Calvin Klein and Leona Lewis head star-studded termcard as Union promises lower fees

Elsa Maishman 11 January 2016

The Cambridge Union’s Lent 2016 termcard has been released, featuring a wide range of speakers including Mark Hamill, the actor who played Luke Skywalker, Leona Lewis and Jeremy Vine.

The Union will also host a public consultation event in late January/early February for their upcoming building development. Notably, they say they “will be able to reduce the membership fees” after the building improvements bring in “great commercial revenue”. 

The debates this term are also dominated by prominent speakers, with the former Crown Prince of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, debating the issue of “having no diplomatic relations with Iran”, while Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham will be debating whether “the Conservatives have been unfairly demonised.”

Additionally, in a break with two centuries of tradition, debate will be put on hold to instead discuss the topic “We need to talk about mental health” with mental health experts. Dialogue speakers will include Patricia Gianfrancesco, mental health campaigner and talk show host, and Sarah Hughes, CEO of Mind in Cambridgeshire.Umang Khandelwal from Newnham College said she welcomes the mental health dialogue since “mental health and well-being are crucial aspects of the student experience at Cambridge.” “There is a lot more work that needs to be done to raise awareness about and destigmatise mental health issues, and to increase support for students. The Union’s mental health forum is a small way of contributing towards that effort." Reflecting on the line-up, Union President James Hutt remarked: "We're all looking forward to a brilliant term… We hope the debates will address some of the issues that students are already talking about on a day to day basis, whilst bringing the leading experts in their field to Cambridge to add their views.”

Also of note are the new debate discussion groups, implemented at members’ requests. These informal meetings will be held on Thursday afternoon at 2pm in the Union Bar for members to discuss debates in a “more relaxed setting than the chamber”.

Commenting on the possible reduction in membership fees, Joey Tan of St. Edmund’s College said that while he would welcome the move, he was “not sure that the great commercial revenue would be sufficient to reduce the membership fees by much.” He added: “I understand that the Union is largely funded by membership fees and that they incur extra costs to fly high profile speakers in, but I think there have been concerns about whether the Union has been grooming itself into an exclusive club for the rich and elite.”