What’s on at the Cambridge Union this (virtual) Lent term: Joe Wicks, Clare Balding and more!

Ever dreamed of living the Bake-Off experience vicariously through Clare Balding?

The Cambridge Union has released its term card for Lent term and you won’t want to miss it.

The Union is casting open its virtual portal for everyone this Lent term, including those who do not own a membership. Whether you need some inspiration to keep exercising from Joe Wicks the Body Coach, or you’re looking for some lockdown laughs from David Baddiel, the Union is the place to tune into. 

Freddie Fisk (President) expressed that moving Lent Term online, and being *plunged* into another lockdown, has made it a “difficult time for everyone”, so the Union wanted to offer “something uplifting, which anyone can access from home”.

The Union has very kindly opened its events to all this term, helping everyone to stay connected, and feel as if they are still in the *Cambridge Bubble*, even if only for a little while. 

Freddie said when virtual events were “trialed last Easter, tens of thousands of viewers watched our events live which really boosted the quality of engagement”. In the hopes of recreating this “lively spirit” and providing us with our “celebrity fix”, the Union is also inviting audience members “onto the virtual stage to probe our speakers.” Haven’t you always wanted to ask Joe Wicks how he resisted the temptation of staying in bed during lockdown?

The Union also appreciates, however, that “nothing beats hearing from celebrities in the flesh”, so for this reason they are postponing some of their most famous speakers “until we can reopen our chamber doors”. These guests include ex-footballer Gary Neville, fashion stars Stella McCartney and Tom Ford, bestselling author Michael Morpurgo, and the much anticipated former Prime Minister Theresa May. Freddie also revealed that there is even a live performance from the Royal Ballet in the works!

(Photo Credit: The Cambridge Union)

(Photo Credit: The Cambridge Union)

Luckily, saving us from our term-from-home-woes, the Union’s virtual events for the term are still just as exciting. Filled with events on politics, the arts, sport, business and science, the Union has clearly ensured every type of student will be provided for this term. Freddie also said “the flexibility and ease of hosting events online means our list of events will grow in the coming months”, keeping us in anticipation for more. 

Week one

Opening with a bang, the Union will be introducing Howie Hawkins in week one (22nd January). Co-founder of the Green Party of the US and the party’s presidential nominee in the 2020 presidential election, Hawkins’ primary campaign issues focused on building an eco-socialist version of the Green New Deal, and has played key roles in pro-worker movements throughout his career. 

(Photo Credit: The Cambridge Union)

(Photo Credit: The Cambridge Union)

Week two

In commemoration of Pink Week, the second week of term will include “experiences of Breast Cancer: BME and Male Voices: Cambridge Pink Week In Collaboration with The BME Campaign.” Helping to shed light on experiences of breast cancer, often overlooked in the mainstream UK media, speakers will include Dave Tallbot and Shevelle Copeland-Kelly.

Week three

In week three, and in celebration of the 103rd anniversary of women winning the right to vote in Britain, the Union will provide us with “50:50 Parliament” (6th February). Female MPs and assembly members from the UK’s major political parties, including Rosie Duffield MP and Layla Moran MP, will discuss who inspired them to stand.

Spoiling its students with debates, the key issue of “Understanding the Refugee Crisis” will also be discussed (9th February). Speakers will include Lord Alf Dubs and Alexander Betts, asking “What is a refugee?”; “What is statehood?”; and “What are governments and international organisations doing-or not doing-to address this crisis?”

(Photo Credit: The Cambridge Union)

(Photo Credit: The Cambridge Union)

Week four

Helping to answer all our Covid queries, week four will see the Union debate “Liberty, Solidarity, and the coronavirus” (16th February). Lord Blunkett and Dean Russell MP will discuss individual liberty and collective solidarity, including how this has been shaped by the pandemic. 

Week five

Helping to tackle our *Week Five Blues*, and inspiring us to get our essays done in time to be able to tune into the Union’s events, Rupert Goold (24th February) will be speaking at the Union. Theatre director and artistic director of the Almeida Theatre, Goold is known for “Judy” (2019), “True Story” (2015), and “The Hollow Crown” (2012). By the time we hit week five, we all know we will need some motivation to keep dreaming about our careers in the business world, which is why “Women Leading The Commercial World” (22nd February) will be the perfect debate to tune in to. 

(Photo Credit: The Cambridge Union)

(Photo Credit: The Cambridge Union)

Week six

Week six will feature Elliot Higgins (27th February), a pioneering citizen journalist and founder of Bellingcat. Using social media and open-source data, Bellingcat has made multiple breakthroughs, including being the first person to uncover the use of barrel and cluster bombs by the Syrian government and publishing the transcript of a call between Alexei Navalny and an FSB member who had been involved in the attempt to kill him. Higgins’ highly anticipated book “We Are Bellingcat”, is out this month.

Week six’s debates will also include Holocaust Memorial Panel (26th February), and ‘Diversity in The Arts’ (1st March).

Week six will also introduce the man who we should thank for being able to style our way through Pret queues in Michaelmas, and fuelling our caffeine addiction: Julian Metcalfe (2nd March). Founder of Pret a Manger, Itsu, and Metcalfe’s Food Company, he will be presenting “What Cambridge can’t and won’t teach you about being your own boss.”

(Photo Credit: The Cambridge Union)

(Photo Credit: The Cambridge Union)

Week seven

Keeping us going as we near the end of term, week seven’s speakers will include Amber Rudd in conversation with Craig Oliver (9th March), the 2019 recipient of an Eric Gregory Award for a collection by poets under the age of 30 Mary Jean Chan (5th March), and Mohamed El-Erian; Queens’ College new President and named one of Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Global Thinkers for four years.

If you thought week seven couldn’t get any better, Joe Wicks will also be speaking at the Union. Also known as The Body Coach, Joe is the fitness coach who tried his very best to keep us fit and healthy over since the first national lockdown in March through “PE with Joe.” The livestreams of these videos have since been watched by millions, and he was awarded an MBE. 

(Photo Credit: The Cambridge Union)

(Photo Credit: The Cambridge Union)

Week eight

Finally, helping us through that final push, that final essay and that final supo the Union will be welcoming Theo Paphitis in conversation with Claude Littner, giving everyone the opportunity to pitch their *groundbreaking* business ideas manifested by lockdown boredom. The Union will also be welcoming H.R McMaster in conversation with Claude Littner, finishing off the term with a lovely bit of politics. 

The Union will also be welcoming English broadcaster, journalist and author Clare Balding, Cambridge graduate and comedian David Baddiel, Peter Tatchell, Lord Chris Smith, Rory Stewart, Andre Aciman and Jean Todt, with dates to be announced. 

In terms of debate, the Union will also be debating “Is Artificial Intelligence a Threat?”; “Professional Sport and The Varsity”; “Bridging the Gap: Science, Popular Culture and Inspiring the Next Generation”; and “Coronavirus vaccines: The Light at the end of the tunnel?”, with dates also to be announced. 

(Photo Credit: The Cambridge Union)

(Photo Credit: The Cambridge Union)

Hosting virtual events means that there is a limitless amount of people who can tune into events, and seemingly an unlimited number of topics that the Union can explore.

As Freddie has said, whether it is the “threat posed by artificial intelligence or the problems of gender imbalance in Westminster”, there truly is something for everyone this term. 

Feature Image Credit:  Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Noel Samson and Amnesty International UK all via  Creative Commons Licence