Wanaka talks up a storm
Middle East intervention a hot topic
Italian journalist and economist Loretta Napoleoni and Wellington military historian Dr Damien Fenton bookended the recent Aspiring Conversations Festival with polar opposite views on whether the west should intervene in the Middle East.
But they had two things in common: apocalyptic visions of the failure of democracy and an ability to fill the auditorium.
Napoleoni opened the three day programme, earning applause for her opinion the ‘‘West should back off and let them (the Middle East) sort it out’’.
Fenton closed the show by espousing the opposite view.
‘‘As much as we find it distasteful I think we should do it. Because if we don’t, the way it is going, the idea of an Islamic State over 40 million people is too frightening . . . Look at what the Nazis were able to achieve in Germany,’’ he said.
In between the war talks, festival goers indulged in a feast of other topical issues and ideas courtesy of internationally renowned speakers brought together by head sponsor McKinsey and Co.
New Zealand’s literatti at the festival included CK Stead, Charlotte Grimshaw, Dame Fiona Kidman, Ian Wedde, Vincent O’Sullivan and Kirsty Gunn.
Festival director Philip Tremewan said audience feedback was extremely positive.
‘‘Our most popular sessions were those discussing contemporary issues like technology, politics and the environment so it’s clear people are still drawn by the power of ideas,’’ he said.
‘‘We were also treated to a sellout solo performance by Tim Finn that chimed perfectly with the theme of the festival.’’
Anti-intervention: Loretta Napoleoni.
Pro-intervention: Dr Damien Fenton.