Announcing IF Oxford 2021

18 August 2021

IF Oxford, the city’s science and ideas Festival, returns this autumn (9-26 October) in a hybrid format with both in-person and digital events and activities for adults, children and teenagers.

The programme includes more than 100 events and activities where festival-goers can be curious: visitors can explore everything from the latest research on the tiniest particles to the biggest challenges facing the globe today and question science, culture, medicine, philosophy and life at large. With demonstrations and debate, music, dance, film, art and activities for all, the Festival brings together real time cutting-edge research from world-leading academics with a galaxy of ideas to entertain, enlighten and expand our thinking.

In nineteen venues across the city of Oxford, and on Zoom too, IF Oxford 2021 covers wide-ranging topics from the chemistry of a lemon-meringue cake to the sorrow of everyday heartbreak. Visitors can investigate the local landscape through the eyes of Oxfordshire animals, head to the Arctic with an eighteenth century African-American explorer or fly through the Universe in an imaginative new Alice-in-Wonderland Adventure, this time, Beyond the Canal. Throughout the Festival, visitors are invited to think about the body and the way medical science overcomes the challenges we face; to consider the global impact of climate change, exploring what scientists are doing to help; and to ask, too, how do we know we can trust science?

Families can also enjoy two weekends of free interactive activities for all ages in Oxford Town Hall (9-10 October), and in Templar’s Square Shopping Centre (23-24 October). Delve inside your body and mind and discover how diseases are diagnosed and treated. Find out how scientists and engineers are solving the world’s biggest challenges and travel from the depths of the ocean to the outer reaches of space!

Top IF Oxford 2021 events include

  • COMEDY: Award-winning comedian Rosie Wilby shares funny breakup stories and fascinating scientific facts about heartbreak, many from personal experience. What the heck are ghosting, breadcrumbing and submarining? Might a future pill be the answer to reduce the trauma of a breakup, like a real-life version of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Could a breakup be an opportunity for learning, healing and growth? The Breakup Monologues (7pm, Friday 15 October)

  • DANCE: A contemporary performance Anti-body, from the nationally-acclaimed Alexander Whitley Dance Company at Oxford Playhouse. Sadler’s Wells New Wave Associate Alexander Whitley creates ambitious and intellectually-engaged work with innovation and digital technology at its core: this piece explores the biological form of the human body and the technological drive to transcend it. (7.30pm Tuesday 26 October)

  • CABARET: A maths-inspired variety show with a cast of creative mathematicians who use magic, stand-up comedy, re-enactments of famous movie scenes, and tattoos to uncover some of the mysterious secrets of maths. (7pm, Monday 11 October)

  • FILM/MUSIC: Digging Crates, at the Ultimate Picture Palace, a new documentary film following professional musicians from Oxford’s Inner Peace Records hip hop collective, as they create an original hip hop track using the Pitt Rivers Museum’s collection of traditional and tribal instruments. The event includes interviews with experts on the instruments, a music video filmed inside the museum and the chance to discuss the track’s development with some of the artists and researchers involved. (7.30pm, Wednesday 20 October)

  • FOOD: discover the chemistry of cooking with chef Jonas Lodge who started his culinary career with Raymond Blanc and has also worked with experimental chef Heston Blumental: he recalls that his proudest moments include seeing a tweet from the official Michelin Twitter account with a picture of his chocolate torte and malted cabbage ice cream!
    (digital events; 7pm, Monday 11 and Monday 18 October)

  • WALKING TOURS: a brand new Hidden Histories tour around Oxford to access the stories of communities marginalised in these streets in the past; and take a closer look inside the Oxford University Museum of Natural History in which the columns that decorate its interior were specially selected to illustrate the geology of Britain; and the geology of the city’s graveyards in the run up to Hallowe’en.

  • FAMILY: Visit the Cloud Factory, a short show for families with award-winning science educator Sarah Bearchall. Create, feel, hear, touch and even taste a cloud inside Oxford Town Hall! (2pm, 3pm and 4pm, Saturday 9 October)

  • Alice Beyond the Canal, a commissioned story & podcast that is a contemporary sequel to Alice Through the Looking-Glass. This twenty-first century episode marks 150 years since the publication of Alice Through the Looking Glass and takes curious teenager, Alice, from Oxford deep into the ocean and up amongst the stars. (7.30pm, Friday 15 October).

Festival Director Dane Comerford said “It’s been a long time coming, and we’re so happy to return to Oxford venues for dozens of in-real-life events, and also build on last year’s season in cyberspace, to share Oxford’s best ideas with anyone, anywhere. The Festival experiments with dance, comedy, film and music to stretch science both inside and outside the digital box. There’s a vast range of topics, uncovering hidden stories of marginalised communities – whether in human or animal societies – to questioning the ways technologies are changing all of our futures, or simply showing how a bit of chemistry can help you make a great cake! We try to make the programme really varied, and have developed projects over the past 12 months with scientists, public groups and artists, to take science out of the lab and into curious hearts and minds. Oxford is known as a powerhouse of innovation, and IF Oxford is a great chance to meet hundreds of researchers each on an exciting journey of intrigue and discovery.”

The majority of events are free to book; donations are welcome with the Festival using a Pay What You Decide ticketing model. For more information about IF Oxford, please visit www.if‑



Notes for Editors

The full IF Oxford programme is available from Thursday 26 August. Festival dates 9  – 26 October 2021; www.if‑

IF Oxford (Oxford Science and Ideas Festival) is an annual science and ideas Festival organised by Oxfordshire Science Festival (Charity number 1151361), working towards a world where the complexity, wonder and opportunities of scientific research and cultural topics are explored, challenged, celebrated and enjoyed across society. IF Oxford evolved from a Festival that began in 1992 and has since stimulated over a million science-related conversations. The Festival is supported by Arts Council England, UKAEA, UKRI and Oxfordshire business and cultural organisations including, Siemens Healthineers, Element Six, Elsevier, Oxford Playhouse, The Oxford Trust, Oxford Business Park, Blue Earth Diagnostics, ADTBio, Oxford Nanopore Technologies, Oxford North and BBC Oxford.

Most events are free to book; donations are welcome using a Pay What You Decide ticketing model, which is just one way IF Oxford reduces barriers to engagement with science and great ideas, while also being able to pay for a quality Festival.

Logos and images are available to download from the media pack:

For media enquiries, please contact:     

Festival Director: Dane Comerford;;

Communications Officer: Esther Lafferty;