The theme for Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival 2017 is ‘The Speed of Life’.

Amongst other things, the festival will consider whether we need more calm in today’s fast-paced world and if digital technology is creating a world of workaholics.

Harriet Harman MP, former health minister Edwina Currie, historian and broadcaster Bettany Hughes, poet Simon Armitage, songwriter Richard Hawley, humanitarian campaigner Terry Waite and physicist Jim Al-Khalili are among the those who will speak at the festival, which will encompass debate, new ideas, arts performances and live music.

Highlights of the weekend include Professor Russell Foster’s festival keynote address, entitled ‘Sleep: Freedom to Think’; a discussion between writers Kirsty Logan, Jenn Ashworth, Paul McVeigh and George Saunders on the art of the short story; and an edition of Music Matters exploring how social media affects our musical listening.

In Tune presenter Suzy Klein will launch the weekend with live performances from pianist Lars Vogt, with members of Royal Northern Sinfonia, Newcastle based Jazz duo Diachronicx, and pianola expert Rex Lawson. Other musical offerings include a performance from 2016 Choir of the Year winners, Voices of Hope, a performance of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons from the Avison Ensemble, and live music from Paul Edis for Jazz Record Requests.

This year’s ten New Generation Thinkers will be announced during the festival, and previous winners will deliver essays on a range of topics. The audience will get the chance to vote on the most convincing ideas in ‘speed dating’ opportunities during the weekend, which will see ten winners present their suggestions in just 60 seconds.

‘The Free Thinking Festival embodies what Radio 3 is all about,’ said Alan Davey, controller of Radio 3. ‘It gives people time and space to contemplate challenging ideas, enjoy diverse often genre-defying music, and to step away from the frenzy of the speed of life.’

The festival will take place 17-19 March 2017 at Sage Gateshead. Tickets to attend are free.