Brighton Festival 2015: The Inequality Conundrum & Margaret Atwood

Brighton Festival 2015

This is the end.

Well, the end was last month, but you know what I mean.

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The Inequality Conundrum

Polly Toynbee (PT) in conversation with Mariana Mazzucato (MM), Frances O’Grady (FO), Neel Mukherjee (NM) and Nick Cohen (NC).

PT began by explaining that in the current political climate inequality is only going to become more prevalent. People on the minimum wage have doubled since 1999, and there is an elite 1% at the top of society whose wealth match 55% of the people at the bottom.

All politicians are in favour of equality, but they won’t admit that for the opportunity of equality you need equality across the board.

Panel members each took a moment to introduce themselves to the audience and speak about how they felt about inequality. Felt is perhaps misrepresenting it, as the panel was made up of the head of the trade unions, and author, columnist, and economist.

NM explained that money was not trickling down society, but gushing up. For example, tax money bailing out banks – an action the public had no say in.

NC, in perhaps a devil’s advocate or contradictory move, rightly pointed out that the panel was left-wing and only one person in the audience voted Tory, so there was an element of the argument missing. Which I think is the reason PT refused to let him try to get out of the talk – which he did repeatedly. Inequality, he explained, is about more than money, it’s about autonomy etc..

MM was a fantastic speaker, very engaging. She was so interesting, so clearly passionate about her subject that I wanted to buy her economics book. I think I’d prefer it if she read the audio book.

MM went on to talk about economics, which I am not going to try to write up here. I will be wrong.

As PT went on to move the panel into a discussion, FO explained the important role of the Trade Unions, and why they are under threat. It is hard for people to feel empowered in the workplace when things like zero-hour contracts exist. Without power, people can be exploited in the workplace with little resistance.

Britain has become more right-wing and nationalist. [Which I think is a trend of periods of austerity.]

There is so much more I could write about this talk, it was very illuminating. Instead, I am going to leave you with this somewhat ominous quote from NC.

‘Governments fall more than oppositions get into power.

Food for thought. Do we want something new, or do we want to be rid of the old?

Margaret Atwood & Graeme Gibson

Margaret Atwood needs no introduction, surely?

This was the sign off event of the festival, and as wonderful as Margaret Atwood was and is, it was not the talk for me.

The theme was birds: the presence of them in her writing, Graeme Gibson’s work on them, and their passionate fight for conversation and looking after the world and its inhabitants.

And while this is all very important, and it was by no means dull (the audience can attest to that) I wasn’t engaged.

The talk covered both Atwood’s and Gibson’s love of birds, and how they came to love them so much. Which took a delve into Atwood’s youth and career, the same with Gibson.

I wish I could tell you more, but I decided not to take many notes for this talk.

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Fare thee well, Brighton Festival. Until next year.

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Jenny @ Reading the End
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Yeah, I probably wouldn’t have been so into the birds talk either. I do love hearing authors talk about their influences, but when it’s a subject (like birds! sorry, birds!) that’s so far removed from my interests, it’s just not as interesting.

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