17–27 September 2020

Festival of the Mind 2020

A unique collaboration

Festival of the Mind is a unique collaboration between our academic colleagues and experts from Sheffield’s cultural and creative industries.

It is about welcoming the public and our students from all over the world – as we celebrate our University and our city, with themes that are both local and global.

The fourth Festival of the Mind, held in 2018, attracted 53,000 visitors to its performances, talks, exhibitions, virtual reality experiences and interactive events.

As with all our festivals, none of this would be possible without the commitment of the festival team and a host of volunteers – University staff, students and the public.

Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Festival Director:

Professor Vanessa Toulmin

Professor Vanessa Toulmin

I am delighted to welcome you to the University of Sheffield’s upcoming Festival of the Mind 2020, which combines our world-class research with the creative talent of the city. Together we have produced an array of free events, open to all, to engage, entertain and enthral.

As the festival evolves, our programme of national and regional partnerships grows ever stronger, and this year includes collaborations with Off the Shelf, BBC Music Day and Museums Sheffield.

We demonstrate our commitment to the communities of Sheffield through our city vibrancy programme. We do this by working with partners in the city to celebrate our heritage and our future; both of which are deeply rooted in making and collaboration.

The people of Sheffield make this festival dynamic, friendly and interactive, and we look forward to welcoming you all to the beautiful Speigeltent and our other venues across the city, this September.


Festival of the Mind’s global themes reflect the values of the University’s #WeAreInternational campaign. We launched this to show our support for international students and to ensure that their contribution to our economy and culture is recognised.

The Spiegeltent

A timelapse showing the magnificent Spiegeltent being built:

The Spiegeltent will return to Barker's Pool

The Spiegeltent in Barker’s Pool

Thank yous

Festival of the Mind team

  • Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Festival Director
  • Greg Oldfield, Marketing and Communications
  • Lesley Allen, Finance
  • Polly Wilson, Programming
  • Wendy Hobson, Events
  • Ian Knowles, Technical Manager
  • Mark Atkin, FutureCade
  • Tom Millen, FutureCade
  • Sara Unwin, FutureCade
  • Nick Bax, Visual Design, Human Studios
  • Graham McElearney, filming
  • Scott Barton, Production from Yellow Bus Events

All the academic staff, professional services staff and members of the creative community who are involved in Festival of the Mind projects.

Over 140 members of staff and students from the University of Sheffield who have volunteered their time to help run the festival.


  • Sheffield City Council
  • Sheffield Moor Markets
  • Sheffield Students’ Union

The University of Sheffield

  • Professor Gill Valentine, Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor
  • Dr Sarah Want
  • Fran Marshall, Amy Carter, Lynette Hodges in the Public Engagement team
  • Corporate Communications team
  • Rachel Latham and Rosie Skirrow, and all the Partnerships and Regional Engagement team
  • Chris Garlic and all the Estates team
  • Chris Hill and the Finance team
  • Paul Tetley and all the team in Design and Print Solutions
  • Penny Blackham, Sheffield Makes Music

Sheffield City Council

  • John Mothersole, Sheffield City Council
  • Richard Eyre, Angela Gower, Nicola Allen and the City Centre Management Team at Sheffield City Council
  • Tamar Millen
  • Kim Streets, Sheffield Museums
  • Howard Simpson, Special Events Team at Sheffield City Council


  • Now Then Magazine
  • Our Favourite Places
  • Human
  • Off the Shelf
  • Jack Arts (city centre posters)
  • Making Ways