INTERNET innovator Jimmy Wales, the man behind online encyclopedia Wikipedia, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Free Thinking Festival.
The BBC Radio 3 festival returns to The Sage Gateshead over the weekend of November 4-6 with a host of distinguished contributors including Foreign Secretary William Hague, cultural commentator Germaine Greer, Jack Thorne, writer of TV series Skins, architect and landscape artist Charles Jencks, psychotherapist Susie Orbach, historian Linda Colley and influential churchman Dr Giles Fraser, canon chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral.
The festival, which is in its sixth year and also took place at the Gateshead music venue in 2010, is a sparkling exploration of issues and ideas drawing large and enthusiastic live audiences and providing a wealth of programming for the BBC channel.
More than 30 events will take place over the three days of this year’s festival, all of which are free.
This year’s general theme is Change, with speakers asked to consider the mania for change sweeping the globe.
Jimmy Wales, one of the leading lights of the modern phenomenon of the internet and creator of one of the most referenced sources of knowledge on the planet, is likely to attract a large audience.
The 45-year-old American will share his vision of how the internet will continue to alter the world in radical ways.
According to Wikipedia, Jimmy Donal “Jimbo” Wales was born in Huntsville, Alabama, and studied finance at university.
He became an internet entrepreneur in 1996 and in 2001 established Wikipedia, which followed an earlier online encyclopedia called Nupedia.
Whether he was solely responsible or co-founded the site with Larry Sanger has been a point of dispute but there is no doubt that Wales has become the man most closely associated with the enterprise, aimed at making the sum of human knowledge freely available to everyone.
The theme of change will certainly give the Rt Hon William Hague MP plenty of scope and he will discuss the dramatic political upheavals taking place around the globe and Britain’s role in the shifting world order.
Jack Thorne is creating a cutting edge new drama especially for the Free Thinking Festival which is to be performed and broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 from Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art on November 6.
Germaine Greer will question the idea of freedom, arguing that the pursuit of freedom has caused havoc throughout the world and calling – controversially, surely – for a new version of liberation.
Rev Canon Dr Giles Fraser, who is to be this year’s Free Thinking Festival thinker-in-residence, will have an influence on many of the events taking place over the weekend.
Susie Orbach will challenge society’s obsession with personal change and physical perfection while visionary architect Charles Jencks will discuss his Northumberlandia, the huge sculpture of a human figure taking shape near Cramlington.
Free Thinking events will be broadcast daily on Radio 3 for two weeks, starting with Jimmy Wales’s keynote speech at 10pm on Friday, November 4.
As last year, there will be a live debate to be broadcast simultaneously on Radio 3 and Radio 5Live. This will take place on November 5 when Music Matters, featuring a debate about classical music, will also be broadcast live from The Sage Gateshead.
Radio 3 shows Words and Music, Between the Ears, The Verb, Night Waves and The Essay will all be recorded in front of a live audience at the festival with regular presenters including Ian McMillan, Philip Dodd, Matthew Sweet, Tom Service, Rana Mitter and Durham-born journalist Anne McElvoy.
Roger Wright, controller of BBC Radio 3, said: “Free Thinking has become a vital part of Radio 3's distinctive festival output.
“As ever, the wide-ranging events will be led by some of today's leading thinkers.
“I am delighted that we are continuing our collaboration with The Sage Gateshead and offering audiences in the North East a chance to attend free events as well as giving our broadcast audience the opportunity to hear them on Radio 3.”
Anthony Sargent, general director of The Sage Gateshead, said: “All our collaborations with Radio 3 have been enjoyable and rewarding, but we’re particularly happy to host Free Thinking for another year, emphasising as it does The Sage Gateshead’s broader role as a national cultural centre beyond the confines of our acclaimed music programmes.”