New drama, new research, new thinkers... BBC Radio 3 unveils Free Thinking Festival's full line-up

We hope audiences at the Sage Gateshead and those listening at home will be challenged, impressed, intrigued and stimulated by the ideas and speakersMatthew Dodd, Head of Speech Programmes at Radio 3
Date: 20.10.2011     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 18.15
BBC Radio 3 announces the full line-up to its 2011 Free Thinking festival of ideas in Gateshead from 4 to 6 November, with new speakers joining prominent thinkers including Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales, Germaine Greer, Giles Fraser, Susie Orbach and William Hague.
  • The Fades, This Is England '86 and Skins writer Jack Thorne is creating a cutting-edge new drama especially for the Festival, which will be performed and broadcast live on Radio 3
  • Neuro-scientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore uses research to argue that it's time to rethink our attitudes towards youth and the place of teenagers in society
  • The winners of Radio 3's New Generation Thinkers Scheme – the search to find the brightest new academic voices – will join in debates, discussing their research
  • This year the theme is 'Change' and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales will be launching Free Thinking by giving his vision on how the internet will continue to radically alter the world.
  • Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon William Hague MP, will be discussing the dramatic political changes taking place throughout the globe, and Britain's role in this transforming world order.

Novelist Margaret Drabble, leading heart-surgeon Francis Wells, film-maker Molly Dineen, historian Linda Colley, poet Jackie Kay, space scientist Kevin Fong, children's author David Almond, neuro-scientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore and best-selling Turkish author Elif Shafak – all will be tackling new and pressing topics in front of live audiences.

Now in its sixth year, Free Thinking takes place at The Sage Gateshead from 4 to 6 November and is a platform for today's innovative thinkers, who examine the world of ideas through talks, interviews, debates, original drama, essays and live performance.

All events are free and the festival is then broadcast by Radio 3 for the following three weeks.

This year's central theme is Change: exploring the mania for change sweeping the globe. Also up for debate: what should schools be for today?; the impact of an energy crisis on our civilisation; a reassessment of the much-maligned Luddites to mark their two hundredth anniversary in November; and a debate on the changing nature of news which will be jointly hosted and simulcast with BBC Radio 5 Live, in a special partnership between the two radio networks.

Mercury-nominated Newcastle band Maximo Park will be playing on BBC Radio 3's The Verb. Soprano Lisa Milne will be performing with members of Northern Sinfonia in . And Jack Thorne (Skins, BBC Three's The Fades) has written a new drama set on the night of the riots, A Summer Night, to be broadcast live from the festival.

Matthew Dodd, Head of Speech Programmes at Radio 3, said: "We hope audiences at the Sage Gateshead and those listening at home will be challenged, impressed, intrigued and stimulated by the ideas and speakers at this year's Free Thinking festival of ideas.

"These are original lectures and talks, commissioned especially for Radio 3, and delivered in front of an audience so that members of the public can debate issues directly with leading thinkers. It should be a feast for the intellect, whether you are at the weekend, or hearing the broadcasts."

Highlights

  • Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, who has created one of the most referenced sources of knowledge on the planet, will be launching Free Thinking by giving his vision on how the internet will continue to radically alter the world.
  • Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon William Hague MP, will be discussing the dramatic political changes taking place throughout the globe, and Britain's role in this transforming world order.
  • Neuro-scientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore uses research to argue that it's time to rethink our attitudes towards youth and the place of teenagers in society.
  • Skins and The Fades writer Jack Thorne has created a new drama especially for the festival, which will be performed and broadcast live on Radio 3 from the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art on Sunday 6 November. A Summer Night is set on the night of the recent riots.
  • Horizon presenter and NASA scientist Kevin Fong argues that now is no time to pull back from space exploration. Calling for a second space age, he believes Britain should be at the forefront of space science.
  • Susie Orbach, Britain's most high-profile psychotherapist, will challenge society's obsession with personal change and physical perfection.
  • Best-selling Turkish author Elif Sharak discusses her writing and the challenges facing modern Turkey as it seeks to become part of the EU.
  • Germaine Greer will question the idea of freedom, arguing that the pursuit of freedom has caused havoc throughout the world and calling for a new version of liberation.
  • Francis Wells, one of the world's top heart surgeons, discusses the future of the heart, his work at the cutting edge of surgery, and his fascination with Leonardo da Vinci.
  • Academic Julian Savulescu will be arguing the case for human enhancement – why new technologies such as genetic manipulation and selection should be embraced, and why drugs should be legal in sport.
  • Visionary architect and designer Charles Jencks will discuss his new work, Northumberlandia, the world's largest sculpture of a human form, currently being created near Cramlington.
  • The winners of Radio 3's New Generation Thinkers Scheme – the search to find the brightest new academic voices with a talent for broadcasting – will join in debates, discussing their research and taking part in Speed Dating with a New Generation Thinker, where the public will have the chance to meet them face to face and test them on their ideas.
  • Events are hosted by Radio 3's presenters including Night Waves' Anne McElvoy, Philip Dodd, Matthew Sweet, Juliet Gardiner and Rana Mitter, The Verb's Ian McMillan and Music Matters' Tom Service.

The Free Thinking events will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 for three weeks, beginning with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales's keynote speech about the internet at 10pm on Friday 4 November, and continuing in various slots on Radio 3 including each weekday at 10pm.

The complete broadcast schedule is available to download from bbc.co.uk/freethinking/.

The Free Thinking Festival takes place at The Sage Gateshead from 4 to 6 November 2011. It consists of over 30 events over three days, all of which are free. Book now by calling The Sage Gateshead ticket office on 0191 443 4661 or online at www.thesagegateshead.org.

More information on the Free Thinking Festival and this year's brochure can be found at bbc.co.uk/freethinking/.

Notes to Editors

The Free Thinking Festival was established by Radio 3 in 2006 as a platform for innovative thinking and debate on ideas relevant to contemporary society. This is the festival's third year at The Sage Gateshead. Previous speakers at the festival include Brian Eno, David Milliband, Fiona Shaw, Tony Benn, Kevin McCloud, Albie Sachs, Jacqueline Wilson, Ian Paisley, Soweto Kinch, Lisa Jardine, William Orbit, Lionel Shriver and Will Self.

BBC Radio 3 publicity