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Free thoughts on Jimmy Wales at the opening of Free Thinking

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Rosalind Porter Rosalind Porter | 10:33 UK Time, Saturday, 5 November 2011

Picture of Jimmy Wales Copyright BBC

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales

Radio 3 listener blogger Rosalind Porter reports on Freethinking's opening night at The Sage Gateshead 

Another weekend for stimulating the little grey cells is upon us and last night's opening events certainly lived up to expectation as well as thoroughly whetting the appetite for the next couple of days of Free Thinking.

This year's Festival theme is CHANGE.  So where better to start than Night Waves, featuring the Free Thinking Lecture by Jimmy Wales - founder of Wikipedia - debating the continually evolving impact of his website and providing some thought provoking opinions on the future of the internet. Moderated by Philip Dodd with his usual poise, firmness and good humour, a wide range of discussion and debate ensued.  It was particularly interesting to hear Mr Wales voice his thoughts on Wikipedia’s philosophy of neutrality, the likelihood of a 'Chinese Spring' revolution and expand on issues of responding to state censorship.

Anyone with strong feelings about other internet behemoths such as Facebook and Google will want to make a point of listening to Mr Wales' comments which will definitely strike a chord with many.  This was a unique chance to encounter one of the movers and shakers of the internet and I personally would have preferred Mr Wales to spend less time explaining the structure of Wikipedia and more on the philosophy and inspiration behind his creation and its future.  A tantalising glimpse into the personal influence of an independently minded mother and enlightened education was one area perhaps deserving deeper probing from Philip Dodd.   
One of the great aspects of Free Thinking is the wide demographic range of the Sage Gateshead audience which for me made his comment regarding more than 80% of Wikipedia editors being male seem especially ironic. 
The programme is available online and you can listen to it here.

Words and Music

Words and Music served up an evocative smorgasbord of literary and musical delicacies providing impressions of change and transformations from the philosophical musings of Ovid to Roald Dahl’s vivid depiction of a mutating grandmother.  Where else but BBC Radio 3 will you find a gruesome liposuction scene sharing the menu with Frankenstein and the exquisitely yearning sensuality of Richard Strauss's song, Morgen?  

Words and Music was moving, funny, provocative and always relevant in its depiction of transformations from the drug-assisted and utterly surreal to the natural progression of human life.  Readers Jonathan Keeble and Kim Gerard painted an atmospheric picture with their words, whilst members of the Northern Sinfonia with pianist Kate Thompson and last minute stand-in soprano Stephanie Croley immaculately performed the varied musical content ranging from folksong to flute soliloquy.  Personal highlights included some exuberant Ligeti for wind ensemble and an intense extract from Schubert’s Death and the Maiden Quartet.

A memorable live event, this episode of Words and Music is broadcast on BBC R3 at 6.30pm tomorrow night.

Concourse is alive with the sound of Free Thinkers...

There's a lot of Free Thinking activity going on this weekend on the Sage Gateshead concourse as well as the numerous talks and lectures. From a curiously clever bird to an interactive audio journey, not to forget the now famous walls of opinions on topics as varied as 'What is the greatest technical innovation?' to 'What would you most like to change about yourself?'  Certainly there's plenty to engage debate and ideas!


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