10. GEORGE MONBIOT (credit Dave Stelfox)-2

Festival of Debate Takes 2020 Programme Online

After being forced to cancel all in-person events due to restrictions on social contact, The Festival of Debate is reframing its programme for online audiences and exploring new approaches to sparking crucial conversations.

The annual event, the biggest non-partisan political event in the UK, was due to enter its sixth year of providing a platform for debating the biggest social, economic and political issues of the day. 15,000 people were expected to attended over 130 scheduled events.

Programmer Joe Kriss said: “This crisis is being played out in public, in private, across our media and in our living rooms, yet it’s increasingly hard to make sense of the challenges that we are facing.”

“This online programme of events will give the opportunity to open up wider discussion about coronavirus, our collective responses to it, and our visions of a better society.”

This year’s online festival includes some of the speakers from the original 2020 programme, like the well-respected journalist and activist George Monbiot (Thu 28 May, 7pm). However, Festival Programmer Joe Kriss is keen to point out just how much the landscape has shifted: “The Festival of Debate 2020 has been re-programmed almost from scratch, because most topics at the moment need to be seen through a Covid-19 ‘lens’.

The Festival of Debate Online includes virtual events featuring journalist and commentator Grace Blakeley, epidemiologist and activist Kate Pickett (co-author of The Spirit Level and The Inner Level), economist and political theorist Michael Jacobs, the Thriving Cities Index, third sector organisations Citizens Advice Sheffield and Gambling with Lives, and Universal Basic Income advocate Scott Santens, with many more due to be confirmed in the coming days. An online Festival of Debate Does Question Time event is also planned for early July.

In addition to regular live streamed events over the next six weeks, a series of short videos featuring passionate and knowledgeable citizens and campaigners will be released via Festival of Debate social media platforms, including artistic responses and entertaining insights into the coronavirus pandemic.

The Festival of Debate Online programme is now available at www.festivalofdebate.com, with more events to be announced soon.

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