2024 AGENDA

Our theme for 2024 is “Myths, stories and facts. What do we really want and what do we really get?”


WILL STORR – THE STATUS GAME. ON HUMAN LIFE & HOW TO PLAY IT

What drives our political and moral beliefs? What makes us like some things and dislike others? What shapes how we behave, and misbehave, in a group? What makes you, you?

For centuries, philosophers and scholars have described human behaviour in terms of sex, power and money. In The Status Game, Will Storr radically turns this thinking on its head by arguing that it is our irrepressible craving for status that ultimately defines who we are.


KASHMIR HILL – YOUR FACE BELONGS TO US

When Kashmir Hill stumbled upon Clearview AI, a mysterious startup selling an app that claimed it could identify anyone using just a snapshot of their face, the implications were terrifying. The app could use the photo to find your name, your social media profiles, your friends and family – even your home address. But this was just the start of a story more shocking than she could have imagined.

Kashmir will look at our tortured relationship with technology, the way it entertains us, even as it exploits us. It presents a powerful warning, that in the absence of regulation, this technology will spell the end of our anonymity.


DANIEL SUSSKIND – GROWTH. A RECKONING OF THE PAST PRESENT & FUTURE

Over the past two centuries, economic growth has freed billions from poverty and made our lives far healthier and longer. Yet this prosperity has come at an enormous price: deepening inequalities, destabilizing technologies, environmental destruction and climate change. Resolving this growth dilemma, Daniel Susskind argues, is the urgent task of our age. Should we reverse possible stagnation and sluggish productivity by continuing to look for growth, or investigate degrowth, deliberately shrinking our economies.


SARAH BAKEWELL – HOW TO LIVE

How to get along with people, how to deal with violence, how to adjust to losing someone you love-such questions arise in most people’s lives. They are all versions of a bigger question: How do you live? This question obsessed Renaissance writers, none more than Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, considered by many to be the first truly modern individual.


GRACE BLAKELEY – VULTURE CAPITALISM

Corporate Crimes, backdoor bailouts and the death of freedom. Acclaimed journalist Grace Blakeley takes on the world’s most powerful corporations by showing how the causes of our modern crisis are the intended result of our capitalist system.

It’s not broken, it’s working exactly as planned. From JPMorgan to Boeing, Henry Ford to Richard Nixon, Blakeley shows us exactly where late-stage capitalism has gone wrong. She argues free markets aren’t really free. Record corporate pro­fits don’t trickle down to everyone else. And we aren’t empowered to make our own choices – they’re made for us every day.


LEMN SISSAY – MY NAME IS WHY

Ripped away from his Ethiopian mother in infancy, Sissay endured over a decade of mistreatment and wilful cruelty in the British care system.

The Acclaimed poet will share his powerful and inspiring account of the journey from neglect and despair to artistic and cultural recognition, with all the lyricism and power you would expect from one of the nation’s best-loved poet. His moving, frank recollection is the result of a life spent asking questions, and a celebration of the redemptive power of creativity.


LAUREN OYLER – NO JUDGEMENT: ON BEING CRITICAL

It is the age of internet gossip; of social networks, repackaged ideas and rating everything out of five stars. Mega-famous celebrities respond with fury to critics who publish less-than-rapturous reviews of their work (and then delete their tweets); CEOs talk about reclaiming ‘the power of vulnerability’; and in the world of fiction, writers eschew actually making things up in favour of ‘always just talking about themselves’.

Lauren Oyler – one of the most trenchant, influential, and revelatory critics of her generation – takes on the bizarre particularities of our present moment reflecting on literature, the attention economy, gossip, the role of criticism and her own relentless, teeth-grinding anxiety.


STEVE WATSON – FRESH PERSPECTIVES OUTSIDE THE MAINSTREAM

Steve Watson tells the story of working for a dull publishing company and how by mid-afternoon, losing the will to live, he’d go for a bit of a walk, often visiting specialist book and magazine shop, Magma.

So started his long love affair with independent magazines and the creation of Stack. Stack now has the ambition of seeking out the world’s most interesting independent magazines for his subscriber base – no one quite sure what will arrive from month to month.


TOM BALDWIN – THE SEVEN MYTHS THAT CHANGED A COUNTRY & HOW TO SET THEM STRAIGHT

In an election year when this country stands on the cusp of a change in government, there will once again be efforts to over-inflate myths about England that block out what’s important in our politics. Author and bestselling biographer of Keir Starmer Tom Baldwin, will unravel seven myths that have distorted ideas of this country and provided ammunition for charlatans or culture warriors from both left and right. Tom provides clues for how a humbler, less grandiose, set of ideas rooted in real lives can help fix some of the things that have gone so badly wrong in recent years.


IAN LESLIE – CURIOUS. THE DESIRE TO KNOW & WHY YOUR FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT

Everyone is born curious. But only some retain the habits of exploring, learning and discovering as they grow older. Which side of the ‘curiosity divide’ are you on?

Ian Leslie makes a passionate case for the cultivation of our desire to know. Curious people tend to be smarter, more creative and more successful. But at the very moment when the rewards of curiosity have never been higher, it is misunderstood and undervalued, and increasingly practised only by a cognitive elite.


LUCY IRELAND GRAY – WHAT’S IN A SHOPPING LIST

Shopping lists, we all write them and they have been around since ancient times. Michelangleo even drew pictures on his, next to items, to help with his servant’s lack of reading skills. But self confessed “nosey parker” and archaeologist, Lucy Ireland Gray, loves them. Having amassed over 300 discarded lists since 2016, appeared on Radio 4 to discuss and exhibited at London’s Museum of Brands.

Lucy explains “They’re little snapshots that create a story in your mind,” she says. “That story isn’t just about shopping. It’s about somebody’s life. That’s the beauty of it.”  In a world that portrays itself in a far more glamorous light, a shopping list list tells us how it really is, giving a refreshingly honest glimpse into another world.