Bristol Festival of Ideas runs over 150 events throughout the year. The Festival seeks to promote debate and discussion about the key issues of our time and to celebrate and promote the work of the most interesting writers and thinkers. We welcome, among others, scientists, artists, politicians, journalists, historians, musicians, novelists and commentators on all subjects.

Events range from talks and lectures, to interviews and panel discussions, and many include a book signing after the event with books provided by our official book seller Waterstones.

The Festival does not shy away from controversial issues and speakers and seeks to engage widely in the city. The Festival has adopted a freedom of speech policy to show our commitment to debate and discussion.

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 no one will 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 transgresses the law. The principle of free speech can also be abused by the use of threatening words or behaviour including the display of writing, signs or other visible representations which are intended to provoke racial or religious hatred or hatred on grounds of sexual orientation, or to encourage or draw people into terrorism. 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.

As an audience member we ask you to abide by our Freedom of Speech policy and the law.

We welcome open and robust questioning but during events ask you to be respectful and considerate towards other audience members and our speakers.

We permit the use of social media during our events as long as this is done quietly. If anyone has an issue with someone else in the audience, please speak to a member of Festival of Ideas or venue staff. Aggressive or anti-social behaviour towards audience members, staff or speakers before, during and after an event will not be tolerated.

Attending Events/

The majority of our events are ticketed, even the free ones, so we can monitor how many seats are required and how the event will be managed.  When the event is linked to a book signing this also helps us to decide how many of the author’s book to stock. As a matter of courtesy we like to let the speaker know how big an audience they will have in advance.

We do not have our own box office system but, by working with the individual venue’s box office, endeavour to offer in-person and phone booking in addition to online booking wherever possible.

Tickets can be purchased using the Bristol Pound at participating venues: check with the relevant box office.


The exceptions are our free events, which can only be booked online via Eventbrite. This is so that we can keep the cost of the free events to a minimum and help our small team manage the many events that we offer. If you are unable to use Eventbrite to book tickets, please get in touch via our contact page; we are happy to manually book tickets for you.

Please note that we only refund tickets when an event is cancelled.

Events start punctually and, out of consideration to other audience members and speakers, our policy is not to admit or issue refunds to latecomers. Please allow enough time to collect your ticket/s from the relevant box office (if these haven’t already been posted to you), and make sure to arrive before the advertised start time to take your seat/s.

Bristol Festival of Ideas endeavours to hold its events in venues that are accessible to all, but if you have specific access concerns it is advisable to contact the venue direct.

We sometimes film and photograph Festival of Ideas events. Please let us know if you do not wish to be filmed or photographed.