Freedom of speech policy
“The Bristol Festival of Ideas is a forum for debate and discussion. It believes that free and open discussion is essential to the betterment of society, the education of citizens and to the life and work of the city. It cherishes liberty of thought and speech. It does not shy away from difficult and challenging ideas, nor does it seek to exclude speakers who make challenging statements which some may find difficult – indeed, it often welcomes such speakers if there are good reasons for believing these opinions are supported by a strong case which demands an intelligent response. We believe that it is better to challenge provocative statements and positions in open fora rather than ban them, although notorious mavericks will not be invited simply in the name of controversy and debate.
Fears – or complaints – that someone may be offensive will never be grounds for not inviting a speaker, or for banning a speaker once invited. The only grounds for this will be if the law may be broken or that public safety may be in jeopardy. A speaker, for example, who incites an audience to violence or to breach of the peace or to racial hatred transgresses the law. Equally, assemblies of persons, even if directed to lawful purposes, cease to be lawful if they cause serious disorder or breaches of the peace.
Where speakers are accused prior to an event of being excessively provocative, and where there is a possibility of law breaking or public disorder, we will always allow speakers the right of reply before making a decision to proceed or not.”
Andrew Kelly, Director