With amazing music, performance and art, Free Fest has been a bastion of student life since the late 1970s. This year, the very best local bands and student bands will come together to perform alongside dancing groups and comedy acts all ably hosted by two well-known local compères. The coming together of local residents, performers and Surrey students make this special event one not to be missed.

Outdoor stage Man playing guitar Family enjoying the outdoors Free Fest at night

A celebration of University of Surrey talent

Throughout the day we’ll be showcasing the wealth of student talent here at the University of Surrey. There will be performances from our award-winning Big Band; the extremely talented GSA Singers; and the University Gospel Choir, a diverse group of students and local residents with one important thing in common: a passion for great music!

One Spring Afternoon

One Spring Afternoon is a collection of superbly talented local musicians. They come from all walks of life but all call Guildford and the surrounding area their home, having played at the GT Live Sessions and Open Mic nights, both run by local singer songwriter Gavin Thomas.

Evening at Free Fest

Once the Festival of Wonder draws to a close at 5pm, Free Fest will continue into the evening with entertainment, food and drink. We hope that you will join us for what’s sure to be a wonderful evening, proudly concluding the University of Surrey’s 50th Anniversary party.

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11am: Find a Reason Big Enough

Professor Noel Fitzpatrick, The Supervet, Founder of Fitzpatrick Referrals and the University’s School of Veterinary Medicine inspires with the story of his career, from his home in Ireland to becoming a highly respected orthopaedic veterinary surgeon renowned for his pioneering surgical techniques, including the most advanced bionic limb prostheses in the world today and his life enhancing work investigating and treating disease.

Noel has long had a dream and a passionately held belief that a single shared medicine linking human and animal health is a model for solving today's health problems for both species.

11.30am The Secret to Sunshine all Year Round: the forgotten nutrient

Head of the Department of Nutritional Science, Professor Sue Lanham New, shares her tips for enjoying sunshine all year round, and gives her best advice for including the right vitamins and minerals in your diet.

12.00pm: “How to Catch Cancer While it’s Napping”

One in two people will get cancer in their lifetime and catching cancer early is key to improving survival. Dr Katriina Whitaker, psychologist and Lead in Cancer Care, explains what you can do help yourself, and those you love, catch cancer before it wakes.

12.30pm: How to win an EMMY

How do you get from a picture in the Yorkshire Post and playing a cornet in a brass band, to the glittering lights of Hollywood? Alumnus and Emmy winning composer Michael Price – who wrote the music for Sherlock, Unforgotten, and a whole host of other TV and film hits, and arranges music for everyone from Dido to Metallica! – shares his story.

1.00pm: Festival of Wonder Law Wonder Court

Life is full of complicated problems for which the law is sometimes asked to find solutions. At first sight answers may be seen as obvious, but realistically it is a lot more complicated!

Come and see what side of the argument you fall on...

2.00pm: Custodians of Memory: how to write your family memoir

Monica Ali, Writer in Residence at the University of Surrey and the award-winning author of Brick Lane - shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and adapted to a blockbuster film of the same name - will provide tips on how you can collect the unique and amazing memories of your loved ones and create your own family memoir.

2.30pm: Silent Witness: the unblinking gaze from satellites keeping watch over the Earth"

Sir Martin Sweeting, OBE, the founding father of Small Satellites, tells the story of his extraordinary vision and shares some of the amazing, inspiring and beautiful pictures taken from space, that are helping to shape the world we live in today.

3.00pm: ‘Better living through Political Science” Simon Usherwood, Reader in Politics

Politics shouldn’t be something that happens to you: it should be something that you take part in. Taking a few simple ideas, this talk will show you how to understand and shape the political world around you.

3.30pm - The Secrets of the Universe

The Sky at Night, CBBC star and multi-award winning physicist, space scientist and science educator Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE takes you on an exciting journey to explore the wonders of our galaxy. Join her to blast off into space and find out more about the planets and stars that make up our universe.

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Full of fascinating and exciting displays and interactive activity, the Wonder Zone will bring to life some of the amazing scientific and technological discoveries being developed here at Surrey.

Satellite Rocket heat exposure Looking at closeup Using a VR headset Paramedic practise

Learn more about our awe-inspiring solar system, see Surrey Satellite Technology Limited’s (SSTL) satellites in action and discover how our academics are helping clear rubbish from the atmosphere. You can also take a tour of the skies through our 16 inch telescope and see what you can discover!

Let our expert researchers in the field of health sciences and nutrition help you improve your everyday living and achieve a healthier lifestyle, with personalised tips and interactive showcases. Plus, join our save-a-life sessions and take a selfie of your own heart!

Experience virtual reality and see how we might live when 5G technology is in place and driverless cars become a reality.

Plus, find out about the revolutionary discoveries helping our law enforcements agencies, see our Student Formula 1 car in action, take part in our Mini competition, in honour of our alumnus who invented Britain’s most iconic car, and see the beautiful 1930s Bentley, whose engine is being lovingly brought to its ultimate glory, by one of our Engineers.

Passport to your future – interactive fun for kids

Fancy using your detective skills to solve the crime and catch the criminal? Practise your presenting skills in front of a TV camera? Extract DNA – known as the blueprint of life – from a strawberry? Or check what superbugs you may have on your hands?

Take part in our interactive Passport to the Future and you can! Each participant will get a stamp on their Festival of Wonder passport, for every activity they take part in, and when they have completed a minimum of four they will ‘graduate’! Also, find out about studying at university and how you can go on to the many careers and professions you’ve seen around the Festival.

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Jim Al-Khalili, OBE, is an alumnus and Professor of Physics at the University of Surrey. Presenter of the BBC Radio Four’s prestigious ‘The Life Scientific’, he holds a Chair in the Public Engagement in Science and was awarded the inaugural Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication in 2016.

Jim Meets... Brian Blessed

It is with great pleasure we welcome Brian as our guest of honour for the University’s 50th Anniversary Birthday Party.

The son of a South Yorkshire coal miner, Brian was born in 1936 in Mexborough and grew up in the mining village of Goldthorpe. Brian trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School before beginning a distinguished and varied career, which has led to him being one of the country’s best known, most highly respected and loved actors. He is also an intrepid explorer having attempted Everest three times and shares a passion for science with Jim!

Now a Surrey resident, Brian is well known locally for his patronage of the Guildford Shakespeare Company.

Book your place from 31 March (free)

Jim Meets... Mark Evans

As a TV presenter, vet, science explorer and petrol head, Mark enjoys an unusual but exciting career! Hear more about his extraordinary life and work, including the making of some of the most revolutionary nature programmes, such as the BAFTA winning Inside Nature’s Giants and Bigfoot Files.

Mark has also worked with his fair share of furry companions, worked on Channel 4’s Pet Rescue, BBC1’s Barking Mad, plus the extremely popular, Dogs: Their Secret Lives.

As a Guildford resident, we are lucky to have Mark joining forces with our School of Veterinary Medicine to launch our 50th Anniversary Citizen Science project, finding out more about the county’s cats and dogs.

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Portrait - Jim Al-Khalili Portrait - Brian Blessed Portrait - Mark Evans Surrey stag


Head of the Guildford School of Acting (GSA), Sean McNamara, hosts his inaugural 'In conversation with...' for our 50th Anniversary year. The series will welcome the stars of stage and screen and we are delighted to see two of our most distinguished alumni join us for this special event.

Cast ensemble Emma Barton Ian Kelsey

Emma Barton

Emma graduated 1998 and is most notable for her role as Honey Mitchell, part of the infamous Mitchell family, in EastEnders. She has also enjoyed a varied career surrounding this role with stage work including London’s West End, The RSC and several National Tours.

Click here to read more.

Ian Kelsey

Since he graduated from the GSA in 1992, Ian has barely been off TV sets and is most recently starring in Coronation Street. He is also known for his roles as Dave Glover in ITV Soap Emmerdale, Patrick Spiller in the BBC Drama Casualty and Howard Bellamy in daytime soap opera Doctors. Plus, for his six-year long role as Detective Inspector Richard Mayne in the TV crime series Blue Murder alongside Caroline Quentin. Ian has also had several major roles on stage including playing the starring role of Andy Dufresne in Bill Kenwright’s production of Shawshank Redemption and Callahan in Legally Blond.

Book your place from 31 March (free)

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We are delighted to welcome stars of the rugby, netball and cricket worlds for our Celebrity Sporting Panel, hosted by John Inverdale. We will welcome former British and Irish Lions coach Sir Ian McGeechan OBE, the Chairman of the English RFU Andy Cosslett, ex-England cricketer and Director of Women’s Cricket at Surrey, Ebony Rainford-Brent, Director of Surrey Storm Netball Tania Hoffman, and Academy and Global Development Director at Harlequins, Tony Diprose.

Train with the pros

Get expert coaching from some of the county’s top athletes, including netball masterclasses with Superleague champions Surrey Storm and basketball coaching with Surrey Scorchers. There will also be a variety of taster sessions in other sports.

Bookable from 31 March

Hit the pool

There will be free family swimming on the day in the Sports Park’s 50m Olympic pool. Come and take a relaxing dip with us!

Family fun

With sport sessions and a family fun zone including games, demonstrations, competitions and meet and greet sessions, as well as food and drink stalls.

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Team in pre-kick off huddle Men playing rugby Children playing sports


Only the eighth School of Veterinary Medicine in the country, and with a fresh approach to educating students our cutting-edge school offers the most exciting advancements in animal healthcare. Our ‘One Health’ approach to human and animal science means that the research we are doing also supports human health!

Female vet with two goats Group in stables with cows

Have a tour of the school and take part in some of our hands-on demonstrations.

You can practise your animal bandaging, run an animal health check and discover what parasites are under the microscope. As part of our Passport to the Future, each participant will get a stamp, for every activity they take part in, and when they have completed a minimum of six they will ‘graduate’ from the Festival! Pick up your passport at the registration desk.

You can also learn the important art of mindfulness with the fantastic Pet Therapy dogs. Pets as Therapy is the largest organisation of its kind in Europe, enhancing thousands of lives every single day. Work with these wonderful animals to learn tips for relaxation or take part in our story-time session.

Visit the Vet School Farmyard to meet the Surrey Wildlife Trust animals.

Learn about the fantastic work that Surrey Wildlife Trust do and how they and their animals support the Vet School.

Travel to the Vet School is via (an optional) Horse and Cart ride from the Surrey Sports Park. You will be taken on ride by Daniel and his beautiful working horses, recently seen on the BBC1 Farmers Country Show Down.

On the way back to the main site you can stop off at our Fun Zone situated in front of the Vet Zone.

More special animal related activities will be announced in the run up to the day.

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Don’t go hungry, come and sample the very best of Surrey’s food and drink, try out your chocolate making prowess, or even go on a magical visit to Wonderland!

Bottles of beer Pouring tea Collection of cheeses Cheese board Child with vegetables

A Taste of Surrey

Pop in to the Festival of Wonder Marquee and discover our “Taste of Surrey”. Here you will find handmade cheese, a sushi demonstration, locally brewed beer and cider, a gin “Like no Other” and many more wonderful, locally produced food and drink to be sampled and taken home.

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

Make your way to the circus tent and you will discover a very merry tea party. Feast on an array of delicious treats in Wonderland with Alice, the Mad Hatter and, if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the White Rabbit. Please be aware, we’re all mad in here and so there will be some special surprises awaiting you!

Book your place from 31 March (free)

Chocolate workshop

Feel like "Charlie in the Chocolate Factory" with our very own Pastry Chef and Chocolatier wizard, David Hill, during this chocolate crafting workshop in the University’s own à la carte Lakeside Restaurant within the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

Book your place from 31 March (free)

Artisanal outside catering

If walking around and taking in all these wonderful things is making you hungry, do not fear, the Festival will have a myriad of artisan food outlets to satisfy your appetite! Grab a taste of delicious street food, or stick to more traditional fare, by visiting our mobile caterers beside the main Wonder Marquee.

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Come on over to the Kids’ Zone where there will be a whole host of activities to keep the little ones entertained!

Have you visited our Vet School yet and met the animals? If you come and see our fantastic face painter you can be made up as your favourite creature. Perhaps you’ll be a tough tiger, a cute kitty, a cheeky monkey or even a stag like our mascot Steve the Stag!

Kids can also jump around on our celebration bouncy castle or speed down our inflatable bungee run! With all activities supervised and our bouncy castle limited to safe numbers, through ten minute ticketed sessions, you can be sure they’ll have safe fun!

Been to the Mad Hatter's Tea Party? Continue the fun on our spinning tea cups ride. And whilst you are there make sure you grab your free stag antlers and sweet treats as the University of Surrey celebrates its Golden Anniversary.

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Two children with ice cream Boy sliding on inflatable slide Boy getting Tiger face paints

Supporting your University in its 50th Year

50th Anniversary