Virtual event to explore York’s road to recovery post COVID-19 kicks of Festival of Ideas

This year’s York Festival of Ideas launched this week (2nd June) with an interactive panel discussion, in partnership with Make It York, exploring the city’s response when faced with the COVID-19 pandemic – and its future recovery.

An expert panel of speakers, chaired by Greg Dyke, Chair of Make It York, took to the virtual ‘stage’ to discuss how the city can harness the community spirit demonstrated throughout lockdown to achieve inclusive economic recovery in a way that benefits everyone. The virtual event had over 400 online participants with audience members able to join in the conversation via an interactive Q&A.

Make It York Chair, Greg Dyke opened the session, talking about the challenges facing York and our tourism industry. He discussed the city’s distinct ability to reinvent itself and the unique expertise we have across multiple sectors from science and technology, to the digital & creative industries.

This was followed by a thought-provoking presentation from York-based Juliana Delaney, CEO of Continuum Attractions on city’s resilience and the overall impacts of lockdown. Juliana talked on how residents will be the key to York’s future and the re-evaluation needed across the city about what we stand for and our “unique point of difference.” Signe Jungersted, CEO of Group NAO who helped transform tourism in Copenhagen, then went on to address the future of the tourism industry in York and the need to adapt to a sustainable model that considers local communities.

Valuable insights were also shared by Joanna Norris, Chief Executive of ChristchurchNZ, on the lessons that could be learnt from the way the people of Christchurch, New Zealand, responded to the devastating earthquake of 2011: “We will respond, we will recover, we reposition for the future”, ending with the Maori proverb “We are all in this together.”

A presentation from Walter Boettcher, Chief Economist at Colliers International followed this – providing a highly useful national perspective and outlining the change needed as we plan for the future and the opportunities to shift York’s offer and “form a new foundation to take things forward.”

Professor Charlie Jeffery, Vice-Chancellor of the University of York also outlined ideas for driving innovation and inclusive economic growth, citing opportunities like York Central, devolution and building on the city’s history. Finally, City of York Council Leader Keith Aspden then took to the virtual ‘stage’ to summarise the evening’s debate and how York as a city can only truly overcome the challenges we face by working in partnership with partners, local residents, businesses and our communities.

Initial feedback online for event was very positive with tweets from audience member praising the line-up of guests and the interesting content discussed: 

For those who were unable to watch the event live, you can watch the event here:

The York Festival of Ideas runs until 14th June with a diverse programme of talks, music and activities. Find out more and book tickets by visiting

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