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Festival of Economics 2023

At the annual Festival of Economics, directed by Diane Coyle and Richard Davies, economists and experts from around the world debate the key economic questions of our time.

We sold over 2,400 tickets for the 2023 event and welcomed policy-makers, journalists, school and university students, and members of the public. A list of the 16 events - run across the course of the three-day Festival in venues around Bristol - is included below with links to audio recordings.

We have also published summaries of each of the day's sessions by our writers-in-residence:


Bank of England Citizens’ Panel

17:45 — 20:00, WATERSHED

A one-off live event that offers the opportunity to let the Bank of England know how the cost-of-living crisis is affecting you, your spending and your plans for the future. Chaired by Romesh Vaitilingam, Economics Observatory editor-in-chief.


Making Economics Easily Digestible with Ha-Joon Chang

10:30 — 11:30 |  WATERSHED  |  Access audio recording

To explore economic theory, Ha-Joon Chang (SOAS University of London) uses the histories behind various food items from around the globe, how they are cooked and eaten, and what they mean to different cultures. In his book, Edible Economics: A Hungry Economist Explains the World, he explains how chocolate offers insights into post-industrial knowledge economies, or how okra speaks to capitalism’s complicated relationship with freedom. Chaired by Mehreen Khan (The Times).

Talking Economics: Food Supply and Inflation

12:00 — 13:15 |  WATERSHED  |  Access audio recording

We’re all seeing the price of our weekly shop escalate beyond recognition, and hearing endless chatter about the cost-of-living crisis in the House of Commons. But why has this all happened? We have invited a panel of economists and industry experts to discuss the nuts and bolts of the international network of food supply and inflation in the wake of Brexit and shifting trade deals. 

Chaired by Chris Giles (Financial Times), with Ha-Joon Chang (SOAS University of London), Swati Dhingra (London School of Economics and external member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee), Jean-Michel Grand (Action Against Hunger UK), and Melanie Vaxevanakis (MAZI Project).

Talking Economics: What Next for Central Banks? with Jagjit Chadha and Huw Pill

13:45 — 15:00 |  WATERSHED  |  Access audio recording

In the third installment of our series on ‘What’s Next for Central Banks?’, Jagjit Chadha (Director, National Institute of Economic and Social Research) and Huw Pill (Chief Economist, Bank of England) reflect on the last year of activity for our central banks and look ahead at what’s to come – and what challenges the UK must confront.

This will include discussion of the effects of rising interest rates, the decisions ahead for the Monetary Policy Committee and where the UK’s monetary policy might be headed over the medium and long term. Chaired by Anna Valero (London School of Economics).

What is the Future of Food in the UK?

15:30 — 16:45  |  WATERSHED  |  Access audio recording

With changing diets, new farming technologies and the increasing impacts of climate change, this is a pivotal time to be working in the food industry. Our panel of experts look ahead to the future of food and the burgeoning global food crisis.

Chaired by Anu Anand (BBC World Service), with Matthew Agarwala (Bennett Institute, University of Cambridge), Lotanna Emediegwu (Manchester Metropolitan University), Phil Haughton (Better Food) and Julia Kirby-Smith (Better Food Traders).

LIVE PODCAST RECORDING Tim Harford: Cautionary Tales

19:30 — 20:30  |  ST GEORGE'S BRISTOL  

We tell our children unsettling fairy tales to teach them valuable life lessons, but these cautionary tales are for the education of grown-ups – and they are all true. In his hit podcast Cautionary Tales, Tim Harford brings stories of awful human error, tragic catastrophes, daring heists and hilarious fiascos.


Britain and the Aftermath of Empire with Kojo Koram

10:30 — 11:30  |  WATERSHED  |  Access audio recording

Kojo Koram discusses his book Uncommon Wealth: Britain and the Aftermath of Empire, which uncovers the scandal of Britain’s disastrous treatment of independent countries after empire – and how those decisions continue to affect the damage being done in Britain today and to its economy. Chaired by with Ore Ogunbiyi (The Economist).

What are the UK’s Long-Term Health and Care Needs?

12:00 — 13:15  |  WATERSHED  |  Access audio recording

As our nation’s demographics change and we are home to an increasingly ageing population, how will our needs for health and social care change? Our expert panel will address the effects that inadequate provision can have on those requiring and providing care, and discuss how policy can address these.

Chaired by Ore Ogunbiyi (The Economist) with Patrick Jeurissen (Radboud University Medical School), Emily Kenway (author), Cathy Reay (journalist and writer) and Chris Salisbury (University of Bristol and National Institute for Health and Care Research).

Oligarchs: Are They Dominating Our World?

14:00 — 15:00 | Watershed | Access audio recording

Today, more than twenty oligarchs serve as heads of state or government in countries such as Russia, South Africa, Lebanon, and El Salvador. Many have a net worth in excess of $1 billion, and they all – whether directly or indirectly – impact our daily lives.

David Lingelbach (University of Baltimore) and Valentina Rodríguez Guerra (Universidad Nacional de Colombia) discuss their book The Oligarchs’ Grip: Fusing Wealth and Power with Sarah Smith (University of Bristol).

The Social Cost of a Failing Childcare System

15:30 — 16:45  | WATERSHED  |  Access audio recording

As the nation’s childcare needs evolve, so too do the pressures facing nurseries, playgroups, childminders and other childcare settings. Our expert panel will discuss these challenges alongside the long-term consequences for families and the labour force.

Chaired by Lucy Denyer (journalist), with Christine Farquharson (Institute for Fiscal Studies), Rosie Fogden (Centre for Progressive Policy), Tina Maltman (Childminding UK) and Jane van Zyl (Working Families).


Hargreaves Lansdown Breakfast Session

08:30 — 10:00  |  HARGREAVES LANSDOWN

A breakfast session, hosted by Hargreaves Lansdown Bristol Team, focusing on financial resilience and what it means for the UK economy. Expert speakers will explore how financial resilience be embedded into workplace culture, the wider policy ramifications of financial resilience work and what this means for business.

How the Battle for Minerals Will Shape Our Future with Ed Conway

10:30 — 11:30  | WATERSHED  |  Access audio recording

The battle for sand, iron, salt, oil, copper and lithium will dictate the balance of global power in the coming century. Ed Conway (Sky News) will introduce his book Material World: A Substantial Story of Our Past and Future and look at the history of human civilisation and how the fight to control these minerals will shape our future. Chaired by Anu Anand (BBC World Service).

Talking Economics: Brunel’s Vision for 2050

12:00 — 13:15  |  WATERSHED  |  Access audio recording

The 'rest of HS2' being cancelled has resurfaced questions about the UK's infrastructure and public transport connectivity. Our panel will consider the country's infrastructure needs and discuss what the great civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel might build if he was here today.

Chaired by Ed Conway (Sky News) with Chris Colvin (Queen's University Belfast), Zoe Metcalfe (Atkins) and Claire Pearce (Salamanca Group).

What is the Future for Generation Alpha?

13:45 — 15:00  |  WATERSHED  |  Access audio recording

While every generation has its challenges, Generation Alpha (those born between 2010 and 2025) has endured the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic as young children, compounded with the ever-increasing domination of technology and social networking. 

Our expert panel will consider what the future might look like today's children, addressing whether they'll be able to afford homes or retire, whether they will have children themselves and how technology may shape their lives. Chaired by Eshe Nelson (New York Times), with Paul Lindley (Ella's Kitchen), Michael McMahon (University of Oxford), Sarah O'Connor (Financial Times).

How Do We Build a Future Where Everyone Has a Home?

15:30 — 16:45  |  WATERSHED  |  Access audio recording

With soaring housing costs and an enduring cost-of-living crisis, securing a home – whether buying or renting – is a significant worry for many. The government is yet to meet its housebuilding target from its 2019 manifesto and has closed its Green Homes grant scheme.

This panel will discuss questions around housing supply, affordability and energy efficiency and what some policy solutions might be for both the short and long term. Chaired by Carol Lewis (The Times and Sunday Times), with Ed Atkins (University of Bristol), Dame Katharine Barker (economist) and Henry Overman (London School of Economics).

LIVE PODCAST RECORDING Money Clinic with Claer Barrett

19:00 — 20:00  |  GREAT HALL, BRISTOL GRAMMAR SCHOOL  |  Access audio recording

A live recording of the Money Clinic Podcast, where Claer Barrett and guests Susannah Streeter (Hargreaves Lansdown) and Sarah O’Connor (Financial Times) respond to questions on inflation, interest rates, growth and taxes and the impact they have on our everyday financial lives. 

Tim Harford, Cautionary Tales Live Podcast, St. Georges, Bristol Festival of Economics, 2023

The Festival of Economics is presented in partnership with Bristol Ideas.
Photos: Bhagesh Sachania
Header image: Willem Hampson