What’s on at the Cambridge Union in Michaelmas 2020

Where else could you see Gemma Collins, Theresa May and Ted Cruz, all in one term?

The Cambridge Union has thrown open its (physical and virtual) doors for the upcoming Michaelmas term, and their line-up of events offer something for everyone. Whether you’re wanting to hear about politics from Theresa May or Ted Cruz, or revel in the unbridled glamour of Gemma Collins, now’s the time to dig out that Union membership card that you optimistically bought in first year and haven’t used since.

If you didn’t buy Union membership in the sole hope of getting tickets to their freshers’ ball, they’ve also got an ‘open period’ for all members of the University until Friday 16th October to give a taste of their events. After this period, however, their events will be members-only – so get in there quick!

This term, the Union will be holding a season of both physical and virtual events: Some speakers will be online-only, but those that are speaking from the chamber will have their debates and conversations live-streamed for Union members only after the 16th. Tickets for in-person events in the chamber will be allocated by ballot to avoid long queues outside the building, and precautions including wearing of masks, social distancing, ventilation, track and trace systems and sanitisation have been put in place.

Their upcoming debates encompass a wide range of current affairs, from “This House Believes Free Speech Is Dead” in Week Two,  to “This House Would Stop Talking and Start Listening’ during Week Three, regarding conversations about race, insitutionalised racism and allyship.

You’ll have the opportunity to hear from Joshua Wong, student activist and Hong Kong politician, Professor of Politics at Birkbeck College Eric Kaufmann, the Rt. Hon Shami Chakrabarti CBE PC and political commentator Inaya Folarin Iman – and that’s just Week Two!

To combat the Week Five blues, the debate on Thursday 5th November is in collaboration with the Cambridge Footlights – “This House Would Re-Enact the Gunpowder Plot (on the assumption no one is in Parliament at the time)”. Week Five’s second, more serious debate is “This House Would Not Wear the Poppy”, featuring broadcaster Ted Harrison, MP Dan Jarvis, historian Alexandra Churchill, and peace campaigner Geoff Tibbs. Following on from this, Week Six sees “This House Believes the Catholic Church Should Repent For Its Sins” with lawyers Richard Scorer and David Enright proposing and Dr. Sr Gemma Simmons, sister of the Congregation of Jesus, for the opposition.


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We are delighted to announce one of the first events of the forthcoming academic year. Dr. Jane Goodall DBE is the recipient of the 2020 Professor Hawking Fellowship, and will be addressing members of the Cambridge Union on Monday 9th November. As with a number of our other events this Michaelmas, this will be a virtual address, and COVID-19 permitting, we intend for these events to be livestreamed from our historic debating chamber. Members will be able to watch the event live from the chamber, and will have the opportunity to engage with speakers as they typically would during in-person events. We are committed to ensuring the safety of our members and guests, and will be making more announcements in the coming weeks regarding the way in which the Union will be operating this upcoming term.

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The Union’s speakers are also looking particularly exciting this term. The 2020 Hawking Fellow is Dr Jane Goodall, primatologist, anthropologist and all-round legend, and she will be speaking on Monday 9th November. There are also some political heavyweights gracing the debating chamber: Senator Ted Cruz will speak on Wednesday 18th November, and Theresa May MP will speak two days later on the 20th.

From the arts world – and yes, TOWIE counts as an art form and I will not be listening to any other opinions – you’ll have the opportunity to hear from the first unsigned artist to win the BBC’s annual Sound of Award, Ray BLK, on Friday 16th October, and Jameela Jamil on Monday 19th October. Jamil is well-known for her role on NBC’s The Good Place, and is a passionate advocate for a wide range of causes including mental health, climate change, and addressing inequality.

The acclaimed author of Call Me By Your Name, Andre Aciman, will also attend on 25th November, and the BRIT award-winning, chart-topping, Olympic-opening-ceremony-performing singer Emeli Sande speaks on 30th November. (And on the Olympic note, Lord Sebastian Coe, organiser of the London 2012 Olympic games and athletics legend will be at the Union on the 3rd November!)

It’s not until Wednesday 2nd December that the Union hosts Gemma Collins, The Only Way is Essex star and feature of countless memes. Alongside her television work, she’s published two books, created her own perfume, has a fashion boutique, and has famously fallen down a hole.

Emaan Ullah, the Michaelmas 2020 Union President, has said: “This is, of course, a term like no other, but I’m delighted that the efforts of our committee over the past several months have resulted in what can only be described as an incredibly exciting and diverse termcard. Though things will be operating quite differently, with speakers from Theresa May and Gemma Collins, to debates on free speech and the arts, I hope that this will still be a thoroughly enjoyable term, and that there will truly be something for everyone. And whether it’s from the chamber itself or the comfort of their own bedroom, we very much look forward to welcoming members, new and old alike – and for them to engage with our events in whichever manner they feel most safe and content.”

Intrigued by what the Union has to offer? Click here to check out their Facebook page and here for their website.

Featured image credit: The Cambridge Union, Nordin Catic