The 2006 festival brought together over 70 leading writers and commentators.
The festival was closely linked to Brunel 200 where possible, and whilst the project involved school and universities, community groups and business with an emphasis on learning, it was also about the very Brunellian themes of creativity and progress. Brunel was a man of great vision and man of big ideas. The festival concentrated, in part, on the issues raised by Brunel, his peers and industrial progress and how to apply his vision to issues of contemporary concern and opportunity. The idea of progress was addressed directly by way of a debate – what does progress mean historically and now? Can we continue to make progress in the way that Brunel did?
The programme consisted of a large range of activity and debates, from some of the very best writers. There was a keynote lecture by John Gray. Leading novelists and non-fiction writers such as Margaret Atwood, Andrea Levy and Sebastian Junger talked about their new work. Julia Hobsbawm spoke about integrity in public relations; Pankaj Mishra on South Asia and India; James Lovelock on Gaia; Tariq Ramadan on multiculturalism; Geoff Mulgan on good and bad government; Geoff Dyer on photography; Lewis Wolpert on belief; Lord Smith on the future of cultural leadership and Charles Handy on his life and work. It was a feast for the heart and the mind, with enough stimulation to last all year.
May 2007 sees the third annual Festival of Ideas, held at the Watershed. Please visit the website for further information.