Bonnie Wright, Tom Odell Confirmed for Lent at the Cambridge Union

14 January 2019

The Cambridge Union today released its term card for Lent 2018. Headline stars include Bonnie Wright, notable for portraying Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter film franchise, singer Tom Odell, and the larger-than-life actor Brian Blessed. Wright will be a happy substitute for Harry Potter fans disappointed by the failure of the Phelps twins to speak as promised last term, while Odell fans will no doubt wonder whether he will emulate James Blunt by performing a song for the audience in the chamber.

These stars are accompanied by Radio 1 DJ Reggie Yates, as well as Kaz and Josh of Love Island Fame and queen of the high-streets, Mary Portas. Meanwhile, politicos will get the chance to see the Rt Hon the Lord Dubs, notable for drafting legislation to offer unaccompanied refugee children safe passage to Britain, LGBT campaigner Peter Tatchell, and Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis. The chamber will also be addressed by former Prime Minister of Spain, José Luis Rodriguéz Zapatero, and military historian Antony Beevor.

These stars are accompanied by the usual Thursday night debates in a term card whose confirmed speakers are split 50/50 male and female, traversing a wide range of subjects from foreign aid, to Brexit, to the NHS’s status as a ‘national religion’. The line-up for these debates appears to prioritise expertise over name-recognition value, a welcome shift for those tired of often entertaining but unproductive showdowns. Discussing the motion ‘This House Believes that British Identity is Fundamentally Racist’ – a provocative topic sure to engender heated discussion – will be Sunder Katwala, director of the identity and integration think-tank British Future, while the first female Private Secretary at No.10 will be debating with notable feminists and academics on the motion ‘Thatcher Was a Feminist’.

Lent President Will Smart described the term card as having “something for everyone”, saying: “there are also some speakers with less name recognition but who nonetheless have incredibly interesting stories to tell, so I encourage everyone to read the term card and come along to some of our events in Lent.” The Presidential debate, traditionally the last of term, is provisionally pencilled in as a debate on a People’s Vote. Smart said: “Of course, with Britain due to leave the EU in March, we couldn’t go the term without addressing the one issue that is overshadowing all others.”

Last term saw a number of high-profile speakers drop out at short notice, although the chamber was still able to attract plenty of stars, notably psychologist Jordan Peterson and Apple designer Jony Ive. In comments to TCS about the problem of flaky guests, Speakers Officer Cecily Bateman said: “High-profile dropouts are every Speakers Officer’s worst nightmare. When you’re dealing with such big names, who have such demands on their time, the situation can flip at a moment’s notice- we had literally confirmed Adam Driver down to the details of sending him a photo of where to park his car!” She promised to stay in regular communication with speakers, “even once all the details are confirmed and paid” to minimise short-notice changes, while promising that she’s “still working on a lot of speakers for this term, so if there is a dropout, hopefully there are some great surprises coming to make up for it!”

This term, Union members will for the first time be able to audition to lead the events by interviewing speakers, an initiative that comes after debates in Michaelmas were regularly opened to students to participate as a keynote speaker. People confirmed to be open to student interviews include Odell, Deontay Wilder, Nadine Strossen, Ann Olivarius, and Eva Schloss, although the Union is still to confirm precise details about auditions.

 

            ***

Full Term Card:

Speakers

January

22nd – Jo Dunkley, OBE, award-winning astrophysicist.

23rd – John Leeson, actor voice of K9 on Doctor Who.

25th – Brian Blessed, OBE.

February

1st – Rt Hon the Lord Dubs.

11th – Eva Schloss, holocaust survivor and step-sister of Anne Frank

12th – Peter Tatchel, human rights campaigner.

15th – Nadine Strossen, former president of the American Civil Liberties Union.

16th – Ann Olivarius, sexual harassment lawyer.

16th – Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility: Why it’s so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.

19th – Diarmaid MacCulloch, historian

20th – Mary Portas, TV personality and retail expert.

22nd – Deontay Wilder, WBC heavyweight title boxer

26th- Tom Odell, singer.

March

4th – Reggie Yates

5th – Love Island’s Kaz and Josh

5th – José Luis Rodriguéz Zapatero, former Prime Minister of Spain

6th – Bonnie Wright

6th – Antony Beevor, WW2 historian.

7th – Baroness Hale, President of the Supreme Court

13th – Marco Pierre White, Michelin-star chef.

TBC

Emily Maitlis, BBC Newsnight presenter.

Jack Lew, Obama’s Secretary of the Treasury from 2013-2017.

Tawakkol Karman, public face of the 2011 Yemeni uprising.

Lady Arden, third female UK Supreme Court Justice

 

Debates

17 January – This House Believes Britain’s Relationship with Saudi Arabia Cannot Be Justified

24 January – This House Believes British Aid Isn’t Working

31 January – This House Believes Thatcher Was A Feminist

7 February – This House Believes the Genetic Modification of Humans is the Future of Healthcare

14 February – This House Is in the Mood for Love (Comedy Debate)

21 February – This House Believes that British Identity is Fundamentally Racist

28 February – This House Believes We Have Not Learnt from the Financial Crisis (in partnership with CAMFIS)

7 March – This House Regrets the NHS’s Status as a National Religion (in partnership with Cambridge MedSoc)

14 March – This House Supports Another Referendum on Britain’s Membership of the EU (subject to change depending on the course of Brexit over the coming weeks)