York Festival of Ideas

York Festival of Ideas


The focus was on New Earswick this year.

Joseph Rowntree’s wish to improve people’s living conditions was first realised in 1902 in the historic garden village of New Earswick. It went on to lay the foundations for the development of social housing in Britain in the wake of the First World War. Campbell Robb, CEO of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, led the conversation with authors John Boughton and Gillian Darley. Afterwards, many people joined a guided walk around the village.

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We joined up with the Sheldon Memorial Trust with two lectures by leading local experts, Professor Bill Sheils and Professor Jonathan Bradshaw who a discussed Seebohm Rowntree’s achievement. See this year’s programme here.


We led all Five Rowntree Walks over two weekends. They were a huge success and sold out quickly.


To support JRF‘s day event at the Festival of Ideas, we created our Seebohm Rowntree exhibition, including a launch of a 360 film of his life and writings.


We hosted a series of events to showcase our York Remembers Rowntree project at the York Festival of Ideas.

Events summary

YRR Project Summary

Portrait photo gallery from our Memories Exhibitions 

Listen to the audio files.There are around in depth 40 recordings, mapped onto the places around York where the recorded event took place. The red markers on the Memory Map enable you to click on individual memories, while the yellow markers give some background about places of interest. The Rowntree Society has transcripts of all these recordings, alongside an ever-expanding Memories bank.


This year’s Festival theme was Order and Chaos. Bridget Morris gave a talk And Was Jerusalem Builded Here?  at St. Helen’s Church, in which she explored some of the visionary ideas of the Rowntree family in the years leading up to World War I, as they looked with hope and optimism towards an ordered world of social justice and peace. Nowhere was their vision better exemplified than in New Earswick. But many of their dreams were shattered by the chaos of the Great War that changed the course of their aspirations for decades to come.


This year the theme was ‘North and South’ and it was our first year taking part in the Festival of Ideas.  One of our trustees, Steven Burkeman, gave a talk on ‘What has the North ever done for Social Policy? The Contribution of Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree’. His talk was complemented by a talk by Julia Unwin, Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, who outlined the work being done by the Foundation in the field of national policy today. See Ideas-Festival-Talk 2013


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