2020 would have been the 10th Festival of Dangerous Ideas and plans were set to take over Sydney Town Hall, the traditional meeting and rallying place for communities. In 2020 we were to celebrate a decade of danger – of important conversations that challenge your deepest held beliefs around being human and part of a civil society.
Unfortunately, due to the situation surrounding the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the NSW Government (Minister of Health) has issued a ban of non-essential public gatherings over 500 people, and the Festival of Dangerous Ideas was officially cancelled on 16 March 2020.
On 30 April 2020 the festival announced FODI Digital, a series of online conversations that took inspiration from the original FODI 2020 theme of ‘Dangerous Realities’, with online sessions being streamed via the festival website on the 9-10 May 2020. The series featuring local and international speakers, interrogates the reality of the current pandemic and its wider implications for our world and society.
Festival of Dangerous Ideas was co-founded by The Ethics Centre and the Sydney Opera House in 2009. It was presented at Sydney Opera House for eight years and in its ninth year inhabited Cockatoo Island with a festival presented by The Ethics Centre with UNSW Sydney Centre for Ideas.
Across the past nine festivals, FODI has had local and international experts from a diverse range of disciplines take to the stage to bring to light different perspectives on the most divisive issues we face.
Festival of Dangerous Ideas is a curated festival. The curators for 2020 are Danielle Harvey (2011-2020), Simon Longstaff (2009 -2020) and Ann Mossop (2010 – 2020)
Each year the Festival presents over 30 sessions with topics that cover specific aspects of these areas
Australia’s original provocative ideas festival was set to return for its 10th festival and take place at the heart of Sydney in 2020. April 3 to 5 was to be a milestone weekend themed around ‘dangerous realities’ until the Festival’s cancellation on 16 March 2020 due to the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
This year The Festival of Dangerous Ideas returned in a new format and new location. Held on Sydney’s Cockatoo Island, the program was a collision of ideas, art installations, live theatre, and panel conversations. FODI explored the blurring of truth and trust, internet sub-cultures, fascism, privacy, LSD and the end of the world as we know it. Headline thinkers captured minds and social feeds with Stephen Fry, conservative historian Niall Ferguson, author Pankaj Mishra, Ex-Westboro Baptist Church member Megan Phelps-Roper, author Ayelet Waldman, iconoclast Germaine Greer, activist Mick Dodson, rock star of AI Toby Walsh, techno-sociologist Zeynup Tufekci, criminologist Xanthe Mallett, author Chuck Klosterman, journalist Rukmini Callimachi and artists Betty Grumble, Garth Knight and Riley Harmon.
The Festival of Dangerous Ideas completed its final year at the Sydney Opera House with psychologist Jesse Bering, conservative commentator Andrew Bolt, artist Molly Crabapple, Alicia Garza (Black Lives Matter), journalist Stan Grant, Black Flag’s Henry Rollins , author Lionel Shriver, cotcolonial scholar Priyamvada Gopal, economist Philippe Legrain and more. FODI’s closing event was ‘Mercy’ a large scale deconstructed presentation of the Merchant of Venice presented with Bell Shakespeare and speakers Michael Kirby, Germaine Greer.
Solo sessions and panels featured Tariq Ali, Naomi Klein, Peter Greste, Murong Xuecun, Suki Kim, Johann Hari, Malarndirri McCarthy, Paul Krugman, Laurie Penny, Jon Ronson, Eric Schlosser and Gideon Raff, exploring themes including the economy, artificial intelligence, climate change, cybersexism, addiction and sugar. The Moth live FODI special edition was the closing event for the festival.
FODI brought our view of ourselves and our place in the world into question, exploring the fringes of loneliness, masculinity, narcissism, climate extinction, modern slavery, surrogacy, persecution and classism. Speakers included Pussy Riot, Salman Rushdie, Masha Gessen, Steven Pinker, Elizabeth Kolbert, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, JohnJohn Pilger, Lydia Cacho, Kajsa Ekis Ekman, Alissa Nutting, Ragip Zarakolu, Tim Flannery and Mark Latham.
In 2013 thinkers including Arlie Hochschild, David Simon, Hanna Rosin, Evgeny Morozov, Vandana Shiva, Dan Savage, John Safran, Christos Tsiolkas, Julian Burbside and Peter Hitchens explored topics including outsourcing, conspiracy, masculinity, inequality and drugs.
In 2012, topics including: “All Women Hate Each Other”, “Israel is an Apartheid State”, “The Devil is Real”, “Genital Cutting is Normal”, “We are all Sexual Perverts” and “A Foetus is not a Person”. Speakers included Sam Harris, Brian Morris, Tara Moss, Illan Pappe, Jason Silva, Shiv Malik, Ed Howker, Eliza Griswold, Cormac Cullinan, Ronnie Chan, Jesse Bering and Tim Harford.
In 2011, FODI delivered a host of cutting-edge thinkers including Julian Assange, Jonathan Safran Foer, Kate Adie, Alexander McCall Smith, Jon Ronson, Slavoj Žižek, Mona Eltahawy and Philip Nitschke. Diving into the shadows with talks including “WikiLeaks has not gone far enough”; “Psychopaths Make the World Go Around”; “Ecstasy is No More Dangerous Than Horse-riding”and “All Women are Sluts”
In 2010 Geoffrey Robertson and Alan Dershowitz opened the address with the debate, “The Sins of the Fathers: Should the Pope be held to account?”. Other speakers included Christian Lander, author of the “Stuff White People Like” with a tongue-in-cheek etiquette guide to Caucasian culture, and New York ncolumnist and creator of the free range kids movement, Lenore Skenazy on how she was labelled “America’s Worst Mom”.
In the inaugural 2009 event, the festival’s made dangerous beginnings with the opening address was given by Christopher Hitchens on the topic of “Religion Poisons Everything”