Some great Festival of Ideas events for your diary

It’s May which can only mean the summer programme of the Bristol Festival of Ideas is in full swing!

Here are some events you may enjoy:

Åsne Seierstad:  One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway

27 May, At Bristol

On 22 July 2011, Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 of his fellow Norwegians in a terrorist atrocity that shocked the world. Many were teenagers, just beginning their adult lives. In the devastating aftermath, the inevitable questions began. How could this happen? Why did it happen? And who was Anders Breivik?

Award-winning foreign correspondent Åsne Seierstad has spent years writing about people caught up in violent conflict. Now, for the first time, she examines her home country. Her work is based on Breivik’s statements and writings, as well as police records and interviews with people involved in the murder spree, as victims or relatives of victims.

That Brevik had a dangerous imagination is clear. But to what extent can we separate him from the ideas that fed him?

Book now

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Exotic England

28 May, Watershed

England may be a small country on a small island, but its inhabitants have always had a boundless curiosity about the world beyond their shoreline. From the nation’s modern origins in the Renaissance, travellers have eagerly roamed the globe and been enticed by the diversity and richness of other civilizations. And while this appetite for adventure has often been tainted by aggression or exploitation, the English have also carried within them a capacity to soak up new experiences and ideas and to weave them into every aspect of life back home, from language and literature to customs and culture.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown traces this golden thread of otherness through five centuries of English history to reveal how it has shaped the buildings, flavoured the food, powered the economy, and created a truly diverse society. Today, when England is no longer synonymous with Britain and the English ask themselves who they are, she paints a sumptuous and illuminating portrait of who they have been and brings a fresh, invigorating perspective on what ‘Englishness’ really means.

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Amitav Ghosh: Flood of Fire

29 May, Waterstones

It is 1839 and tension has been rapidly mounting between China and British India following the crackdown on opium smuggling by Beijing. With no resolution in sight, the colonial government declares war. One of the vessels requisitioned for the attack, theHind, travels eastwards from Bengal to China, sailing into the midst of the First Opium War. The turbulent voyage brings together a diverse group of travellers, each with their own agenda. Among them is Kesri Singh, a sepoy in the East India Company who leads a company of Indian sepoys; Zachary Reid, an impoverished young sailor searching for his lost love; and Shireen Modi, a determined widow en route to China to reclaim her opium-trader husband’s wealth and reputation.

Flood of Fire follows a varied cast of characters from India to China, through the outbreak of the First Opium War and China’s devastating defeat, to Britain’s seizure of Hong Kong. It is a thrillingly realised and richly populated novel, imbued with a wealth of historical detail, and suffused with the magic of place and plotted with verve.

Book now


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