If you believe what you hear, we’re all narrow minded, unthinking and mindless robots moaning along in life with not a thought for anything around or in front of us. As is their wont, the Institute of Ideas is working to challenge this. Their remit is to provide space for thoughts, ideas, debates and discussions to thrive, and the annual Battle of Ideas is the year’s highlight.
This year’s was another excellent event. With over a hundred debates across strands including Therapeutic Times, Arts & Society, Feminism & Its Discontents and the Battle of the Classroom, they don’t shy away from the controversial topics here – ‘Anthropocene: are humans wrecking the planet?’, ‘Why are young people joining ISIS?’ and ‘The battle over breasts’ were all titles on the programme, and all incited healthy discussion. Speakers were from all fields of expertise, the media and public life, and panels were curated so as to give a good mix of viewpoints resulting in controversy and confrontation but not anger and rage.
The format is information heavy, slickly set up, and nicely designed, and the organisers recognise that there is no answer to the questions raised at the talks, sharing readings and further links to go off and explore. Getting to grips with the changing world and issues that are in flux is hugely important – not necessarily solving the problems but engaging with them.
At £100 a time and taking over the full weekend, it could be argued that this a place for the middle classes to come and talk about issues without having to experience them for themselves, but not only does everyone experiences issues of stigma, the environment, health and society, but the Institute do their best to get diverse audiences in, particularly young people, and it’s exciting to see such passion and enthusiasm infiltrating throughout.
There’s still a few satellite sessions going on over the next few weeks, and videos will be online – so keep exploring.

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