Why we need Antidote Festival

September 7th 2017

Remember how shit 2016 was.

Donald Trump was elected, David Bowie died and there continued to be numerous violent attacks including the Orlando Shooting and the Paris Attack on Bastille Day.

I was invited to a Christmas party in which the event description read; “2016 has left a collective bad taste in our mouths. So with exactly zero reasons to celebrate, let’s all get together for a ridiculous, fun, boozy shin-dig to cleanse the palette”. Which I think really sums up todays political climate.

Antidote Festival at the Sydney Opera House also appears to be feeling the weight of it all. This year the Talks & Ideas program has replaced the Festival of Dangerous ideas, because as their tag line reads “now we need an Antidote”.

Across the day I listen to talks about how theatre programs can create communities and foster identities in illegal refugee camps in Calais; about how there was hope for Sydney’s nightlife culture; and about how people can make real political change by gaining real political power.

For a young person, who works in the arts and listens to a lot of podcasts like me, these topics weren’t anything radical. Nevertheless, they are still hugely important and were presented in an accessible, eloquent and engaging manner, which made attending them worth it.

The most memorable talk of the day was Reni Eddo-Lodge’s, “Why I am no longer talking to White people about Race”. She spoke of her frustration about people’s ignorance around racial history an entrenched discrimination, and how this frustration gave rise to a blog post then book about structural racism. The audience made the ‘Mmmm’ sound of agreement and nodded and gasped at all the same moments. It was like we were in a club and it was good to know that this club could fill the seats of the Opera House. And that’s important, because it’s dark out there and sometimes we all need to “get together for a ridiculous, fun and boozy shin dig” (Opera House style).

Blank Placard Dance – photo credit Daniel Boud

Cherophobia by Noemi Lakmaier – photo credit Daniel Boud

Antidote Festival was held on 1 – 2 September 2017 For more information about programs run by Ideas at the House head to their website.


FBi’s Arts & Culture executive producer.

Read more from Nerida Ross