It was at the last Festival of Dangerous Ideas in November 2018, that our keynote speaker – celebrated writer, actor and bon vivant Stephen Fry – made the prophetic statement, “It’s not dangerous ideas that should concern us, it’s dangerous realities.”

We liked the line so much we used it as the theme for our tenth festival, scheduled to take place at Sydney Town Hall on 3-5 April. But as of today, we’re devastated to advise that the Festival won’t be happening. Like thousands of other events, ours may no longer proceed following the NSW Government’s (Minister of Health) ban of non-essential gatherings of 500 people or more.

Faced with the rapidly evolving situation around COVID-19 and relying on the best available medical advice, this is a possibility we’ve been grappling with, and agonising over, for the last two weeks – until the point where the choice was taken from our hands.

Although this decision is an incredible blow, the health of our audience, staff, speakers, artists and the wider public, is what matters most.

For some ticket holders, this cancellation will probably come as a relief. There’s already a high level of anxiety in the community about attending events of any kind. In the greater scheme of things, missing a couple of festival sessions – or a night at the theatre – is no more than a minor inconvenience. It might also be experienced as a reprieve for the speakers who were booked to travel halfway around the world to attend the Festival; navigating travel bans and the risk of illness, flight delays or mandatory quarantine periods to do so.

FODI takes many months – and thousands of hours – of creativity and painstaking human effort to become reality. If you had attended the festival, you would have heard from over 50 speakers, including exiled activist Edward Snowden (no stranger to self-isolation), climate change journalist, David Wallace-Wells, the celebrated Harvard professor, Michael Sandel, and technology critic, Evgeny Morozov. You would have heard Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton was to talk about her experience in one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in Australian history. And you would have encountered the extraordinary contrarian, Roxane Gay.

Beyond talks – and in the realm of the arts – you could have engaged with a remarkable new work called Unforgivable, featuring youth activists and a young 18-person strong indigenous choir. There was also going to be an opportunity for anyone to interact with PIG – a giant transparent piggybank into which people could donate (or withdraw) money in the full glare of public scrutiny. PIG was to have sat outside the QVB in the heart of Sydney for an entire week, prompting  conversation about generosity and the hierarchy of human needs. It’s a conversation that has taken on a new relevance, today.

Major events like ours operate on a financial knife-edge. Just breaking even is a challenge in the best of times. So, the cancellation of FODI is not only heart-breaking. It also risks being financially crippling. Given this, we are asking our supporters, sponsors and ticket holders to consider donating their contributions to The Ethics Centre. Every cent will help us survive this financial upheaval and carry on our work.

If you would like to support The Ethics Centre, you can do so here.

Personally, our team is dealing with a deep sense of disappointment – that something we’ve been working towards for a long time, is now never going to happen.

That said, although we are down, we are definitely not out! FODI will be back – its tenth anniversary merely postponed until better times. It’s the original festival for stroppy people who want to push the boundaries. And it remains the best!

We thank all of our speakers, staff, supporters and ticket holders for their patience and understanding.

This dangerous reality arrived ahead of schedule.

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