Now in its fourth year, Festival Of Debate is set to present its biggest programme yet. One of the largest politics festivals in the UK, the Festival is run by Opus Independents with support from many partners, including Museums Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University & the University of Sheffield. 2018 headliners include Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis, ex-Labour Leader Ed Miliband, and bestselling writer and feminist Reni Eddo-Lodge. It’s sure to facilitate some brilliant debate in the steel city.
The Festival of Debate was started in 2015 ahead of the general election to encourage engagement with the key issues facing the UK before it went to the polls. The first year was so successful that it was clear that there was demand for the Festival to become an annual fixture. Sheffield has a long history of being a city of debate and new ideas. Sheffield’s original newspapers the Sheffield Iris and The Sheffield Register were a hotbed of political activism and radical historical figures such as John Ruskin and Edward Carpenter found many a sympathetic ear across the city. The Festival builds on this history by offering a huge range of speakers, debates, exhibitions and performances all designed to explore the key political, economic and social issues of the day.
This year the Festival includes over 75 events with 10,000 tickets on sale. There really is something for everyone, from the ex-Labour and Green Party Leaders Ed Miliband and Natalie Bennett, to Great British Bake Off star Ruby Tandoh, a musical about the embattled American president entitled Trump! The Musical! and a closing party marking 100 years of women’s suffrage with activist Helen Pankhurst and poet Hollie McNish.
Festival founder James Lock said: “Our chance for a better world comes from facing issues head on, learning new points of view, making the effort to listen and being empathetic with one another. We believe this is everyone’s responsibility and hope that this year’s Festival programme goes some way to furthering that ideal.”
As well as many household names and big institutions, the Festival is also run in collaboration with a whole range of community and grassroots organisations across the city. Campaign groups such as Sheffield Save Our NHS are running an event offering local people a chance to share their thoughts, memories, hopes and fears for our national health system. The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign are holding a talk about why the Miners’ Strike still matters today, aimed at younger people who might not have experience of the original events. While these events are aimed at smaller audiences, they are absolutely key to the Festival organisers, who note, “One of the main reasons we started the Festival was to give a wider platform to the smaller campaign groups in Sheffield, which are often run by volunteers but do incredibly important work.”
The Festival has won many fans, including the well-known Sheffield born activist Owen Jones, who after a previous Festival event commented, “I love you Sheffield, there’s no denying it. Cheers to @FestOfDebate for a cracking audience discussion about overcoming injustice.” University of Sheffield academic Rowland Atkinson, Research Chair in Inclusive Societies, commented, “Well done on it all […] Is there anything else like it in the UK?” As Sheffield prepares for this year’s Festival, Sarah Sharp, lead artistic programmer at Theatre Deli commented, “We look forward to FoD every year because we think it is a highly accessible, engaging and thought-provoking series of events. We’re very much looking forward to working with the team again and seeing all of the fantastic offerings this year’s Festival holds.”
Festival of Debate opens on 18th April and runs until 29th June. For the full Festival line-up and ticket information, please see: www.festivalofdebate.com