York festivalThe annual York Festival of Ideas opens tomorrow and runs until 29 June with over 120 events on offer. This year’s theme is North and South and speakers include Melvyn Bragg, Seamus Heaney, Brian Sewell, Heidi Thomas, Greg Dyke, Peter Lord and Paul Morley.

Festival director Joan Concannon said they had assembled a festival which would offer numerous “world-class speakers, performances, exhibitions and interactive experiences for people of all ages.”

The topics are varied but focus on science, engineering and education, literature, the economy, media and architecture and are being addressed by way of talks and exhibitions, film, music and theatre.

Concannon added: “Recognising York’s status as ‘capital of the North’, this year’s festival will explore, question and celebrate ideas of ‘North’, both as a stand-alone idea, and in direct comparison with ideas of ‘South’.

“The terms North and South are suffused with cultural, social, economic, historical, scientific, geographical, industrial and  broader resonances – in the UK and  throughout the world.

“The University of York believes passionately that, in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, we must ‘not go where the path may lead but go instead where there is no path and leave a trail’.”

North and SouthHighlight’s include the journalist Paul Morley, fresh from his recent acclaimed book ‘The North’, exploring what ‘it means to be Northern and why those who consider themselves to be so, believe it so strongly’ on 15 June while former Northern editor of the Guardian and author of ‘True North’ Martin Wainwright on 27 June will lead a discussion on Grim tales: How literature has demonised the North. The session will discuss why balanced and contextual descriptions of the North in literature have been misrepresented by critics, the media and others who prefer to focus on the grim side. Wainwright will propose a contrary image as he argues that it is ‘important to do so if the present, shameful, imbalance between northern and metropolitan England is to be put right.’

The evening after on 28 June, the writer and TV presenter Melvyn Bragg will be talking about his new novel, Grace and Mary, which is about a son seeking to uncover his mother’s family history in a Cumbrian town with a plot line that straddles three generations of Cumbrian life.

On Saturday 22 June,  Peter Lord, the co-founder of Aardman Animations and director of Chicken Run and The Pirates! will be interviewed by Judith Buchanan on film production and the history of animation and current developments in the industry and on Wednesday Wed 26 June, the Irish poet and Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney, will read from a selection of his poetry.

Sunday 23 will see an open evening as the festival puts together its own York version of Question Time with Greg Dyke,Baroness Genista McIntosh (formerly artistic director at the National Theatre and now deputy speaker in the House of Lords),  Peter Hitchens (author and columnist at the Daily Mail) and Steve Richards (chief political commentator at the Independent).