences and interactive events. Find out more about Festival of the Mind 2016.

Watch the video from Festival of the Mind 2016

For this year’s festival the Spiegeltent returns to Barkers Pool and the award winning Futurecade exhibition of virtual reality and more return to Millennium Galleries with the theme of dystopia. The festival will host a vast array of talks, performances and interactive entertainment both in the day and in the evening.

The programme of events will also feature a strand of talks from the Off the Shelf Festival of words, visual art produced in Sheffield as part of the Making Ways project, and Sheffield Makes Music – a collaboration with BBC Music Day celebrations to showcase the city’s music heritage.

Professor Vanessa Toulmin, founder of the festival and Director of City and Culture at the University, said: “Festival of the Mind is a chance for people to explore some of the latest pioneering research that is being conducted at the University alongside some of the city’s most talented artists and creative professionals.

“Sheffield is rapidly developing a reputation throughout the UK and overseas for being a hub of inclusion, creativity and collaboration and its festivals such as this that give us an opportunity to showcase some of our latest work to the public and visitors to the region.

“I’m delighted that we are once again collaborating with partners from across the city to demonstrate some of Sheffield’s creative talent and we’re looking forward to welcoming people to our events.”

See the full programme and ticket information on the programme website

Highlights of this year’s festival

Festival of the Mind features a series of interactive, informative and engaging events, performances and workshops over a 10 day period. Check out our pick of some of the most exciting events


Age of loveThe Age of Love

An exhibition by Dr Sharron Hinchliff from our School of Nursing & Midwifery and renowned Sheffield-based artist Pete McKee illustrating the prejudice and discrimination that older people often experience around sex and intimate relationships.

Exhibition: Thursday 20 - Sunday 30 September, The Art House (please book your slot to avoid disappointment)
Talk: Sunday 23 September 3 - 4pm, The Spiegeltent, Barker's Pool

CastlegateExperience Castlegate

Academics from Archaeology, Architecture and Computer Science, with city partners Human Studio, have developed the first full 3D digital model of Sheffield Castle. This is a chance explore Sheffield’s lost medieval castle through an interactive augmented reality model, learn about recent archaeological research and see visions of the future from our students.

Exhibition: Thursday 20 - Thursday 27 September, Millennium Galleries
Talk: Saturday 22 September 3.30 - 4.30pm, The Spiegeltent, Barker's Pool


A series of exhibitions and more in virtual reality exploring the concept of how future technology will change, inspire, and ultimately be part of our everyday life.

Exhibitions: Thursday 20—Thursday 27 September, Millennium Galleries

Universal Basic Income Sheffield

How would receiving a universal basic income (UBI) – a regular, no-strings attached sum of money without means testing – change your life? UBI Lab Sheffield, a research group which includes Dr Mark Bryan from our School of Economics, explores perspectives on UBI through video interviews with three individuals, plus vox pop audio capturing the views of the city.

Thursday 20—Sunday 30 September, Art House

The National Food Service

Imagine a future with free eating spaces on every street. The Foodhall Project Sheffield examines this utopian vision with a series of free talks and symposiums speculating on the future of social eating spaces. Each talk is accompanied by a meal provided by Sheffield.

Saturday 22 - Saturday 29 September, 6pm - until late, Foodhall

SkullsAmong the ‘Sculls That Lie Heap’d Up’

An immersive installation, brought to life thanks to research from our Department of Archaeology, replicating the sights, sounds and smells of one of the best surviving examples of a medieval charnel chapel in the UK. The chapels were used as a place to store the bones during the 13th and 16th centuries. Get hands on with charnel practices by stacking replica bones and see artwork inspired by the chapel over the last 300 years.

Friday 21—Sunday 23 12—4pm, 92 Burton Rd
Q&A session: Saturday 22 5—6.30pm, Depot Bakery

Events and performances

Beware the Cat

What if we could understood the language of cats? On the back of research from Dr Rachel Stenner and Professor Frances Babbage from our School of English, this event brings the first ever public performance of what has been claimed as the world’s first English novel, Beware the Cat. This little-known, satirical 16th century novel by William Baldwin tells the story of a curious theologian whose alchemical experiments reveal the talk of cats amongst themselves. It’s a controversial story of magic, satire and religious freedom written during a time of immense political and social change.

Saturday 22 September 5pm - 6pm, The Spiegeltent, Barker's Pool

ArticSounds of the Antarctic

A creative project combining live music and event production from the University of Sheffield Concerts with breathtaking visual design by creative studio Human. The event will feature the world premiere of a new score for the music from the 1948 film Scott of the Antarctic, which documents Robert Falcon-Scott’s ill-fated Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole.

Saturday 29 September, 7.30—9:30pm, Octagon Centre


A project highlighting current research at the University from Dr Dave Forrest into the work of writer Barry Hines, best known for the novel A Kestrel for a Knave, which he helped adapt for Ken Loach's film Kes. This includes public artwork installations, film screenings and a talk all exploring a number of the writer’s key pieces of work from the 1980s.

Exhibition: Thursday 20—Sunday 30 10am—5pm, Chapel Walk Gallery
Talk: Thursday 20 September 5 - 6pm, Spiegeltent

Sound of scienceThe Sound of Science

An eclectic multimedia and digital experience aimed at a family audience, which combines dramatic live demonstrations of science with music, 3D animations and graphics. The event brings together international musicians Dean Honer and Kevin Pearce, creative agency Human, and research colleagues Mel Hannah, Professor Duncan Cameron and Dr Nate Adams.

Friday 28 September 7—8:30pm and Saturday 29 September 11am—12:30pm, 3pm—4:30pm, Firth Hall, Firth Court

VolunteerVolunteer at Festival of the Mind

There are still some shifts at the Festival for staff and students to voluneer. If you would like to volunteer and be part of the Festival team you will need the agreement of your line manager.

Working at the Festival will provide a chance to work with new colleagues and meet members of the public. As a volunteer, you will also have access to a range of development opportunities that will support you to successfully carry out your role at the festival and enable you to bring fresh perspectives and new skills back to your work.