The first Festival of Ideas took place in 2011, organised by ‘Changing Chelmsford’ with the aim of providing Chelmsford with “a series of stimulating events”.

The Festival has continued every year since. 


The 2020 festival was on the theme of “Art heals” with 2 special exhibitions: one on Dying Matters and one on Black Lives Matter. We welcomed 100,000 visitors from all walks of life and backgrounds including many residents from ethnic minorities and many young people.


All the events in the 2019 Festival were free to those attending, and kindly funded by the Civic Society (from a National Lottery Community Fund grant), Arts Council England, the Ragdoll Foundation, with a number of sponsors sponsoring specific events.

  • Light Parade (See ‘Festival of Lights’) supported by the Ragdoll Foundation, Arts Council England and the National Lottery community fund             
  • Ubuntu Day: a day of cultural exchanges with theatrical, music and dance performances, workshops and food from local cultures
  • Mental Health Poetry Competition: we have received over 200 poems and are supporting a touring exhibition linked with the youth project “1919-2019: 100 years of Mental Health”
  • Essex Young Poets of the year Award: supporting Essex Poetry Festival ensuring continuity of the project.
  • Green Events: A Talk in partnership with Essex RSA and a Play by the Journey Men theatre in partnership with Chelmsford Quakers

2018 (in partnership with the wider End of WW1 anniversary program of events)

  • The first Light Parade: to bring the community together including a wide variety of ethnic groups (supported by crowdfunding)
  • WW1 Poetry Project (including a poetry competition, talks, film) with local schools and the community (supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Chelmsford Civic Society)
  • Chelmsford Women who rocked the boat: A combination of debates, talks, walks, and a dedicated map with Chelmsford City History Walks (supported by an HM Government grant)
  • The Calais Children and War Schools: film screenings & discussion and talk by the film directors (supported by Chelmsford Quakers)

2017 (in partnership with Arts of the Possible Festival (Essex County Council festival))

  • Chelmsford City of Culture Bid Debate with RSA, Civic Society and Chelmsford City council
  • The Future of Chelmsford: exploring sustainable solutions with ARU department of Architecture and Think Tanks and businesses- directed by Martina Juvara from Urban Silence LTD
  • STEM event for young people (with a grant from Crafts Council England)


2012-2016: Talks/ debates & discussions/ “ideas and innovation” workshops, local events, STEAM workshops and more etc

2011: Organised by ‘Changing Chelmsford’ with the aim of providing Chelmsford with “a series of stimulating events”.