About the Battle of Ideas
The Battle of Ideas 2005 was an interdisciplinary festival at which hundreds of people had the opportunity to get to grips with and discuss the key ideas of our time. The Battle of Ideas 2006 promises to continue in this vein, presenting new issues and themes in urgent need of public debate. As the title Battle of Ideas deliberately suggests, this weekend of discussions avoids being anodyne in the name of consensus, reflecting instead the IoI’s commitment to open and robust debate. Taking ideas seriously means they must be interrogated, argued for and fought over. The weekend makes virtues of free-thinking and lively exchanges of views. We aim:
· to showcase new arguments about the core issues of the day,
while avoiding getting bogged down in the minutiae of everyday policy
· to initiate open-ended discussions regardless of the demands for
immediate practical outcomes, which too frequently act as a brake
on innovative thinking
Emulating the best of academia, the Battle of Ideas fosters an atmosphere of intellectual freedom and open-ended exploration of new ideas, innovative research and academic trends. Additionally we challenge academics to distil their insights for a public intellectual gathering, creating a truly accessible university. The IoI seeks to identify a new generation of thinkers, and create a space where they can meet and have their ideas held to account.
Emulating the best of the increasingly popular UK literary festivals, the Battle of Ideas asks leading authors and writers to join panels and bring their written work to life. Additionally we challenge authors to reflect beyond their latest books and apply their insights to broad questions of intellectual importance. The IoI seeks to create a space where readers and writers alike can mull over the social trends reflected in the latest fiction and non-fiction.
Emulating the best of TV and radio, the Battle of Ideas brings together broadcasters, journalists and columnists to continue their invaluable role as key inquisitors of current affairs. Additionally we challenge panels of pundits to become more than talking heads, and instead interact with the audience and engage with their ideas. The IoI seeks to gather those who want to look behind the headlines and who are no longer prepared to be patronised with simplistic sound bites.
The Institute of Ideas conceived of the Battle of Ideas as a new focus for our work, as over the past five years we had found a growing demand for lively, intelligent public debate that cuts across particular issues and fields of interest.
The Battle of Ideas was devised as an annual festival bringing together different strands of social, political, scientific, academic and cultural discussion. This reflects the IoI’s interest in how broad themes, from contemporary risk aversion to the ‘respect’ agenda, affect a variety of debates.
Never had a Battle of Ideas been so urgent. After we conceived the festival, Prime Minister Tony Blair was calling for a ‘battle of ideas’ in response to the London bombings on 7/7. He knows a good slogan when he sees it, but unfortunately, many of the government’s policy proposals since then seem more about closing down debate than opening it up. Laws curtailing free expression, and a general climate of inoffensive conformism, are anathema to the IoI’s aim of creating a space in which issues can be openly argued over. The recent cartoons controversy shows what a live issue free speech is: free speech is not an abstract principle but is crucial for tackling the problems society faces. It is free speech that enables different interpretations of the world to be debated on their merits.
In this spirit, we brought together a diverse group of partners and sponsors around six themed strands covering everything from books to international relations. These ran alongside keynote debates, café conversations, provocation lectures and film screenings. This allowed attendees either to follow strands through one day, or mix and match discussions. It was clear from comments at that time and after that all concerned benefited from talking to people from beyond their immediate fields of interest. We were delighted that the Royal College of Art, a working art college rather than a traditional conference venue, joined with us in this endeavour and will do so again in 2006.
We are also delighted to welcome the Royal College of Music as a venue host this year. Promising to give renewed vigour to intellectual life is a lot to load on one weekend, but the success of the Battle of ideas 2005 proves that it is possible. Having stimulated discussion papers, seminars, articles and forums, the launch of the Battle of Ideas in October of last year set the intellectual agenda for 2006. With new themes, issues and debates lined up for the Battle of Ideas 2006 we hope that this year's battles will continue and expand on the project we started last year with our partners and which we continue to be committed to.
Claire Fox, Dolan Cummings, James Panton
Co-convenors - Battle of Ideas 2006
- The Battle of Ideas - towards a new politics
- The Battle of Ideas - shaping the future through debate
Areas within About the Battle of Ideas