(Ed's intro: Many of the weekend's Free Thinking events are currently available for catch up on iPlayer Radio. Others are being aired on Radio 3 at the moment - you can hear Islam and Christianity: The Essential Difference on Radio 3 at 10pm. I know that many people have already heard (and seen) them via the live online stream that ran over the weekend. - PM)
Radio 3 was in Gateshead at the weekend. We were there for Free Thinking, our annual festival of ideas and, for the first time time, we streamed live video from the festival all weekend - fourteen sessions in all.
We streamed Free Thinking this year for three reasons:
- It's a live event. We wanted to share the live experience with the people who couldn't get to the Sage Gateshead. So the streamed sessions ran in parallel with Radio 3's usual weekend output and provided a window on the event that wouldn't normally be accessible to listeners. Live events are an important part of Radio 3's output (600 concerts per year plus hundreds of other live programmes) and there's a growing expectation amongst our audience that live events will be 'visualised' in this way.
- Our speakers and contributors were fascinating and charismatic. Seeing them on-stage made a huge difference to the experience. Mary Robinson's look as she recalled an episode of casual male condescension from early in her career was precious and only available on the live stream. Likewise, much was to be learnt from the expressions and body language of debaters like Mona Siddiqi, David Aaronovitch and Polly Toynbee. Seeing charismatic figures like Amos Oz and Colm Toibin live on screen added a hug amount to the experience. It was gripping stuff.
- Ideas belong online. As a premium source of brainfood, Free Thinking sits alongside events like TED and Poptech, from organisations like the RSA and the Institute for Ideas, whose content is regularly streamed and shared online. Radio 3's speech output is hugely distinctive and we want it to exist alongside these other sources.
In Gateshead, the streaming operation was made possible by the Sage's excellent in-house video team and by producers from my own team, working alongside Radio 3's production and outside broadcast operations. We've archived the streams and will publish some of them in full on the Free Thinking web site soon. Meanwhile, you can listen to all of the Free Thinking sessions, including Sunday night's unique live drama and a special episode of In Tune, with live music from local artists, on the Free Thinking web site.