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  • Writer's pictureStephen Balogh

Back to where it all began for me

I have rediscovered the rush and exhilaration you can get from free, respectful debate! Where did I rediscover it? At the Battle of Ideas Festival ( held this past weekend in central London. Some 1500 people and over 250 speakers gathered for a series of debates about the great issues of our time and people from 17 to advanced age took part.

The best bit? Freedom to speak without risk of being shouted down, vilified or “cancelled”. Voices across the political spectrum and all walks of life. And learning from so many different takes that others had, whether from individuals prominent in public life or just curious walk-ins. The one thing everyone had in common? The desire to contribute to public debate.

The even better bit for me? It took place a stone’s throw from where I started my working life, at London Transport, in 1990 and by chance the evening drinks were held in that same building, the first time I’ve been back in that beautiful art deco building at 55 Broadway since 1997.

I’d already written about how we debated issues far more freely in those far off days 30 years ago (see and this past weekend’s festival took me back both geographically and emotionally to those heady days.

Many of the ideas I've been attempting to present in this blog were discussed: grass roots organisation, the relationship between citizens and the state, how truth is established, how to navigate contemporary issues, matters of geopolitics. So much food for thought, which I hope to come back to in future blog entries.

For anyone who reads this and feels freedom of expression and debate by respectful, unencumbered means is important, I strongly commend the Academy of Ideas (

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