Adelaide Festival of Ideas – Stimulating Conversations and Thought-Provoking Talks

Adelaide is known as “Australia’s Festival City” for its enviable wine and fine dining culture, buffet of stunning natural attractions and a revolving door of festivals that can cater to any patron’s art of choice. It hosts a unique food experience, In Other Words; Adelaide Writers’ Week; WOMADelaide; and the Adelaide Festival of Ideas.

The Disillusionment with Democracy

While the democratic backsliding of countries such as Israel, Ukraine and Turkey is grabbing global headlines, a quieter risk to democracy may not be getting enough attention: global youth disillusionment with democracy. It is a major reason why the current wave of populists across much of the world, offering simplistic solutions to complex problems, is winning so many adherents.

Millennials globally are more dissatisfied with democracy than any previous generation at the same age, according to research from the Centre for the Future of Democracy at the University of Cambridge. They are far less satisfied with democracy in advanced democracies than baby boomers were at the same age, and they are more likely to view their political opponents as morally flawed.

This is a dangerous dynamic because, if left unchecked, it could lead to the gradual erosion of democracy in developed countries where citizens have become accustomed to having their concerns heard by politicians they can trust. The loss of confidence in democracy is exacerbated by the fact that, in some cases, young people feel they are not being represented at all.

The Future of a Liberal Democracy

In a world of friend-shoring, fractious globalization, and illiberal rebellions, it’s no longer enough to promote democracy’s abstract ideals. Developing countries need to hear genuine, human stories about how liberal democracy reduces corruption, improves labour conditions, increases social mobility and gender equality, and protects minorities.

Faith, Nationalism and the Future of Liberal Democracy explores how religious identity is being weaponized to foster illiberal movements in Europe and the United States. It also examines how the rise of illiberal democracy threatens liberal democracies around the world.

We need to distinguish between policy disputes and regime-level threats, as the Brexit vote, a withdrawal from international institutions, and the rise of reactionary nativist parties in many Western countries all pose real challenges. We must also refocus our efforts to promote democracy abroad by highlighting the tangible benefits of liberal democratic systems, rather than making hollow appeals for an “incorruptible” judiciary or the “rule of law.” Revamped Western influence campaigns can highlight how a democratic system of government reduces poverty and corruption, enhances economic freedom, and improves the lives of people in low- and middle-income countries.

Making Friends of Enemies

The reinvigorated Adelaide Festival of Ideas, a biennial event founded in 1999 and now under the umbrella of Illuminate Adelaide, will turn its light on leaders, concepts and ideas shaping our world with a diverse line-up of 27 panels, forums and lectures. The majority of sessions are free so the audience engages as citizens rather than consumers.

In a culture that is quick to tear people apart, how can we turn enemies into friends? Attica chef Ben Shewry, in conversation with author Clementine Ford, will discuss the undeserved kindness that shaped her future relationships. Food will also be on the agenda with Souper Foods examining the future of our eating habits with gardening legend Costa Georgiadis and sustainability innovator Matt Stone.

Trainee primary school teachers will learn how to teach the arts with renowned Australian children’s laureate Morris Gleitzman while Gladys Elphick Memorial Oration keynote speaker and former president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, will examine her public shaming during her time in office. The conference will also explore racism in sport with Football League legend Gavin Wanganeen and Socceroo Bruce Djite speaking on the importance of Truth, Voice and Treaty.

True Selfie

The selfie might appear to be the latest fad, but it has a long history and is connected to issues of communication, photography, psychology, art, and self-portraiture. This interdisciplinary lecture explores the strategic use of selfies by companies to create new forms of consumer culture and raises questions about the nature of representation.

Attica chef Ben Shewry will serve up a mug of soup and a conversation about his defining moment of undeserved kindness; while renowned social entrepreneur Yuwallarai journalist Kirstie Parker, medical student and 2021 Young Australian of the Year Isobel Marshall and artist and philanthropist Morris Gleitzman discuss their efforts to make the world a better place. Other sessions will investigate the future of food with gardening legend Costa Georgiadis and sustainability innovator Matt Stone; and the impact of COVID on music and the arts will be discussed by a panel including Adelaide Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor and South Australia’s cultural elders.

With a small number of ticketed events and free panel sessions, the reinvigorated Adelaide Festival of Ideas focuses on the people and concepts shaping our world. Presented by Illuminate Adelaide with support from the University of Adelaide.

COVID Positive

Due to the COVID pandemic many events have been cancelled or postponed. Please contact the event organiser directly for more information.

Since its inception in 1999, the Adelaide Festival of Ideas (AFOI) has forged the path for idea festivals both nationally and internationally. AFOI’s purpose is to foster the public promulgation and discussion of culturally relevant ideas from around the world. AFOI focuses on the importance of ideas, thinking and innovation as foundations for a civil society, informed democracy and a robust economy.

A reinvigorated Adelaide Festival of Ideas will explore a wide range of topics at its 2021 program including: