Battle news
1 January 2009
Institute of Ideas events at Spring festivals

Friday 6 March, 4.30pm

Consuming children - the battle for children’s minds
IoI in association with ESRC Festival of Social Science @ Bath Literature Festival
Speakers include: Dr Helene Guldberg, Dr Agnes Nairn, Sue Palmer
The ESRC is making available 50 FREE tickets for school, FE and HE students (pre-registration required from Bath Festivals Box Office)

More information


Tuesday 24 March, 7.00pm

Are we over-protecting children?
IoI @ Think-in-Kingston festival
Speakers include: Dr Helene Guldberg, Christopher Cloke, Hugh Thornbery

More information


Wednesday 1 April

Teenage gang violence
IoI @ Oxford Literary Festival
Speakers include: Frank Furedi, Peter Hitchens, Julian Walker, Alex Wheatle

More information

19 November 2008
Battles in Print 2006 republished

The 2006 Battles in Print have been republished. A collection of over 50 essays on technology, the arts, law, international relations, science, education and much more, the BiPs 2006 accompanied the themes of the 2006 festival - Nature, Innovation, Law, Media - and provide a valuable resource especially when combined with our new search by year functionality.

17 November 2008
Battle of Ideas 2008 on video

Missed a session at the Battle of Ideas 2008? You can now watch videos of the debates on The vast majority of sessions were recorded and will be accessible via their respective session pages or from the Battles on Video index page as they are published.

Watch the keynote controversy The Battle for Truth here.

31 October 2008
SCETT Professionalism Survey Results

SCETT and the IoI (IoI) have undertaken a short survey on what teacher professionalism means today.

Read a summary of the early findings of the survey to which nearly 300 people have contributed so far.

This survey complements the session: Trust me - I’m a professional.

30 October 2008
Parents groups protest Big Brother tactics

Furious parent groups have spoken out today against the news that a chain of nurseries are to fingerprint parents, slamming this as the latest attack on trust between adults. The groups, who are coming together at the weekend to discuss increased interference in family life at the Battle of Ideas 2008 festival, were incensed by the idea of turning nurseries into surveillance factories.

Jennie Bristow of Parents With, and co-author of ‘Licensed to Hug’, a critique of the national vetting scheme, said:

This is yet another ridiculous action that sends a loud and clear message to our children ‘Adults are not to be trusted’. This attitude warps relationships between adults and children. It is an extension of the government-induced paranoia that has parents asking each other ‘Have you been CRB (Criminal Record Bureau) checked?’ before their kids play with each other. We really need to stand up as parents and say ‘Enough is enough!’

The convenor of the IoI Parents Forum, Jane Sandeman, was damning about the collection of biometric data from children, which could also be used to monitor school attendance.

Nurseries and schools are places where children go to be looked after, not remand centres or prison cells. This unjustified suspicion of parents and those working with children shows contempt for all adults. That’s why many angry parents are coming together to stop this interference and reclaim our family life.

Joining Bristow and Sandeman at the weekend is Nancy McDermott, chair of the advisory board of Park Slope Parents, the second largest parenting group in the USA. Several expert researchers on family life will join the debates including Val Gillies from the Economic and Social Research Council’s Families and Social Capital Group and Dr Jan McVarish, author of Teenage Parents’ Experience of Parenthood, as well as Yvonne Roberts from the Young Foundation.

30 October 2008
Online Tickets available until 4pm Friday


There are limited tickets available on the day for the festival. If you cannot buy online before the Friday deadline, you can buy tickets on the door at the RCA from:

9.15am on Saturday 1st November

and from 9.30am on Sunday 2 November.

29 October 2008
India’s top thinkers at London debates

Indian political, business and cultural leaders are heading to London this weekend (1 – 2 November) to ask ‘what next?’ following the global economic crisis.

Joining European and American counterparts at the Battle of Ideas 2008 festival at Kensington’s Royal College of Art, India’s leading thinkers will get to grips with the impact of the credit crunch on emerging economies, such as India, in front of a 2,000 strong UK audience.

Sanjaya Baru, former advisor and spokesman for the Indian prime minister and a leading authority on global economics, will tackle the question Capitalism: what is it good for? at a keynote debate. Fellow panellist, the UK’s leading sociologist, Frank Furedi, has already challenged both developed and developing countries to think afresh about global economics and politics:

We can’t fall back on the economic and political solutions of yesterday, whether it’s the insights of Adam Smith or Karl Marx. Younger generations must rethink the problems of today for themselves. This is particularly true for the emerging economies and young people in those countries, whose growing influence will shape not just their own future but the world’s.

A day of debates devoted to the emerging economies will see world financial experts and business leaders lock horns over development in the post-credit crunch world. The FT’s Martin Wolf will be joined by: Sundeep Kumar, director of SABMiller’s corporate affairs in India; Goldman Sachs’ Jim O’Neill, the man who coined the term BRICs; leading international development thinkers Xiaolan Fu and Adrian Wood; and two renowned authorities on the emerging economies, Ha-Joon Chang and Linda Yueh.

An in-conversation with The Times’ Parminder Bahra, Wireless Grids Corporation’s chief strategy officer, Norman Lewis, and BT’s head of sustainability practice, Dinah McLeod, will ask if China and India are the new technological innovators.

The Battle for Progress keynote debate will bring the discussions about India and the emerging economies to a head, asking what progress means in our world today: Leela Gandhi, flying in from the University of Chicago, will debate if prosperity equals progress any more with: Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize winner, Ashis Nandy; editor in chief of Green Futures, Martin Wright; and Austin Williams, director of London’s Future Cities Project.

As well as economics and politics, leading lights from the world of Indian arts and culture will also feature at the weekend: Anmol Vellani, director of the Indian Foundation for the Arts will battle over Your Culture or Mine? with Charles Saumarez-Smith, chief executive of the Royal Academy of Arts and Sir Christopher Frayling, chair of the Arts Council England. The literature expert Swapan Chakravorty will make the case for Calcutta as the World City of Literature.

Sujata Sen, representing festival partners the British Council India, acclaimed the importance of the ‘Battle of Ideas’ to democracy and development today:

The right to probe ideas, disagree with perspectives, and dispute the ways and means of social justice and welfare are factors critical for the success of the world’s largest democracy.

28 October 2008
Keynote Battles in Print now published

The Battle of Ideas Keynote Controversies cover some of the defining issues of our times, from the meaning of Truth in debates about religion and science, to the state of capitalism at a time of crisis and uncertainty. Each session is now complemented by a Battles in Print (BiP) essay written by a member of the Battle of Ideas committee. The essays set out the context of the respective debates, but also advance arguments that will stimulate further discussion ahead of the festival itself and beyond. 

Several other Battles in Print demonstrate the range of topics being debated at the Battle of Ideas, from the politics of folk music to the future of American foreign policy, and from the putative crisis of reading to Britain’s alleged addiction to booze. Many of the essays draw on ongoing debates in a variety of forums, which feed in to the festival weekend itself.

Keynote BiPs:

  • Radicalism then and now: what’s changed since 1968?

  • Slam-Dunk the Funk - Defending Progress in the Age of Environmentalism

  • Whose culture is it anyway?

  • Capitalism, the financial crisis, and us

  • The Truth? – you must be making it up

  • Lead on, Macduff: McLeadership and the real thing

  • All Battles in Print can be found here.


    16 October 2008
    Battles in Print 2008 Series

    The Battles in Print cover an eclectic range of topics to be debated at the Battle of Ideas and beyond. From the politics of folk music to the future of American foreign policy, and from the putative crisis of reading to Britain’s alleged addiction to booze, the essays introduce the issues and provoke further reflection, drawing on ongoing debates in a variety of forums, which feed in to the festival weekend itself. Six keynote Battles in Print, to complement the festival’s Keynote Controversies, will be published next week so check back regularly.

    16 October 2008
    Ballet Battle: 6ft 5in swan takes on street dance
    Tuesday 21 October, 7pm @ Vibe Live, 91-95 Brick Lane, E1 6QL

    Ballet and street dance are due for a showdown next week when denizens of the dance world have it out over men-in-tights and bust-a-grove street moves.

    At a debate in East London’s trendy Vibe Live bar on Tuesday 21st October dancers and critics will fight it out over the question ‘Who needs ballet when we’ve got street dance?’

    Flying in from the US to do battle for ballet is the male comedy ballerina, Ian Archer-Watters. Armed with pointe shoes and a tutu, Ian will tower above even the most athletic of street dancers standing 6ft 5in on pointe. After exchanging blows on whether or not traditional ballets like the Nutcracker and Swan Lake are giving way to the breakbeat thrills of hip-hop extravaganzas like the recent London musical Into the Hoods, Ian plans to have the last dance if not the last word.

    The debate will finish with the European premiere of Ian’s The Swan to music from Camille Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals.

    Ahead of the premiere Ian said ‘I’ve seen break dancers in New York spinning on their hands, doing the ‘turtle’. And yes, it’s impressive. But the hip-hop’s Turtle is nothing to a six foot Swan balancing on one point’.

    Joining Ian for the debate will be the Hakeem Onibudo, artistic director and founder of Impact Dance, one of the UK’s top Hip-Hop theatre company; Veronica Lewis MBE, director of the London Contemporary Dance School and Time Out dance critic, Lyndsey Winship. For more details and tickets: click here.

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    Festival Buzz
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    "It was like having sex with Richard Dawkins and the Pope at the same time. Incredibly stimulating arguments. "
    Julian Gough, novelist