The Free Thinking Festival embodies what Radio 3 is all about. It gives people time and space to contemplate challenging ideas, enjoy diverse often genre-defying music, and to step away from the frenzy of the speed of life.Alan Davey, Controller, BBC Radio 3
Date: 02.02.2017 Last updated: 02.02.2017 at 11.15
BBC Radio 3 announces the programme and guest speakers for this year's Free Thinking Festival, at Sage Gateshead
Speakers include Harriet Harman MP, Damon Hill OBE, Edwina Currie, Terry Waite, Jim Al-Khalili, Simon Armitage, and some of the world’s leading academic thinkers
Discussions range from neuroscientific explorations of sleep, to making fast decisions, the different ages of woman and experiences of captivity and isolation
BBC Radio 3 will broadcast live from Sage Gateshead throughout the weekend, with many regular programme favourites and live music performances
Special Free Thinking edition of Radio 4’s Late Night Women’s Hour presented by Lauren Laverne, with guests including Viv Albertine
"Move faster, break things", says Mark Zuckerberg. But do we actually need more calm in an increasingly fast-paced world? Is digital technology breeding a world of workaholics? And can the steady tortoise still beat the rapid hare in today’s world?
Former Formula One racing driver Damon Hill OBE, Harriet Harman MP, former health minister Edwina Currie, historian and broadcaster Bettany Hughes, author Sathnam Sanghera, poet Simon Armitage, songwriter Richard Hawley, humanitarian campaigner Terry Waite and physicist Jim Al-Khalili are among the brightest minds, leading thinkers and world class musicians brought together by BBC Radio 3 for an inspiring festival of provocative debate, new ideas, arts performances and live music.
Broadcasting from Sage Gateshead, the BBC Radio 3 Free Thinking Festival, now in its 12th year, runs from 17-19 March. Tickets to attend are free.
In Tune presenter Suzy Klein launches a packed weekend of distinctive programming and events, the theme for which is The Speed Of Life, with live performances from pianist Lars Vogt, with members of Royal Northern Sinfonia, Newcastle based Jazz duo Diachronicx, and pianola expert Rex Lawson.
Suzy will also be talking to this year’s opening lecturer, leading neuroscientist and sleep expert Professor Russell Foster and author Kirsty Logan.
Over the course of the weekend, highlights include Professor Russell Foster’s festival keynote address entitled Sleep: Freedom To Think explaining the neuroscience of sleep. Sleep consumes one third of our lifetime and Russell Foster argues that we need to take back control of our sleeping and put it at the forefront of our concerns, embracing the natural rhythms of evolution and not the mechanised time we impose.
Acclaimed American author George Saunders compares notes on the art of short fiction with British writers Paul McVeigh, Jenn Ashworth and Kirsty Logan who've been commissioned by New Writing North and the WordFactory to write on the festival theme. In a discussion hosted by Matthew Sweet, the writers explore how short a short story can really be.
The festival will also feature the announcement of this year’s ten New Generation Thinkers. After four months’ of deliberation and a rigorous selection process, the winners will be revealed - chosen from hundreds of stellar applicants.
The New Generation Thinkers scheme, a partnership between BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), is a nationwide search for the brightest academic minds at the start of their careers, who have the potential to turn fascinating research into stimulating programmes for BBC Radio and TV audiences. This is their first public appearance together before they embark on a year of development work with the BBC.
Previous winners will also be contributors at the Festival delivering essays on a diverse range of topics. The audience will get the chance to vote on the most convincing ideas in ‘speed dating’ opportunities during the weekend when ten winners present their suggestions in just 60 seconds.
Alan Davey, Controller, BBC Radio 3 says: “We believe that it is vital that the latest research and smart thinking can be communicated with ease to a wider public, it’s part of our role to connect our audiences with remarkable music and culture. At their best, cutting edge ideas and new ways of approaching often familiar subjects, help us to grow our knowledge, and shape our understanding of the world.
“The Free Thinking Festival embodies what Radio 3 is all about. It gives people time and space to contemplate challenging ideas, enjoy diverse often genre-defying music, and to step away from the frenzy of the speed of life.
“Last year Radio 3 celebrated its seven decades of pioneering culture. It continues to be at the forefront of remarkable philosophy and ideas – commissioning, creating and curating.”
Other highlights of the 50+ festival events include:
BBC Radio 4’s Late Night Woman’s Hour’s presented by Lauren Laverne and recorded in front of an audience for the first time. Studio guest is Viv Albertine, guitarist in pioneering all-female punk band The Slits whose 1979 album Cut is frequently voted one of the most influential albums of all time.
In a rare live show, a performance from Midnight Doctors - a genre-defying mutant big band featuring some of Newcastle’s finest left field musicians.
Radio 3’s Rana Mitter talks to Formula One racing driver Damon Hill and other guests about life, and decision making under pressure – and at speed.
Women have the time of their lives at the age of 34, according to new research. Former MP Edwina Currie, journalist Miranda Sawyer and writer Lola Okolosie join a festival panel to discuss the different times of our lives.
In the Music Matters lab, the influence of social media on our musical listening is explored. How do we use music to slow us down?
Politics Fast And Slow asks whether UK politicians are now better at campaigning than producing policies for the future. Labour MP Harriet Harman talks to presenter Philip Dodd.
Buddhist mediation teacher and multi-million selling author Haemin Sunim talks about being calm in a fast-paced world
Live music from Newcastle based composer and pianist Paul Edis for Radio 3’s popular Jazz Record Requests.
Radio 3 presenter Anne McElvoy examines the way depression affects our sense of time and rhythms of daily life with guests Vincent Deary from Northumbria University and Professor Louise Robinson, Director of Newcastle University's Institute of Ageing.
Bettany Hughes, historian and broadcaster, is among the guests joining Free Thinking presenter Philip Dodd to consider how we make sense of sweeping changes in The Speed Of Revolution.
Radio 3's early music specialist Lucie Skeaping introduces that quintessential musical depiction of the changing year, Vivaldi's Four Seasons from the Newcastle based Avison Ensemble.
Terry Waite spent five years as a hostage mostly in solitary confinement. Erwin James served 20 years of a life sentence. They both discuss their experience of isolation with Dr Cleo Van Velsen, a consultant psychiatrist in Forensic Psychotherapy.
West Yorkshire born poet Simon Armitage, explores life against a backdrop where globalisation has made alienation a common experience.
2016 Choir of the Year winners, Newcastle-based, Voices of Hope, perform live for Radio 3 in the Sage foyer.
Philip Dodd and guests discuss how time and the rapid pace of technological change are at the heart of education in the 21st Century. Can idle curiosity, slow burning passion and a time for reflection find a place in today’s schools?
In Radio 3’s cabaret of the word – The Verb – Englishness and national identity are explored, hosted by journalist, playwright and poet in residence at Barnsley Football Club, Ian McMillan. Featuring performances from songwriter and former Pulp guitarist Richard Hawley, Emmy the Great and writer William Fiennes. Other guests include TS Eliot Prize winner, Cumbrian born Jacob Polley, Newcastle comedian Rahul Kohli and the 2015 BBC Slam winner Scott Tyrrell.
In Sage Gateshead concourse throughout the weekend, there is a fun chance to see behind the scenes of Radio 3 in the pop up glass studio. Visitors can even try their hand at presenting in the portable presenter booth.
With thanks to Free Thinking Festival partners: Amber Film and Photography Collective, Arts and Humanities Research Council, Café Culture, Durham University, Epic Awards, New Writing North, Newcastle University Insights Lecture series, Northumbria University, Seven Stories National Centre for Children’s Books, Side Gallery, Voluntary Arts, Word Factory.