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13 October 2021

Leeds International Festival of Ideas 2021: A fortnight of innovation

Leeds International Festival of Ideas 2021: A fortnight of innovation

Leeds International Festival of Ideas (LIFI) completed its very successful first year, after two weeks of inspiring talks and thought-provoking panels designed to spark conversation and thought across very different subjects.

September saw over 1,200 people attend a range of keynotes, chats and discussions, hearing from 30 speakers and experts from across the globe examining everything from How we can be who we want to be, to learning about new ways of creating food protein, to looking at population statistics, to why the media is political yet not as political as it should be and so much more.

The event was an evolution of the ‘International Festival’ of previous years, with the 2021 programme featuring a diverse series of speakers and guests from a range of industries – all coming together to discuss some of the biggest questions facing society today.

Katherine Ryan, George Clarke and Kanya King filled headline speaker roles, each taking the stage in a transformed Corn Exchange to share their thoughts with an intimate audience. While Katherine Ryan took guests on a journey through her life experiences, George Clarke’s talk brought to the fore issues around the impact of constant growth on our planet, considering what a city of the future should look like, and Kanya King discussed the personal challenges she faced as a Black woman in a white and male-dominated music industry, and looked ahead to a future of accountability within the space and the launch of a new digital platform Mobilise. And an additional ‘invite only’ event for LeedsBID levy payers saw retail consultant and broadcaster Mary Portas shared her views on how businesses reset post pandemic.

The panel debates presented lively conversations between comedian Deborah Frances-White and writer Alix Fox considering the concept of Are we more lonely? food critic Grace Dent discussing does the future have enough food? with local chefs Liz Cottam and Ben Davy, BBC presenter Evan Davis, media editor Amol Rajan and Alastair Campbell looking at Is the UK media broken? while Michaela Strachan led an impassioned conversation around Growth or Growth and whether sustainability and economic expansion ever can truly coexist.

It was great to be able to present such a diverse programme of engaging talks and thought provoking debates with an amazing array of hosts and panellists in the city in front of live audiences. We were delighted with the public response to the festival and we look forward to planning for 2022.
Martin Dickson
LIFI Festival Director