BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page was last updated in April 2009We've left it here for reference.More information

Accessibility help
Text only
BBC Homepage
BBC Music
BBC Radio 3

Radio 3

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!


All the events

The Free Thinking Festival of ideas had a weekend of live events in Liverpool, 9th-11th November 2007 and continues on the radio and online.

Many events in the schedule below link through to video vox pops from the festival plus you can votes on some and comments on all the debates.

More video vox pops from people attending the live events will be added soon.

Time Event Venue

15:00 - 16:00 Debate

1. What's the point of university? Is University there to get you a well-paid job, to turn you into a civilised citizen or to give you three years of fun? With NUS President Gemma Tumelty, businessman Dougal Paver, Gerald Pillay,Vice-Chancellor of Liverpool Hope University, and Kelvin Everest, Public Orator for the University of Liverpool.

University of Liverpool, Lecture room B, Lecture Theatre Block

19:00 - 20:00 Lecture

2. Phil Redmond: The Free Thinking LectureProfessor Phil Redmond, founder of Mersey TV and writer and producer of some of British television’s most influential drama, is today one of Liverpool’s leading voices on the city’s creative, media and technological future. He launches Free Thinking 07 with a personal and wide-ranging exploration of the competing political and cultural forces redefining our personal identities: “Whose identity is it anyway?”.

St George's Hall, Small Concert Room

21:30 - 22:15 Performance

3. Live edition of The Verb Poet Ian McMillan is joined by Liverpool poets Paul Farley and Eleanor Rees who'll be discussing the legacy of The Mersey Sound - the collection by Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten published forty years ago which is now seen as a landmark in the history of British poetry. Acclaimed young playwright Lizzie Nunnery will be unveiling a brand new short drama, written especially for the show, there's an Eartoon from the inimitable Peter Blegvad and singer songwriter Candie Payne will be performing live.

BBC Radio Merseyside, broadcast on Radio 3
Time Event Venue

10:30 - 11:30 Guest speaker

Books at Breakfast with The Reader: Adam Phillips The Reader is a unique organisation which celebrates books, writers and readers. In the first of two Free Thinking events hosted by The Reader, psychoanalysist and writer Adam Phillips talks about his study of madness and sanity in today's society, Going Sane.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.

BBC Radio Merseyside

10:30 - 11:30 Debate

4. "Exams prove nothing and should be abolished."Meet the Free Thinkers of the future. Radio Merseyside’s Roger Phillips keeps the peace between two teams of young debaters from Liverpool schools. In collaboration with the English Speaking Union.

FACT The Box

11:30 - 12:30 Guest speaker

5. Distributed Genius: The fragile disorder of the internet. One of the internet’s key thinkers, Tom Loosemore pays homage to the brilliance of the founders of the net and warns against damaging the fragile ecosystem they created.

FACT Screen 3

12:00 - 13:00 Free Thinker

6. Philip Collins: Rhetoric in a prosaic age.Philip Collins, until recently Tony Blair’s chief speech writer, has seen sophisticated modern political communication from the heart of government. Now he asks: just how effective is it at reaching out?

FACT The Box

12:30 - 13:30 Debate

7. Are you a prisoner of yourself?Civil liberties and human rights put freedom in the headlines, but have we forgotten that the most powerful freedom we have is in our heads? With psychoanalyst and acclaimed writer Adam Phillips and motivational speaker Jane Kenyon.

FACT Screen 2

13:30 - 14:30 Free Thinker

8. Siobhan Davies: A gesture is worth a thousand wordsOne of Britain’s most influential dancers and choreographers, Siobhan Davies believes that we need to be more aware of the importance of physical communication in our daily lives. Join her and one of her dancers to explore the power of communication without words.

FACT The Box

14:00 - 14:30 Drama

9. Free Thinking short drama.Three writers dissect our contemporary experience of freedom in short plays specially commissioned for Free Thinking. Spider by John Siddique,A Northern Elegy by Nick Leather and Walkie Talkies by Kaite O’Reilly.

FACT The Bar

14:00 - 15:00 Landmark

10. Boys from the BlackstuffWriter Alan Bleasdale joins a round table of guests for a special event dedicated to re-assessing one of British television’s most important dramas 25 years after it first hit our screens.

BBC Radio Merseyside

14:30 - 15:30 Debate

11. Are we Freer than we think?Is freedom in peril from CCTV, smoking bans and ASBOs? Or, in an individualistic and deference-free age, are we freer than we’ve ever been before? Speakers include Tony Blair’s former aide Philip Collins, Justice Albie Sachs from South Africa’s Constitutional Court, freedom of information campaigner Heather Brooke and Chief Constable of Merseyside Police Bernard Hogan-Howe.

FACT Screen 2

15:00 - 16:00 Participation event

12. Speed Dating with a thinker.Date ten thinkers in 30 minutes! Your chance to flirt through a series of intimate encounters with experts waiting to seduce you with the most exciting idea for the future. Everyone gets a chance to votes for the most attractive one – idea that is…

FACT The Bar

15:00 - 16:15 Discussion

12a. Playing with Place - the challenge of Location based audio drama. Discussion chaired by Jeremy Mortimer, Executive Poducer, BBC Radio Drama.

Geolocation, connected to mobile devices, opens up a whole new world for audio drama. Audio prompts can take the listener on a physical journey, searching for clues, following a trail, interacting with other people, or with electronic tags. How can broadcasters work with sound designers to deliver personalised content ?

Dr Stephen Boyd Davis and Helen Bendon, from the Lansdown Centre for Electronic Arts at Middlesex University, together with sound designer Nye Parry and producers working in BBC Radio Drama present some of their current work in location-based audio.

For further information please contact Jeremy Mortimer, 0207 557 1188.

BBC Radio Merseyside

15:15 - 16:15 Free Thinker

13. Tim Smit: Inspiration in EducationTim Smit is inspirational co-founder and Chief Executive of the multi-award winning Eden Project. Eden is about connecting plants, people and places and is a living demonstration of regeneration. Tim believes that only bold thinking will tackle Britain’s educational crisis.

We regret that, because of circumstances outside of anyone's control, Tim Smit was unable to lead this session.

FACT The Box

16:00 - 17:00 Lecture

14. Mike Figgis: Is there too much culture?Mike Figgis is the academy award-nominated director of Leaving Las Vegas and Timecode, and one of the most innovative and successful British film-makers working today. His lecture will challenge our understanding of a healthy culture.

FACT Screen 1

17:00 - 18:00 Interview

15. Albie Sachs: 'A life in pursuit of freedom'Albie Sachs came to prominence as one of the most influential members of the ANC in the days of Apartheid. After solitary confinement and exile, he was the victim of an assassination attempt by South African security agents which cost him an arm and an eye. Today, he sits as Justice Sachs in South Africa’s Constitutional Court. He talks about his remarkable past and his hopes for the future.

FACT Screen 2

17:00 - 17:30 Drama

16. Newly commissioned plays on freedom.Another chance to hear three new short plays on freedom. See event 9 above.

BBC Radio Merseyside

17:15 - 18:15 Free Thinker

17. Peter Butler: Britain's first face transplant.A rare opportunity to hear and ask questions of Peter Butler, the pioneering surgeon who is preparing to perform the first ever face transplant in the UK.What does your face mean to you?

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.

FACT The Box

18:30 - 19:30 Drama

18. Yesterday an Incident Occurred.“Please don’t let the cameras bother you. Act normally. Smile or frown or… cry.Whatever you feel is appropriate. But in no way should you let the cameras bother you.” A new play about our relationship to the war on terror by Mark Ravenhill. Performed in the Victorian civil court of St. George’s Hall.

Civil Court, St George's Hall

20:30 - 22:15 Performance

19. Words and Music Live.A special evening of live music and poetry inspired by freedom. Liverpool’s Ensemble 10/10, singer Jennifer John and saxophonist Tim Whitehead join Radio 3 New Generation Artist Gwilym Simcock at the piano. They perform a wide-range of music accompanied by readings from actors in the atmospheric and newly refurbished Small Concert Room.

Also with Cathy Tyson and Mark McGann.

Small Concert Room, St George's Hall.
Time Event Venue

10:00 - 12noon Walk

20. Walk: Freedom of the city. Join artist Jean Grant on a unique walk through the stories of Liverpool’s past. Look below the city’s modern surfaces to uncover the forgotten characters who shaped the city’s history. Distance two miles. Bring all-weather clothing. Children must be accompanied by an adult. In partnership with ‘Pool Project.

Start at Salthouse Dock, finish at FACT.

10:30 - 11:30 Guest speaker

Books at Breakfast with The Reader: Rose Tremain The Reader is a unique organisation which celebrates books, writers and readers. In the second Free Thinking event hosted by The Reader, novelist Rose Tremain comes to BBC Radio Merseyside to talk about The Road Home, her novel about a polish migrant worker and his experiences in Britain.
To obtain free tickets to this event please visit

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.

BBC Radio Merseyside

10:30 - 11:30 Workshop

21. Meditation Workshop Meditation is probably the oldest way to free your mind, yet it’s enjoying a resurgence in 21st century workplaces, GP surgeries and sports clubs.Come and give it a try.

FACT The Box

12noon - 13:00 Panel discussion

22. Whatever happened to childhood? With a rise in bullying, family break-up and consumer pressure, has a paradise now turned into a battleground - quite literally? Free Thinking brings together a panel of writers, historians, youth professionals and younger voices for challenging perspectives on modern childhood.
With Dr Sami Timimi, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist with Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Trust; David O'Brien, headmaster of St Teresa's Catholic Primary School in Norris Green, Liverpool; Tim Gill, former director of the Play Council and author of "No Fear: growing up in a risk-averse society"; Pat Nelson, Liverpool-based youth and community worker; Kate Clanchy, journalist and writer.

Assemble FACT Screen 2

12noon - 13:00 Free Thinkers

23. Free Thinkers: "What's theatre for?" Theatre is one of the oldest forms of public entertainment. But what must it do to stay vital in today’s multi-media world? Felix Barrett of the cutting-edge theatre company Punchdrunk, and Gemma Bodinetz of the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse propose radical solutions.

FACT The Box

13:00 - 13:45 Special programme

24. Go4it Calling all 6 – 11 year-olds! How free do you think you are? Come along and join Kirsten O’Brien for a special edition of Go4it, BBC Radio 4’s children’s programme.We look at how free children once were, are today and might be in the future. Please note: this is an event for children and all children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

BBC Radio Merseyside

13:30 - 14:30 Free thinker

25. Free Thinker: "What are prisons for?" Anne Owers is HM Chief Inspector of Prisons having previously been director of the human rights organisation Justice.As Britain’s prison overcrowding worsens, she asks what this tells us about our society as well as our prisons.

FACT The Box

14:00 - 15:00 Lecture

26. Space: why are we there? The 21st century has brought renewed vigour to space exploration. But have we yet answered the fundamental questions about why we want to be there? Professor of Space Science at the Open University John Zarnecki draws on over 30 years of experience of space missions to attempt an answer.

FACT Screen 2

14:15 - 15:15 Participation event

27. Speed Dating with a thinker. Another chance to date ten thinkers in 30 minutes. For details see event 12 on Saturday. Also on Saturday at 15:00

FACT The Bar

15:00 - 16:00 Conversation

28. Is this the Brave New World? Aldous Huxley’s famous 1930s novel Brave New World foresaw a disturbing society where unhappiness has been eliminated by technology. Leading science thinker Professor Steve Jones, screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce, novelist Sarah Hall and poet Paul Farley argue over the book’s continuing relevance.

BBC Radio Merseyside

15:15 - 16:00 Debate

29. The People's Choice debate You decide the debate.votes for one of four subjects proposed by Liverpool thinkers and then join a discussion where only the audience takes the mic. Listen to BBC Radio 3’s Night Waves from 22nd October and make your choice.

FACT The Box

16:15 - 17:15 Debate

30. Have we destroyed the dream of equality? The gap between rich and poor grows wider. Science increasingly tells us that more of our life chances are determined at birth. And we value difference as much as shared experience.What hope for equality? Roger Phillips hosts a debate including Bishop of Liverpool James Jones, bioethicist Tom Shakespeare, and writer Munira Mirza.

FACT Screen 1
Time Event Venue

Fri 18:15 Film

The Battle of Algiers, Gillo Pontecorvo, (Algeria/Italy) 1966 A searing account of the Algerian War of Independence. The New York Times reported that the Pentagon warned officers against making mistakes in Iraq by showing this film.

The Free Thinking screening of the Battle of Algiers will be specially introduced by Joseph McGonagle, Lecturer in cultural studies in the French-speaking world at Manchester University.

FACT The Box

Sat 19:00 Film

The Spirit of the Beehive, Victor Erice (Spain) 1973 Often cited as the definitive film about the nature of childhood, this haunting fable centres on a young girl’s obsession with Frankenstein’s monster.

The Free Thinking screeing of the Spirit of the Beehive will be specially introduced by Carol Poole, head of media at Edge Hill University and one of the judges of the Hong Kong and Chinese film festival.

FACT The Box

Sun 18:30 Film

Offside, Jafar Panahi (Iran) 2006 A smart and revealing comedy about a group of Iranian female fans who try to get into a football stadium, despite a ban on women attending matches. The winner of an Amnesty International film award in 2006.

The Free Thinking screening of Offside will be specially introduced by Rogan Taylor, Director of the Football Industry Group at Liverpool University.

FACT The Box
Time Event Venue

Saturday and Sunday

Philosophy in Pubs Everyone’s a thinker. Come and join Liverpool’s pioneering group for philosophical stimulation in a relaxed atmosphere. Philosophy in Pubs will be resident in the FACT bar during the weekend for you to continue the debates started in the FACT screens and Box.


Big Screen Liverpool

Fri 9 - Thu 22 Nov


'Concrete cannot stop them' In association with the BBC Radio 3 Festival of Free Thinking, the Big Screen Liverpool presents an international selection of video and interactive work that responds to pervasive surveillance. Hail the rise of the all-seeing eye. Curated by Bren O'Callaghan.

Details below

Clayton Square

Big Screen - Film Details

The Spectral Children

Manu Luksch (UK/AT 2006, 15 min)
Using CCTV images obtained over a 4-year period under the UK Data Protection Act, artist and filmmaker Manu Luksch replaces regular cameras with these preinstalled surveillance devices, a film crew with the data controllers, and a script with the law. An abridged interpretation of the feature-length project, Faceless.

Faceless © Manu Luksch

Camouflage 1

Penelope Cain (AU, 2005, 4:20 min)
Stressed, anxious and alienated in his urban habitat, a white-collar worker attempts to camouflage himself within his city environment. By obsessively taping sheets of printed copy paper over his body, he mimics the chameleon instincts of small animals sensing danger through an act that makes him ironically conspicuous. An Experimenta New Visions Commission.


Katy Connor (UK, 2007, 12 mins)
This audio-visual piece fuses themes of urban surveillance with body memory as airborne cameras scan the arterial routes of a city grid. Suffused, pulsing with flesh and metal, the impersonal becomes intimate via a surgeon's gaze. But who wields the knife? Made in collaboration with Sound Artist Helena Gough.

Birds Over The White House

Michael Bell-Smith (USA, 2006, 5 mins, excerpt)
Lo-fi yet sharply relevant, this pixel-cute blueprint of the White House when transposed upon the Big Screen brings to mind the massive video walls of cold war blockbusters D.A.R.Y.L. and War Games. A generative algorithm maps the plane-like movement of birds as they encircle the President's sanctum.

Birds over the White House © Michael Bell-Smith

Massive Attack: Protection

Dir. Michel Gondry (UK/FR, 1995, 6:38 mins)
The camera as voyeur, free to roam, unseen, omniscient, unblinking. The guilt-free gaze is key to our visual interpretation of the world and never more beautifully realised than in this classic music video tracing the tiny lives of the residents in an apartment block. Observation unfettered.

Protection © Michel Gondry


Fri 9 - Sun 11 Nov: 14:00, 17:00, 20:00
Mon 12 - Thu 22 Nov: 10:00, 12:00, 14:00, 16:00, 19:00

Big Screen Installation

Freedom of Information ?

Developed by ICDC: International Centre for Digital Content
Liverpool John Moore University /

Are we really free? With 24 hour CCTV and vast databases of 'customer profiles' being compiled about everyone in Britain, do we realise just how much information is stored about us? This interactive big screen display highlights some surprising details of the data captured in today's surveillance society.


Fri 9 - Sun 11 Nov: 12:00, 15:00, 18:00

Clayton Square

Big Screen votes


Make your opinions known by interacting with the Big Screen and voting on Free Thinking topics, such as the perception of freedom and civil liberties in the UK, live in Clayton Square.


Fri 9 - Sun 11 Nov: 13:00, 16:00, 19:00
Clayton Square

A festival of ideas in Liverpool 9-11Nov 07, on radio and online.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy