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2010 Event Media Release - Festival of Dangerous Ideas

Issued 10 August, 2010

Sydney Opera House presents
Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2010
in association with St James Ethics Centre

2 - 3 October 2010, various venues



Sydney Opera House today announced the return of Festival of Dangerous Ideas, set to take place over the long weekend from 2 - 3 October, 2010.

In its second year, Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2010 aims to once again stimulate conversation, provoke debate, excite and (hopefully) enrage audiences, covering some of the unspoken, unmentionable and invariably thorny issues of the modern world.  

From a debate between two of the world’s most extraordinary legal minds, Geoffrey Robertson and Alan Dershowitz on the scandal of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, to an argument for a “free-range kids” movement, the Festival of Dangerous Ideas will cover the big issues alongside the things that matter in everyday life.

Over two days, a host of speakers – from thought-leaders to the stirrers, academics to bloggers - will present their original arguments on such dangerous topics as: Why the Religious Will Inherit the Earth, What We Can Learn from Terrorists, why We Are All Climate Change Deniers, that The Pursuit of Happiness is Making Us Miserable  and Australian Husbands are the Worst in the World and Why it is Women’s Fault.

In association with the St James Ethics Centre, Sydney Opera House has invited some of today’s most relevant thinkers to share their views including international guests; Geoffrey Robertson, Alan Dershowitz, New York columnist, Lenore Skenazy, author of Wired for War P.W. Singer,  British-Pakistani writer-filmmaker, Tariq Ali, author of Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth, Eric Kaufmann and creator of the blog Stuff White People Like, Christian Lander alongside Australians; Paul McGeough, John Keane, Clive Hamilton, Steve Biddulph, Cordelia Fine, Marcus Westbury, Andrew Leigh, Rebecca Huntley, Hugh Mackay, Anne Manne, John Quiggin, David Marr, Lindy Hume, Ross Gittins, Waleed Aly and more.  

Sydney Opera House CEO, Richard Evans says, “We live in a world where talkback radio, focus groups and polling appear to have a greater and greater impact on those people making decisions about our way of life. Our second annual Festival of Dangerous Ideas will give clear air to discussions around the big issues and attempt to reclaim the ‘listening ground’, transforming timid thinking into robust thought”.

Sydney Opera House Head of Public Programs and curator of Festival of Dangerous Ideas, Ann Mossop, says, “This Festival takes a look at dangerous ideas in a serious way, but we’re not afraid of looking in a more light-hearted way at the whole idea of what is dangerous.  We are engaging with the big issues – war, politics, climate change, terrorism- as well as looking at the things that matter to people in terms of how they lead their lives in Australia today”.

Festival Co-curator and executive director of St James Ethics Centre, Simon Longstaff says, “The key to enjoying this festival is to come along ready to encounter at least one idea that makes your blood boil – and then take it entirely seriously. You may not change your mind – but you will have at least tangled with the arguments ... and perhaps, have defeated them”.

As the official opening event of the Festival, two of the world’s most outstanding advocates, Geoffrey Robertson and Alan Dershowitz, will discuss question of who is accountable for the sexual abuse of children within the Catholic Church in the debate, The Sins of the Fathers: Should the Pope to be held to account? A Harvard Law Professor and distinguished defender of civil liberties, Alan Dershowitz is also considered the “best known criminal lawyer in the world” and his clients have included Mike Tyson, OJ Simpson and Claus von Bulow. Head of the largest human rights practice in Britain and author of several books, Geoffrey Robertson has been involved in many landmark cases in constitutional, criminal and media law, including action against Chile’s Augusto Pinochet and was an appeal judge in the United Nation’s War Crimes court in Sierra Leone.

Geoffrey Robertson will continue on the topic of accountability in his talk, No One is Above the Law on Sunday October 3, exploring whether there is some way despotic leaders can be held responsible for crimes against humanity.

In a light-hearted closing event of the Festival, Christian Lander, author of the satirical blog and book, Stuff White People Like will discuss the meaning behind his tongue-in-cheek etiquette guide to Caucasian culture. Bringing an Australian perspective to the conversation, The Chaser’s Julian Morrow will join Lander, Lenore Skenazy and others in a panel discussion about whether the brands, products and activities described in his hilarious list have become foundations of who we are, replacing family, religion, race and culture.

Also on Sunday, New York newspaper columnist, Lenore Skenazy tells how she was  labelled “America’s Worst Mom” after she let her nine-year old son ride the subway home and how she fought back in the midst of a media maelstrom, by starting movement for “free range kids”.

Covering the serious issues: British-Pakistani writer and filmmaker Tariq Ali asks whether there is anything terrorists can teach us, considering their tactics have changed the world; Academic and defence expert, P.W. Singer looks at the implications of sending robots to the frontline in Wired for War; John Keane argues that Fossil Fuels are Bad for Democracy; and Clive Hamilton asks whether we are all climate change deniers, in spite of our good intentions.

In his first trip home to Australia since making headlines for being caught up in an Israeli-raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, Australian foreign correspondent, Paul McGeough will give his account and ask whether these recent events have shifted control of the story and what this means for Western support for Israel.

On the Arts front, writer, broadcaster and indie-arts leader, Marcus Westbury asks What’s so special about Opera?; and David Marr and Sydney Festival Artistic Director Lindy Hume tackle the question of whether or not art makes us better people.

Two leading economists will argue for a change in economic-thinking: as John Quiggin believes that we need to bury the “zombie” economic ideas that brought the world to crisis-point and Ross Gittins proposes that Australians would enjoy a higher quality of life if economic growth were stopped.

Other events include: Anne Manne asking whether children are worth it; Andrew Leigh making the bold claim that Canberra is the Best City in Australia;  and Hugh Mackay asserting that The Pursuit of Happiness Will Make You Miserable. For Delusions of Gender, psychologist Cordelia Fine uncovers whether there really is any difference between male and female brains; while author and Australian Father of the Year, Steve Biddulph argues it’s time we developed a better understanding of manhood; and social researcher Rebecca Huntley concludes that Australian Husbands are the Worst in the World and Why it is Women’s Fault.

The Public Speaking competition that was the hit of last year’s Festival, Soapbox makes a return on Saturday October 2 as the public are once again invited to tell the audience their most dangerous idea in less than two minutes. Judged by David Marr and Annabel Crabb, the Soapbox winner will be given the opportunity to share their idea with an audience of 2000 people in the Concert Hall.

Other opportunities for audience discussion and debate include; IQ2 Debate, If You Want Peace, Forget Justice; and presented by newdemocracy foundation, World Café: Is Politics Killing Democracy? Politics will be the order of the day on Saturday October 2 when Festival of Dangerous Ideas hosts two panels: Good Ideas = Bad Politics and Is Right the New Left?

Season Details:

Event:           Festival of Dangerous Ideas
Date:            Saturday 2 October– Sunday 3 October, various times
Venue:         Sydney Opera House, various venues
Tickets:        $20-65. Multipack discount available (phone bookings only)
Bookings:     (02) 9250 7777 or online at

Media Enquiries:
Helene Fox Sydney Opera House (02) 9250 7805 / 0412 085 032 /

Keep up to date with Festival of Dangerous Ideas: Follow us on Twitter @SOHNews  #FODI
Find us on Facebook at ‘Ideas at the House’  and at

Sponsored by: newdemocracy foundation

Media Partner: Sydney Morning Herald


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