Speakers include Harriet Harman MP, Damon Hill OBE, Edwina Currie, Terry Waite, Jim Al-Khalili, Simon Armitage, and some of the world’s leading academic thinkers

Discussions range from neuroscientific explorations of sleep, to making fast decisions, the different ages of woman and experiences of captivity and isolation

BBC Radio 3 will broadcast live from Sage Gateshead throughout the weekend, with many regular programme favourites and live music performances

Special Free Thinking edition of Radio 4’s Late Night Women’s Hour presented by Lauren Laverne, with guests including Viv Albertine

‘Move faster, break things’, says Mark Zuckerberg. But do we actually need more calm in an increasingly fast-paced world? Is digital technology breeding a world of workaholics? And can the steady tortoise still beat the rapid hare in today’s world?

Former Formula One racing driver Damon Hill OBE, Harriet Harman MP, former health minister Edwina Currie, historian and broadcaster Bettany Hughes, author Sathnam Sanghera, poet Simon Armitage, songwriter Richard Hawley, humanitarian campaigner Terry Waite and physicist Jim Al-Khalili are among the brightest minds, leading thinkers and world class musicians brought together by BBC Radio 3 for an inspiring festival of provocative debate, new ideas, arts performances and live music.

Broadcasting from Sage Gateshead, the BBC Radio 3 Free Thinking Festival, now in its 12th year, runs from 17–19 March 2017 and tickets to attend are free.

In Tune presenter Suzy Klein launches a packed weekend of distinctive programming and events, the theme for which is The Speed of Life, with live performances from pianist Lars Vogt, with members of Royal Northern Sinfonia, Newcastle based Jazz duo Diachronicx, and pianola expert Rex Lawson.

Suzy will also be talking to this year’s opening lecturer, leading neuroscientist and sleep expert Professor Russell Foster and author Kirsty Logan.

Over the course of the weekend, highlights include Professor Russell Foster’s festival keynote address entitled Sleep: Freedom to Think – explaining the neuroscience of sleep. Sleep consumes one third of our lifetime and Russell Foster argues that we need to take back control of our sleeping and put it at the forefront of our concerns, embracing the natural rhythms of evolution and not the mechanised time we impose.

Acclaimed American author George Saunders compares notes on the art of short fiction with British writers Paul McVeigh, Jenn Ashworth and Kirsty Logan who've been commissioned by New Writing North and the WordFactory to write on the festival theme. In a discussion hosted by Matthew Sweet, the writers explore how short a short story can really be.

The festival will also feature the announcement of this year’s 10 New Generation Thinkers. After four months’ of deliberation and a rigorous selection process, the winners will be revealed – chosen from hundreds of stellar applicants. The New Generation Thinkers scheme, a partnership between BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), is a nationwide search for the brightest academic minds at the start of their careers, who have the potential to turn fascinating research into stimulating programmes for BBC Radio and TV audiences. This is their first public appearance together before they embark on a year of development work with the BBC.

Previous winners will also be contributors at the Festival delivering essays on a diverse range of topics. The audience will get the chance to vote on the most convincing ideas in ‘speed dating’ opportunities during the weekend when 10 winners present their suggestions in just 60 seconds.

Alan Davey, Controller BBC Radio 3 says, “We believe that it is vital that the latest research and smart thinking can be communicated with ease to a wider public, it’s part of our role to connect our audiences with remarkable music and culture. At their best, cutting edge ideas and new ways of approaching often familiar subjects, help us to grow our knowledge, and shape our understanding of the world. The Free Thinking Festival embodies what Radio 3 is all about. It gives people time and space to contemplate challenging ideas, enjoy diverse often genre-defying music, and to step away from the frenzy of the speed of life. Last year Radio 3 celebrated its 7 decades of pioneering culture. It continues to be at the forefront of remarkable philosophy and ideas – commissioning, creating and curating.”

In Sage Gateshead concourse throughout the weekend, there is a chance to see behind the scenes of Radio 3, as it broadcasts live from a pop-up glass studio. Visitors can even try their hand at presenting in the portable presenter booth. With thanks to Free Thinking Festival partners: Amber Film & Photography Collective, Arts & Humanities Research Council, the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Café Culture, Durham University, Epic Awards, New Writing North, Newcastle University Insights Lecture series, Northumbria University, Seven Stories National Centre for Children’s Books, Side Gallery, Voluntary Arts, Word Factory.


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