Unity and Diversity

5-7 March 2021


Welcome to Malvern Festival of Ideas, a multidisciplinary festival of ideas that takes place in Malvern, Worcestershire, but in 2021 will be an online event. It is a themed weekend of talks, discussion and activities.

In 2021, the title of the Festival is Unity and Diversity. Over recent years there has been increasing polarisation in debates in the public domain, fuelled in part by Brexit but also other factors. More recently, there has been much talk about unity as brought about internationally by the global pandemic. Is the uniting force in some ways is stronger than divisions? What can we learn from our (positive) experiences and build on to face future threats and how? How do we need to change? What reforms are needed?


Beginning in 2012, 2021 marks the 10th festival. This year, the Festival is taking place online. Details of registration can be found below.



As usual, there will be sessions throughout the weekend. The programme is still being finalised. We have an excellent set of speakers confirmed to date and this page will be updated as further additions are made to the programme.

Baroness Shami Chakrabarti

Professor John Ashton

Dr Roman Krznaric

Professor Kalwant Bhopal

Sir Vince Cable

Lord Mervyn King

Ms Amelia Gentleman

Mr Paul Mason


Ms Rachel Holmes

Professor Mark Maslin



Family science workshops at Malvern Cube have become a regular feature of the weekend. Although in-person event are not taking place in 2021, we have plans to bring you some online art and science sessions. 

Further details will be posted here as our plans develop.


There is a variety of sessions including talks, conversation with the hosts and questions from the audience. Details of the nature of each session will be published in due course. Additions to the programme will be notified via the Registration site.

Friday 5th March 2021

7.30pm Baroness Shami Chakrabarti: Unity, Diversity and Hope for the Future


A talk followed by discussion with the host, author and historian Rachel Holmes, and questions from the online audience.

Sharmishta "Shami" Chakrabarti, Baroness Chakrabarti, CBE, PC  is a British Labour Party politician, barrister, and human rights activist. She served as the director of Liberty, an advocacy group which promotes civil liberties and human rights, from 2003 to 2016. From 2016 to 2020, she served as Shadow Attorney General for England and Wales.

Chakrabarti studied Law at the London School of Economics. After graduating, she was called to the Bar and then worked as an in-house legal counsel for the Home Office.

When she was the director of Liberty, she campaigned against "excessive" anti-terror legislation. In this role she frequently contributed to BBC Radio 4 and various newspapers, and was described in The Times as "probably the most effective public affairs lobbyist of the past 20 years". She was one of the panel members of the Leveson Inquiry into press standards throughout 2011 and 2012. Between 2014 and 2017, she served as Chancellor of the University of Essex.

In April 2016 she was appointed as chair of an inquiry into antisemitism and other forms of racism in the Labour Party. In August 2016, Chakrabarti was made a life peer in the Prime Minister's Resignation Honours. 

Saturday 6th March 2021

10am-11am Ms Rachel Holmes: Sylvia Pankhurst: Natural Born Rebel

In conversation with author, journalist and campaigner Melissa Benn about her recent moving and powerful biography of Sylvia Pankhurst, and answers questions from the online audience.

Rachel Holmes is a cultural historian whose work combines meticulous biographical research with an ability to bring the lives and times of her 19th-century subjects vividly to life.

Her particular interest is in medical and gender issues, and she connects her subjects to current debates and points up their contemporary relevance. Holmes has been Director of Literature at the South Bank Centre in London and is a frequent broadcaster and journalist. Her most recent biography is of the life of Sylvia Pankhurst, political rebel, human rights champion and radical feminist. 

11.30pm-12.30pm Professor John Ashton: Blinded by Corona: How the Pandemic Ruined Britain's Health and Wealth and What to Do about It

John talks about his analysis of the pandemic with public health physician and Member of Independent SAGE, Gabriel Scally, and answers questions from the online audience.

John Ashton is a British doctor and academic. Ashton previously held positions at the University of Southampton, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Liverpool School of Medicine and as Regional Director of Public Health for North-West England for 13 years.

He was one of the initiators of the World Health Organization's Healthy Cities Project from 1986 to 1988 during which time it went from being a European project to a global movement and a pioneer of three public health initiatives.

2pm-3pm Sir Vince Cable: Money and Power

Vince Cable talks about his new book Money and Power (February 2021) and answers questions from the audience, hosted by Malvern councillor Ronan McLaverty-Head

Vince Cable is a British politician and author who was Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2017 to 2019. He was Member of Parliament for Twickenham from 1997 to 2015 and from 2017 to 2019. He also served in the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills from 2010 to 2015. In May 2019, Cable led the Liberal Democrats to their best national electoral performance since the 2010 election, gaining fifteen seats in the European Parliament election. His books include Money and Power: The World Leaders Who Changed Economics (2021), China: Engage!: Avoid The New Cold War (2020) and After the Storm: The World Economy and Britain's Economic Future (2016).

3.30pm-4.30pm Lord Mervyn King: Radical Uncertainty: Decision-making for an unknowable future

Mervyn King is interviewed about his book, Radical Uncertainty, and takes questions from the public.

Mervyn King, Baron King of Lothbury, KG is a British economist and public servant who was appointed as Governor of the Bank of England in 2003, succeeding Edward George. Most notably, he oversaw the bank during the financial crisis of 2007–2008 and the Great Recession. King retired from his office as governor in June 2013. He was appointed a life peer and entered the House of Lords as a crossbencher in July 2013. 

Since September 2014 he has served as a professor of economics and law with a joint appointment at New York University's Stern School of Business and School of Law.

7.30pm Mr Paul Mason: Clear Bright Future: A Radical Defence of the Human Being

Paul is interviewed on After Trump and Brexit, the prospects for liberalism and the left and answers questions from the audience.

Paul Mason is a British commentator and radio personality. He was Culture and Digital Editor of Channel 4 News, becoming the programme's Economics Editor in 2014, a post he formerly held on BBC Two's Newsnight programme. He is the author of several books including Clear Bright Future: A Radical Defence of the Human Being (2019) and PostCapitalism: A Guide to our Future (2015).

He is a visiting professor at the University of Wolverhampton. Mason won the Wincott Prize for Business Journalism in 2003, the Workworld Broadcaster of the Year in 2004, and his work was cited when Newsnight was awarded the Orwell Prize in 2007. 

Sunday 7th March 2021


10am-11am Professor Mark Maslin: Welcome to the Anthropocene: from environmental destruction to redemption?

A talk covering the whole of human history! Followed by questions from the online audience. Hosted by leading research scientist David Lowe

Mark Maslin FRGS, FRSA is a Professor of Climatology at University College London. He is science advisor to the Global Cool Foundation and the Sopria-Steria Group and a member of Cheltenham Science Festival Advisory Committee. Maslin is a leading scientist with particular expertise in past global and regional climatic change and has published in journals such as Science, Nature, and The Lancet.  He has written several popular books including The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene (2018), The Cradle of Humanity: How the changing landscape of Africa made us so smart (2017) and Climate Change: A Very Short Introduction (2014). 

11.30pm-12.30pm Dr Roman Krznaric: The Good Ancestor: How to Think Long Term in a Short-Term World

Roman discusses The Good Ancestor, a book with the power to shift a mindset, and answers questions from the online audience


Roman Krznaric is a public philosopher who writes about the power of ideas to change society. His latest book, The Good Ancestor: How to Think Long Term in a Short Term World, has been described as ‘the book our children’s children will thank us for reading’. His previous books, including EmpathyThe Wonderbox and Carpe Diem Regained, have been published in more than 20 languages.

He is founder of the world’s first Empathy Museum and is currently a Research Fellow of the Long Now Foundation. His writings have been widely influential amongst political and ecological campaigners, education reformers, social entrepreneurs and designers. 

2pm-3pm Professor Kalwant Bhopal: White privilege: The myth of a post-racial society

Kalwant discusses issues raised in her book White Privilege with Unitarian minister Winnie Gordon and answers questions from the online audience.

Kalwant Bhopal is Professor of Education and Social Justice and Director of the Centre for Research in Race & Education at the University of Birmingham. Her work explores the achievements and experiences of minority ethnic groups in education with a focus on how processes of racism, exclusion and marginalisation operate in predominantly White spaces. Bhopal has claimed that racism is present in academia in various ways; including the marginalisation of black and minority ethnic staff, their exclusion from decision-making, frequent micro-aggressions, implicit bias and open prejudice. Her books include White privilege: The myth of a post-racial society (2018) and Gender, 'Race' and Patriarchy: A Study of South Asian Women (2018). 


3.30pm-4.30pm Ms Amelia Gentleman: The Windrush Betrayal - why justice remains elusive for so many of those affected

Award-winning journalist Amelia Gentleman in conversation about her book, The Windrush Betrayal, explaining what has happened in the three years since the government apologised for the Home Office mistake, which led to thousands of people who had lived legally in the UK for decades being misclassified as immigration offenders. Although three successive Home Secretaries and two prime ministers have apologised and promised reform, the hostile environment policies which caused the problems remain in place. Questions from the online audience.


Amelia Gentleman is a journalist and reporter, named as the Political Studies Association's journalist of the year for 2018, with Carole Cadwalladr, and as journalist of the year in the British Journalism Awards, 2018. 




To take part in the live events and put forward questions for the speakers, you are required to register. You will be able to register for the whole weekend or for individual sessions. 

Further details of registration will be available soon. We are pleased to be working with Zarucchi to deliver the online event, which will be available through their platform. The registration website will give details of all sessions and registration will allow you to access all online sessions and see past sessions. 

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Support the Festival and our parent charity EngageMalvern. 

There will be a recommended charge for each session and a Festival ticket covering all sessions. In addition, there is a pay-as-you-are-able ticket (e.g. for students and unemployed), so that no-one is prevented from coming by the cost of a session.

In order to achieve this, we rely on the generosity of many people and organisations. If you would like to help and make a donation, there are a number of ways you can do this. Donations go to our parent charity (EngageMalvern). The main costs in 2021 are organising and hosting the online events, equipment hire, and publicity. 

  1. Purchase a Donation ticket when you register for events

  2. Transfer to EngageMalvern a/c: 65863800 sort code: 089299 Ref: MFI2021



The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed by Festival speakers are solely those of the speakers, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Festival organisers. All speakers are invited in good faith as appropriate contributers to chosen topics for lawful free speech and for questioning by the public.

© 2021 Malvern Festival of Ideas

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