Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival 2013 asks 'Who's in Control?'

BBC Radio 3’s arts and ideas programming aims to be at the forefront of current debates and we’re delighted that our Free Thinking Festival will once more bring leading thinkers to audiences in the North East, and to listeners around the country." Matthew Dodd, Head of Speech Programming, Radio 3
Date: 18.09.2013     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 18.11
Category: Radio 3
BBC Radio 3 brings together leading thinkers for a weekend of provocative debate, new ideas, music and performance at Sage Gateshead from Friday 25 to Sunday 27 October.

Now in its eighth year, Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival will take place once again at Sage Gateshead from Friday 25 to Sunday 27 October 2013. The festival brings together high-profile figures from the worlds of arts, science, politics and literature to discuss and challenge current thinking on a range of topics, this year focusing on a theme of 'Who's In Control?', with lectures and discussions on self-control and surveillance, risk taking and revolution, power and powerlessness.

All events are free to the public. Tickets will be available from Thursday 19 September. For further information and to book tickets visit

Free Thinking is broadcast on BBC Radio 3 over the weekend and in the three weeks following the festival. All the debates and lectures will be available as downloads.

Highlights across the weekend include:

  • England’s first female Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, outlines the risks of antibiotic resistance and how we control disease
  • Novelist Lionel Shriver, author of Big Brother and We Need to Talk About Kevin, explores obesity, our obsession with body image, and controlling our appetites
  • Pioneering medical researcher Sir Michael Marmot looks at the traits that determine a healthy life and argues for a need to rethink the relationship between health, wealth and self-control
  • Novelist Patrick Ness, the acclaimed author of The Chaos Walking Trilogy and A Monster Calls, discusses who’s got hold of our children’s imaginations
  • Cellist Matthew Barley shares the risks and thrills of improvising
  • Filmmaker Penny Woolcock began her directorial career at Trade Films in Gateshead. For One Mile Away, she brokered and documented the peace process between inner-city gangs
  • Scientist Barbara Sahakian debates controlling your mood and mind and the morality of smart drugs with Poppy Shakespeare, author and columnist Clare Allan, and psychoanalyst Darian Leader
  • Poet Sean O’Brien on surveillance in the North East science fiction classic, We, written by Russian novelist and Tyne shipyard-worker Yevgeny Zamyatin
  • Sendhil Mullainathan, Professor of Economics at Harvard, investigates scarcity and how not having enough shapes the way we think
  • Head of Ordnance Survey, Dr Vanessa Lawrence, discusses mapping with historian Jerry Brotton

Free Thinking will be hosted by Radio 3 Night Waves presenters, including Anne McElvoy, Philip Dodd, Matthew Sweet, Samira Ahmed and Rana Mitter. They will be joined by this year's newly announced BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinkers, who will be delivering a series of essays on topics ranging from the Vikings and Victorian sexual politics, to what it means to feel ecstatic.

Radio 3's shows Music Matters, The Verb, In Tune and Words And Music will be recorded in front of audiences, with guests including cellist Matthew Barley, actor Kevin Whately, and fiddle player and Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell. For the first time, Private Passions and The Choir will also be part of the festival.

Matthew Dodd, Head of Speech Programming at Radio 3, says: "With technological and scientific advances aiding our understanding of the way we make decisions, there’s never been a better time to discuss the subject of control. From some of the bigger questions - should we take more risks? How should we behave in a shifting, unstable world? - to some of the more focused - What can classically trained musicians learn from improvisation? - BBC Radio 3’s arts and ideas programming aims to be at the forefront of current debates and we’re delighted that our Free Thinking Festival will once more bring leading thinkers to audiences in the North East, and to listeners around the country."

Event and Ticket Information

Notes to Editors

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

BBC Radio 3 broadcasts classical music, jazz, world music, arts and drama programming. As the home of classical music, BBC Radio 3 features more live classical music programming than any other and is the home of the BBC Proms, broadcasting every Prom live and over 600 complete concerts a year. The station is committed to supporting new talent - thinkers, composers, and new young performers through schemes such as New Generation Thinkers, World Routes Academy, New Generation Artists - and is the most significant commissioner of new musical works. BBC Radio 3 is committed to arts and ideas programmes all year round, with regular strands including Night Waves, The Essay, The Sunday Feature, The Verb and over 30 new drama programmes a year.

Sage Gateshead is both a national live music venue and a centre for music education located in the North East of England. The local, national and international concert programme runs all year round and incorporates all kinds of music. It is home to Royal Northern Sinfonia, the Orchestra of Sage Gateshead, and the Folkworks programme. The extensive Learning and Participation programme enables everyone of every age or ability to become involved in music. The building, designed by Lord Foster, incorporates outstanding performance spaces of internationally acclaimed acoustic excellence.