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2009 Event Media Release - Festival of Dangerous Ideas

Issued 30 July, 2009

Festival of Dangerous Ideas

3-4 October, various venues

Sydney Opera House presents its inaugural Festival of Dangerous Ideas on 3 and 4 October, 2009.

Presented in association with the St James Ethics Centre, the Festival will give voice to both thought leaders and the public who will debate ideas ranging from the transformational to the ‘water cooler’ discussions of everyday life.

Sydney Opera House CEO, Richard Evans said, “The Festival of Dangerous Ideas grew out of a conversation lamenting the lack of public debate, and a retreat from courageous discussion at all levels within Australian society. A key role of Sydney Opera House is to provide a home for the exchange of ideas, to stimulate, provoke, and prick us into a fresh consciousness about the world we inhabit.”

In partnership with The Sydney Morning Herald, the Festival begins on Saturday 3 October with Soapbox, a Public Speaking competition on the steps of the Opera House. Judged by David Marr and Annabel Crabb, Sydney Opera House invites the public to be provocative, insightful and witty by lobbing their verbal hand grenades into the public arena.

The Festival Opening Night address features renowned intellectual provocateur Christopher Hitchens with Tony Jones discussing why Religion Poisons Everything. Other celebrated speakers include Germaine Greer discussing Freedom, Baroness Susan Greenfield debating whether Online Networking harms children’s brains, Julian Savulescu advocating Genetic enhancement of the human race, Keysar Trad arguing that Polygamy is a valid choice for Australians and Dambisa Moyo on Why aid is not working for Africa. The festival will explore ideas that give us a chance to reassess where we are, and where we want to go.

IQ2 Australia, (Intelligence Squared Australia – an initiative of the St James Ethics Centre) has assembled an international panel of speakers to debate the contentious proposition that Democracy is Not for Everyone. Like all IQ2 debates, the audience will be invited to join the floor debate, before determining the outcome with their vote.

Executive Director, St James Ethics Centre, Dr Simon Longstaff said, “Bombs, guns and bullets may be dangerous. Closed or complacent minds make them lethal. That’s why we need ideas that pierce the boundaries of conventional belief and prise open our thinking. The Festival of Dangerous Ideas will almost certainly cause moments of outrage, hopefully sharpen perspectives and help to define where we stand and what we will not stand for.”

While the core of the Festival will be talks, forums, discussions and debate, there will also be physical theatre performances by Team Loko and Dangerously Funny - an ideas driven comedy gala MC’d by Judith Lucy and starring Eddie Perfect, Casey Bennetto, Paul McCarthy as Kevin Rudd, and Reggie Watts amongst others.

Sydney Opera House Head of Public Programs, Dennis Watkins said, "This is a festival for people who like to think about the world and their place in it. Most of us live with assumptions about the way the world is and the way it should be. I hope this annual festival challenges those assumptions, takes us out of our comfort zones and puts the blowtorch to prejudice.. The most dangerous ideas are those that are held but not held up to examination."

The Festival of Dangerous Ideas will question the status quo, provide a platform for the undiscussed issues facing our community and introduce Sydney to some of the most singular and controversial thought leaders of our time.

For further information contact:
Claire Vince, Senior Publicist / 9250 7825 / 0401 711 531


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