Cambridge Union: Open Period Programme

Dario Colajanni 24 September 2018

Founded in 1815, with over 70,000 lifetime members, the Cambridge Union is now the oldest debating society in the world and the largest student society in Cambridge: over half of the student population owns a membership. The Union is at the core of student activity – a symbol of Cambridge experience – a unique forum which is the home for the largest and most prestigious university and school debate competitions in the whole Country. But the Union is not only about debate. Throughout its history, the Cambridge Union hosted many great political figures such as Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan, but also actors, sportspeople, scientists and Nobel prizes. For years student have had the opportunity to meet and question some of the most influential people worldwide.

Now the Union is ready to kick the new term off in grand style, as the important tradition demands. Doors will be open from 1st to 10th October for a series of events: all members of the Cambridge community are invited. The aim of these events is to offer a sample of the rich programme the Union will be offering this Michaelmas Term, which is going to be a jam-packed one as promised by Charles Connor, President of the Cambridge Union.

No Confidence

The main event of the Open Period will take place on Thursday 4th October, 7:30 pm, starting off an ambitious programme of eleven debates. The Union chose to begin with the traditional “No Confidence in Her Majesty’s Government” motion, hosting some of the leading political figures of the Country to discuss the Chequers Plan and Theresa May as Prime Minister. This urgent debate will launch a series of set-piece discussions putting the Union at the centre of our national conversation. We’ll have the opportunity to hear from Labour’s last Minister for Europe Chris Bryant MP; former Energy Secretary Sir Ed Davey MP; the eccentric arch Brexiteer Peter Bone MP; Bone’s Leave colleague Sir Desmond Swayne MP, and Conor Burns MP, one of Boris Johnson’s closest political allies. Most importantly, one student member, who auditions effectively, will be given a chance to take on the Government as one of the Union speakers. This event represents a unique and unrivalled experience, a fantastic way to end Freshers’ Week.

Defending Democracy worldwide

The Open Period programme will not be limited to our domestic political debate: on October 2nd at 6pm, the Union will host Martin Lee, considered the “father of democracy” in Hong Kong, along with other three icons of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement. The youngest lawmaker in the history of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, Nathan Law, and Benny Tai, the initiator of the 2014 Umbrella Movement. Nobel Peace Prize contender Joshua Wong will be speaking via video link, after his imprisonment earlier this year.

From East to West

The following evening, 3rd October at 6pm, Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook comes to the Cambridge Union to discuss his research on the impact of cyber-terrorism on American democracy, which he conducted at Harvard after securing a highly prestigious placement. The discussion will also include an analysis of the political debacle in 2016 Presidential Election and considerations on the upcoming Midterms.

Not just politics.

After a Cambridge victory last year, the famous Varsity debate (9th October 7:30 pm) will pit some of the finest young university debaters against each other, in a battle of wits. Reaffirming their commitment to student debate, the Union want to confirm their chamber as the venue for national discussion.

Open Period is meant to offer a glimpse of all the interests at the Union. Not only Westminster and Capitol Hill, but also Hollywood. In recent years, the Cambridge Union has hosted actors from Judi Dench to Harrison Ford, and on the 9th October (6pm) Michelle Rodriguez, star of the Fast and Furious franchise, will  now be visiting – following another Hollywood star, to be announced in the termcard, who will appear in a closed event on Saturday afternoon.

The Open Period programme is also complemented by many social events. The full programme of which is reported below.

President Charles Connor said of the Open Period,“The Union is, and has always been, about discussing the big issues with the biggest names. We are starting the term as we mean to go on.”

Expectations are high, but we’re sure that the Cambridge Union has the right credentials to fulfil them.

Open Period Programme:

1st October

7pm: Sparkling wine reception – meet the committee

8pm: Debating launch

2nd October

6pm: Nathan Law, Martin Lee, Benny Tai (Hong Kong dissidents)

8pm: John Clark-Levin – University Challenge quiz

3rd October

6pm: Robby Mook (Clinton’s 2016 Campaign Manager)

4th October

7.30pm: NO CONFIDENCE – Chris Bryant MP, Sir Ed Davey, Peter Bone MP, Sir Desmond

Swayne MP, Conor Burns MP

5th October

6pm: PMQs

6th October

10am: Freshers’ Brunch

Midday: Hollywood star – To be announced

8th October

7pm: Race Panel

9th October

6pm: Michelle Rodriguez

7.30pm: Varsity debate