27th April saw the launch of Leeds International Festival of Ideas which, unlike previous years, will be staged over a single weekend between 22nd and 25th September, and also in a single venue, Howard Assembly Room. Some of the events will be run concurrently utilising the Mantle Music Studio in the same building. In all there will be 10 presentations with some of the top experts in their respective fields.

We were given an outline of the aims and background of the festival by Andrew Cooper, Chef Executive of Leeds BID, who then ceded the stage to Martin Dickson, Head of Festival, LIFI, to go into the specifics.

He said that the events had been timed so that those with a similar theme didn’t clash and hoped that this would allow as many visitors as possible to attend those in which they were particularly interested.

After the two speakers, there was a panel discussion covering some of the items which will be raised in the Festival proper. It also reflected the format of the long weekend as the programme comprises presentations by individual presenters, which last for about an hour each, and panel discussions, again made up of specialists looking at the subjects from different perspectives, which are allotted an hour and a half each.

If you need me to tell you who is who, you are not paying attention! Apart from the BSL signer.

The whole thing kicks off on Thursday, 22nd September at 7.00pm in Mantle Music Studio with the snappily titled ‘Is The Metaverse Our Future Reality?’ This is a discussion involving a look at what our digital lives could look like in the future. Contributors are Leanne Elliott-Young, Dr Neil McDonnell, Ahmed Razek and Matthew Warneford. The host is Lara Lewington who, in the event of things getting out of hand, should be able to press the virtual mute button.

Laura Lewington

Meanwhile in the Howard Assembly Room at 7.30pm there is a presentation by Yotam Ottolenghi on the ‘Universal Language of Food’, in which he explores the ways in which food brings people together. I don’t think he means the queue in the take-away on Saturday night when the pubs shut, but who knows?

Yotam Ottolenghi

Friday 23rd September sees a discussion entitled ‘How Do We Talk About Mental Health?’ Hosted by Bryony Gordon with contributions from Luke Ambler, David Harewood MBE, Sarah Hughes and Gail Porter. This begins at 7.00pm in Mantle Music Studio.

Bryony Gordon

Howard Assembly Room’s Friday slot on 23rd sees a talk by Aisling Bea at 7.30 on ‘Contemporary Voice of Screenwriting’, when she will describe what it means to be a BAFTA-Winning screenwriter in 21st Century.

Aisling Bea

Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th September both have triple-headers.

Saturday begins with ‘What’s Wrong With Climate Activism? at 3.00pm in Howard Assembly Room, a panel discussion hosted by Judy Ling Wong CBE, with contributions from Pauline Castres, Sara-Elvira Kuhmunen, Dominique Palmer, Lee Pivnik and Hamza Yassin. Always providing that the roads aren’t blocked by climate protestors.

Judy Ling Wong CBE

After the last quip, I think that I need to be at Howard Assembly Room at 7.00pm to hear the discussion entitled ‘What Can You Laugh About? The event is hosted by Jamali Maddix who will be questioning where the lines are/should be drawn. He will have the assistance of Ayishat Akanbi, Rosie Jones and Geoff Norcott.

Jamali Maddix

Bringing Saturday’s programme to a close in Mantle Music Studio at 7.30pm is David Olusoga who will look at ‘history wars’ and asks where they might lead us in his presentation ‘Britain and the History Ways’.

David Olusoga

The Sunday triple-header begins at 3.00pm in Howard Assembly Room with a discussion called ‘Is Social Media Ruling The World?’ Please be aware that this is NOT fake news, or so my algorithm indicates. The host is Sonia Sodha with panelists Dr Al Baker, Africa Brooke and Christopher Wylie.

Sonia Sodah

The Sunday evening sessions see another panel event in Howard Assembly Room at 7.00pm ‘Does Sport Have A Social Duty?’ The panel comprises Gary Bennett MBE, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Simon Jordan and Gareth Thomas. The host is Charlie Webster who I hope is fully equipped with red and yellow cards.

Charlie Webster

The Festival is brought to a close at 7.30 on Sunday evening in the Mantle Music Studio by Mary Beard asking ‘Arts and Culture – A Price Worth Paying?’ As the title suggests she will be exploring how we can best defend, and pay for, arts and culture. This is a question which will be on everyone’s lips should they decide to go visit every event they can over the weekend.

Mary Beard

Having said that, the tickets are modestly priced at either £10 or £15 with concessions available, so pretty reasonable.

To access the full programme and buy tickets please go to https://leedsinternationalfestival.com/ where you will find all you need to know.

I hope that you manage to get to at least one of the events on offer, I am sure that you will leave better informed and more fulfilled than when you arrived.

Launch photographs by Stan Graham

Images of speakers and feature image provided by Chapter81

One thought on “Leeds International Festival of Ideas 2022

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