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Leeds International Festival of Ideas (LIFI)

September 2021

A festival with new ideas to explore at its core


  • LeedsBID
  • Leeds Corn Exchange
  • Leeds Heritage Theatres
  • Bruntwood
  • Weightmans
  • Leeds City Council
  • OCU

A new festival for the city presenting an ambitious programme as a platform for exploring new ideas and innovation.

Coming out of COVID-19, a stellar first line-up brought thought-provoking panel debates running alongside inspirational keynote speeches exploring and challenging key issues and viewpoints – all impacted on during an extraordinary time of living in an pandemic.

An evolution of the ‘International Festival’ of previous years, a diverse series of speakers and guests from across the world and a range of industries came together to discuss some of the biggest questions facing society today – examining everything from loneliness and inequality to the future of food, the media, and economic growth vs sustainability – in iconic venues in the city.

Among those appearing included architect and campaigner George Clarke, comedian and presenter Katherine Ryan, writer Bolu Babalola, BBC Media Editor Amol Rajan, Comedian Deborah Francis-White, popular wildlife TV presenter Michaela Strachan, economic expert and BBC presenter Evan Davis, award-winning writer and broadcaster Alix Fox, Tony Blair’s former Communications Strategist and Chief Spokesman Alastair Campbell, campaigner, speaker and writer Gina Martin and Masterchef Judge, Guardian food critic and Author Grace Dent to name but a few.

“It was such a delight to be a part of this genius festival that not only centers around brilliant ideas – but certainly also around brilliant company. If I lived in Leeds I would attend all of the events - both to become smarter and to enjoy the presence of good people.”
— Emilia Van Hauen
Cultural Sociologist, keynote speaker and bestselling author, and panellist at LIFI 21

In numbers