Questioning everything



I was working on Saturday at a festival and took some of the team along to help out. Daughter one had invited her friend to come, daughter three always comes as my admin support and my mum was on hand to keep daughter three company, which is hard work given she is on heelies and likes to skate about 200 metres in front of everyone else at all times.

Daughter two finds anything to do with my work BORING, having once sat through an event about medieval statues, and opted for a trip to Asda instead. Only son would have liked to take part, but my partner preferred to keep him in a confined space.

So the rest of us arrived en masse and daughter one and her friend went off to kit up in festival t-shirts so they could hand out leaflets and direct people. They also got the opportunity to sit in on events on the philosophy of religion, which daughter one, who is going through a period of deep questioning of life and whether material things exist, loved.

I, meanwhile, ran around meeting and greeting people. The events started with Shakespeare’s continuing relevance during which one speaker mentioned a performance of Romeo and Juliet by actors in Homs. The masked performance [masked in part to protect the performers’ identities from Assad’s regime] took place in a room in Homs and was Skyped to Jordan where the director, a Syrian refugee, was based. The performers had changed the ending. Romeo and Juliet didn’t die. Instead they made a passionate plea to be treated like human beings.

Speakers related how Shakespeare had been used in the past as a colonial weapon – look how cultured we are – how performers around the world had reworked it to undermine that colonialism and how Shakespearean plays were interpreted in different ways in different contexts, not just by performers but by the audience.

Other events during the day included a discussion of Putin, a panel on anti-establishment feeling, one tracing approaches to climate change in the distant past, present and possible future, another on digital media and its impact on the mainstream and a very interesting session on human trafficking and how agencies were working together to tackle transnational criminal networks.

The previous evenings had included events on Europe, academic freedom around the world and free speech on UK campuses.

There’s just a week more of the festival to go, but so far the events have been very well attended and have shown a real appetite for calm discussion of important issues rather than the kind of aggressive, divisive posturing which seems to be only too common today.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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