Climate change. Privacy. Fake news.

They are the kind of issues that are so big and apparently intractable that the temptation can be overwhelming simply to ignore them.

But organisers of this year's Antidote Festival believe they will provide at least a partial alternative to metaphorically putting your hands over your ears and chanting "La, la, la – can't hear you!"

With keynote speakers including New Yorker author Ronan Farrow, who was instrumental in uncovering the Harvey Weinstein scandal; Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Maureen Dowd; and Ta-Nehisi Coates, award-winning writer on culture, politics and race, Antidote will be a "response to the times we live in," says festival director Edwina Throsby.

Director Edwina Throsby has put together a festival that is "forward looking" and "solution oriented."

Photo: Christopher Pearce


"We live in increasingly difficult and turbulent times and I don't think we should back away from saying that," she says.

"I think every generation thinks their time is the hardest and the worst but I really do think that 50 years down the track when historians are assessing this period that there will be a sense of 'Wow! That was kind of crazy!'"

Antidote is in its second year and has replaced the Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Sydney Opera House. And while it takes its name from a substance that counteracts a poison, Throsby sees this year's line-up also as a beacon of hope.

"I wanted Antidote to give people an alternative to living without hope and try and think about what the best remedies are for problems we are facing.

2018's Pulitzer Prize winner Ronan Farrow, pictured with his mother, actress Mia Farrow, will be speaking at the festival.

Photo: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

"I wanted to put together a festival that was forward looking and that was solution oriented. When you start engaging with solutions that things get more interesting and ultimately more hopeful."

One of the major themes will be challenge of separating truth from the background roar of ideology and bias.

Investigative report David Niewert, author of Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump, is one of the major speakers who will address some of the issues around so-called "alternative facts".

Meanwhile, whistleblower Chelsea Manning will have plenty to say on issues of technology and privacy, as will former UN investigator Joshua Lyons who analyses satellite imagery to support human rights investigations.

"I don't think that at the end of a two-day talk-fest we're going to have the definitive solutions on how to deal with climate change or alternative facts or anything else," says Throsby.

"But just the fact there are people coming from all over the world to join this festival is an indication that there are a lot of really great minds who are addressing themselves to the problems of the world and to the problems of our communities. The fact they are all coming together and the fact audiences will come and participate is hugely hopeful."

Antidote Festival: A Festival of Ideas, Action & Change, Sydney Opera House, September 1-2.

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