The Festival of Questions is a series of four panel discussions, helmed by some of our great contemporary thinkers, comedians and commentators. This year’s offering included the following:
- ‘Questions for the Nation: Melbourne’ with Gareth Evans, Julian Burnside, Shireen Morris, Helen Razer, Geraldine Doogue and Jack Latimore and co-hosted by Deborah Frances-White and Rebecca Huntley;
- ‘What is Right? What is Left’ which featured Lauren Duca, Kenan Malik, George Megalogenis, Tim Wilson, Shen Narayanasamy, Rita Panahi with Sally Warhaft hosting and Oslo Davis live drawing;
- ‘Philosophical Fight Club’ with Anna Krien, Julian Burnside, George Megalogenis, Celeste Liddle, Quinn Eades, Kenan Malik, Jordan Raskopoulos and hosted by Geoffrey Robertson; and
- ‘What the Hell? The Handmaid’s Tale in 2017’ with Deborah Frances-White, Lauren Duca, Krissy Kneen, Celeste Liddle, Jamila Rizvi and Quinn Eades. This discussion was produced in conjunction with The Guilty Feminist podcast
I had the pleasure of attending Philosophical Fight Club and What the Hell? The former was much as I expected; the hour and a half divided into three topics to which each panelist had a few moments to speak. It was an interesting, if necessarily superficial conversation, and the only drawback was Geoffrey Robertson’s problem with speaking over his panelists and his inability to call Jordan Raskopoulos by her name. Oh, and the very awkward ‘Do you want a statue of a trans person?’ which he threw her way in the context of a discussion about removing colonialist statues from Melbourne streets. It was an awkward moment not only because the question had no relevance to the issue at hand, but also because it seemed like Robertson was specifically uncomfortable with the idea.
What the Hell? Proved to be entirely different to what I expected, and I must admit this is because I missed the note about it being produced in conjunction with The Guilty Feminist podcast. The discussion began with stand-up comedy and a chat between the host, Deborah Frances-White and her temporary co-host, Jamila Rizvi. Soon after, the panelists came to the stage and Frances-White lead them through issues surrounding women’s reproductive rights, the Trump presidency, Pence, the representation of people in colour and more, all in the context of The Handmaid’s Tale. It was a funny and surprisingly in-depth chat, and Frances-White managed to make a fairly dark topic somehow hilarious, something I appreciated after the comparative dry-ness of Philosophical Fight Club.
Brought to you by the Wheeler’s Centre, in conjunction with Melbourne Festival and the City of Melbourne, the discussions saw panel members wrestling with some of the biggest questions facing Australia and the world today. The Festival is an incredible celebration of thought, dialogue and ideas and is exactly the kind of thing people in Brisbane think happens in Melbourne: witty banter around serious issues, held in a beautiful venue (against the stunning backdrop of Melbourne Town Hall’s ginormous organ) and with a whole bunch of hipsters, old and young, in attendance. Even if you’re not interested in philosophy, sociology, politics or current affairs, you’re likely to find at least something that’ll pique your interest. At the very least, you’ll walk out feeling vaguely superior to the other punters at your tram stop.