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Festival of Debate: Local festival of social change launches 2020 round-up video

A re-imagined online programme featured more than 30 live streams, short videos and digital fringe meetings, exploring society, economics and the impact of coronavirus on our human systems.

The largest annual politics festival in the UK has closed its 2020 programme with a round-up video covering key topics from more than 30 live streams, short videos and digital fringe meetings over the last three months.

The five-minute film features speakers and panellists from this year's Festival of Debate, including journalist and activist George Monbiot, political commentator Ash Sarkar, Green Party peer Natalie Bennett and economist Grace Blakeley.

A dominant theme of this year's festival was the urgency of establishing new economic models which prioritise health and wellbeing over growth, as well as drawing attention to systemic racism, inequality and climate breakdown.

"We have been trying this theory that if we keep growing the economy endlessly [...] we will somehow magically create better lives," said Liz Zeidler of the Centre for Thriving Places. "That has basically been shown not to be true all over the world."

Groups and organisations who were involved in Festival of Debate 2020 Online include Utopia Theatre, Migration Matters Festival, ACORN Renters' Union and Sheffield Climate Alliance.

Many speakers explored the connection between the pandemic, catastrophic climate breakdown and the fight for social justice.

"You have a whole generation of people below who are completely locked out of the economy, who don't see their quality of life getting any better, and are kind of consumed by the existential dread of living on a planet that's boiling to death," said Ash Sarkar at the festival's closing event.

"Since we urgently need a transformation of our economy and society, the time for tribalism has definitely passed," said Roshan Lal of Green New Deal South Yorkshire. "The changes [needed] are too fundamental to be owned by any one group or organisation."

Festival of Debate was founded in 2015 to encourage discussion and debate ahead of that year's general election.

Over 130 in-person events in collaboration with more than 70 partners were planned for this year's festival, before the programme was completely reshaped in response to the pandemic.

Festival of Debate is coordinated by Opus Independents, who also publish Now Then and host the UBI Lab Network, which campaigns for a pilot of Universal Basic Income in the UK.

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