Battle of Ideas Debate Festival

16 Nov 2022,

Freedom of speech in academia, acts of resistance in art and the war in Ukraine’s impact on Europe are topics on the agenda when the British debate festival Battle of Ideas visits Accelerator. In the programme, Swedish and international social debaters discuss some of the pressing issues of our time. As a member of the audience you are an important participant in the three conversations. Please join us to listen, reflect and take part in the debate.

Free entrance. There will be plenty of spaces for on the door entries. but please pre-book your ticket to guarantee a place. Book tickets.

The conversations will be in English. The event is a collaboration between Accelerator, Battle of Ideas and the book publisher Volante.



Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the return of war to Europe has shocked the world and appears to have upended many assumptions about how international politics operates. What are the roots of the crisis in Ukraine and what will be the implications for reshaping Europe? Is this a new moment of Western unity and a reassertion of ‘Western values’ or the return of History and deeper geopolitical tensions? If borders and nation states still need to be taken seriously, how can countries offer solidarity to others?


Alex Voronov, journalist and writer. Since Russia’s invasion he has done several trips to the Ukraine to report from the war zone. Voronov is a former political editor of Eskilstuna-Kuriren, and currently an editorial writer at Liberala Nyhetsbyrån.

Maria Nilsson, Associate Professor of Journalism at the Institute of Media Studies, Stockholm University. Nilsson’s research interests include the politics of representation; questions of power, credibility and agency in visual media practices; and visual journalism and journalism in various historical and current contexts.

Sabine Beppler-Spahl, author and journalist. Chair at the Freiblickinstitut, Germany correspondent for online publication Spiked.

Magnus Petersson, Professor of International Relations and Head of Department for Economic History and International Relations at Stockholm University. Petersson’s research interests are Swedish, Nordic, European, and Transatlantic security and defence policy. He has previously worked the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI) and the Swedish Defence University.


Universities exist for the purpose of widely exploring and engaging with ideas. But are we morphing from a society that fought for the right to speak our minds and hear all opinions to one that shuns widely engaging with ideas? To what extent are international trends evident in Sweden and how should universities handle controversy, and acknowledge and even promote disagreement? Are academics right to be worried about new restrictions, or have academics always been constrained by prevailing orthodoxies? How can students be won to the cause of critical inquiry, free expression and open debate?


Tiina Rosenberg, Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies at Stockholm University. She is the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Arts Helsinki and has previously been a Professor of Gender Studies at Stockholm University and at Lund University.

Sara Kristoffersson, writer and professor of Design history and theory at Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design, Sweden. Author of Hela havet stormar. Rapport inifrån en myndighet (Volante 2022) about politicisation of academia and culture.

Jan Macvarish, Director education and events at the Free Speech Union, UK. Macvarish has worked as an academic sociologist, studying parenting, family life, intimacy and reproductive health. She is currently a visiting research fellow at the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies, University of Kent.

Erik J Olsson, professor of theoretical philosophy at Lund University, Director of Academic Rights Watch. Leader of ongoing research project Filterbubblor och ideologisk segregering online.


Recent events, such as the Iranian women’s fight against theocratic oppression and the struggle of the Ukrainian people against Russian invaders, have forced us to confront the meaning of courage. What insights can we gain from art today on the question of courage, and what are the opportunities and challenges for artists themselves? What could be considered courageous in an artist’s actions, what do purpose and benefit mean in art – and is there a subversive power in the irrational?


Sara Abdollahi, literary critic, essayist and culture writer. Abdollahi is a contributing writer for Göteborgsposten’s culture section and a member of SITE Zones editorial board.

Fia-Stina Sandlund, artist based in Stockholm and New York, working at the intersection of journalism, social activism and “re-enaction” as a form of history writing. As a member of the art group Unfucked Pussy, she made an intervention at the Miss Sweden contest where she held up a banderole with the text “male slime”.

Rosie Kay, dancer, choreographer, CEO and artistic director of K2CO LTD

Alastair Donald, co-convenor for the Battle of Ideas Festival and associate director of the Academy of Ideas. Alastair is also secretary of the Battle of Ideas charity and convenor of Living Freedom, its annual residential summer school for young people.