Australian and American politics, freedom and innovation, racial violence, sports, drugs and punk-rock poets – the eighth Festival of Dangerous Ideas takes over the Sydney Opera House in September, with leading thinkers exploring the world’s most urgent issues and provocative ideas.
This year’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas — curated by the Sydney Opera House Talks & Ideas team of Ann Mossop and Danielle Harvey, with Simon Longstaff from The Ethics Centre as curatorial adviser — features over 50 speakers across 24 solo sessions, 12 panels and one free workshop.
Activist and co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter Alicia Garza will deliver this year’s opening address and talk with Stan Grant, while the festival’s finale will be a brand new part-talk, part-performance collaboration with Resident Company Bell Shakespeare interrogating the concept of mercy in The Merchant of Venice.
In 2015, FODI sold over 30,000 tickets to the weekend at the Sydney Opera House, with a further 465,000 people engaging through digital content and seven satellite events across Western Sydney, regional Australia and New Zealand. This year’s festival footprint is set to further expand. More than 15 satellite events are already locked in across Australia, to take Dangerous Ideas to the Northern Territory, South Australia and Canberra for the first time.
The 2016 Festival of Dangerous Ideas is a chance to explore and interrogate the issues that otherwise ignite and divide us – from generational inequality to politics as usual, from the quality of mercy to the sources of suicide.
Australian speakers in the 2016 Festival of Dangerous Ideas lineup include:
- Commentator Andrew Bolt taking over the regular FODI session “How Many Dangerous Ideas Can One Person Have?”;
- FODI favourites Annabel Crabb and David Marr dissecting the recent Australian political campaign in light of their respective biography subjects, Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten;
- Journalist Tracey Holmes, controversial sports scientist Stephen Dank, former Olympic swimmer and media commentator Lisa Forrest, academic Jason Mazanov and former IOC boss Kevan Gosper on legalising drugs in sport; and
- Former Kevin Rudd political staffer Jennifer Rayner on the intergenerational inequity anatomised in her book, Generation Less.
International speaker highlights from the FODI 2016 program include:
- Visual artist and Drawing Blood author Molly Crabapple, whose pen has taken her to Syria, Guantanamo Bay, Gaza and Occupy Wall Street, bringing her memoir of art, activism and anti-authoritarianism to the stage, and her unique artwork to ‘FODI-land’ on the Festival of Dangerous Ideas website;
- Former Black Flag frontman and spoken-word performer Henry Rollins, commentating on the blood sport that is US politics;
- We Need To Talk About Kevin author and journalist Lionel Shriver (The Mandibles), arguing for the social and health benefits of breaking a rule a day;
- Author of The Magicians trilogy, TIME’s book critic and tech writer Lev Grossman, bringing his two worlds together to pose the provocative position that “There are no good books” – as well as discussing the so-called Golden Age of Surveillance when it comes to the groundbreaking legal case “Apple vs. The FBI”;
- The Economist’s Environment Correspondent Miranda Johnson urging us to stop fishing the high seas;
- Inuk activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier describing failure to act on climate change as a gross violation of Inuit human rights in her talk about ‘the right to be cold’;
- Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them author Philippe Legrain suggesting we should forget about border protection and “Open the Borders”;
- Historian of technology Lee Vinsel arguing persuasively for maintenance over innovation.
Other key features of the FODI 2016 program include:
- “Mercy: Justice and the Law vs. Compassion” – a unique blend of talk and performance, in collaboration with Bell Shakespeare, that brings the courtroom session from The Merchant of Venice to life, featuring top Australian actors John Bell and Brian Lipsonalongside the academic insights of Shakespeare scholar and renowned feministGermaine Greer, philosopher AC Grayling, and lawyer and human rights activistMichael Kirby;
- “Can We Solve The Asylum Seeker Crisis?” – a free forum for audiences and general public presented by Guardian Australia with David Marr and expert panelists from the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, Get Up!, UNHCR and the Human Rights Law Centre;
- The opportunity for arts centres, theatres, museums, libraries, galleries and other cultural centres to livestream Lionel Shriver’s “Break a Rule a Day” and Annabel Crabb andDavid Marr’s “The Government We Deserve?” from the Sydney Opera House onSaturday 3 September, creating their own local program as satellite event partners. There is still time for satellite event partners to get involved, firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The Sydney Opera House’s Head of Talks & Ideas and co-curator of FODI, Ann Mossop, says“This year, Festival of Dangerous Ideas will truly live up to its name, with speakers from around Australia and the world presenting a mix of profound or challenging personal stories and experiences alongside radical ideas that challenge perceived wisdom and the status quo.”
Executive Director of The Ethics Centre and co-founder of FODI, Simon Longstaff, says “The world is a tumultuous place. Trust in our major institutions is at an all-time low. Name-calling and denunciation is at an all-time high. At times like this it’s tempting to keep our heads down and seek comfort in what’s safe and familiar. Or you can brace yourself, be challenged and try to make sense of the world around you. You can be chafed and swayed. You can come to FODI.”