Alumni Services

Alumni with dangerous ideas

Academics return to the Fringe to debate and discuss controversial research.

Swords into ploughshares
Professor Jolyon Mitchell and Dr Lesley Orr.

Why do we succumb to pressure to present an image of ourselves to the world? Do deaf people experience hearing loss or deaf gain? Are smart lights the future of data communications? Can the arts be used to build peace? Do you think the criminal justice system is a soft touch?

These are just some of the questions that academics present for discussion and debate as part of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas 2015.

Courting controversy

The first Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas programme was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013. It has since grown in scope and popularity and now includes researchers from across Scotland who tackle a range of controversial subjects in 24 interactive shows. The Cabaret takes place between the 7th and 30th August at the Stand in the Square.

Curated by the Beltane Public Engagement Network, produced by Fair Pley, and compered by the comedienne Susan Morrison; the Cabaret aims to encourage citizen participation and understanding of academic research.

View the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas programme

The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas doesn’t just push academics out from behind the lectern and onto the stage, but thrusts them into spotlight at the largest arts festival in the world. This offers a fantastically informal setting for a fringe-goer to debate, discuss and challenge controversial  research with some of Scotland’s fiercest intellectuals.

Self portrait

The 2015 production features 14 alumni from the University of Edinburgh including a number whose careers and life experiences have informed current research and potentially dangerous thinking.

Mal Burkinshaw
Mal Burkinshaw.

After graduating in fashion from Edinburgh College of Art in 1997 Mal Burkinshaw, worked in Italy as a designer for United Colours of Benetton before returning to Edinburgh to establish the design label, MalandLeigh, in partnership with knitwear designer Leigh Bagley. Now ECA Programme Director for Fashion, Mal’s current research explores and challenges the relationship between fashion design and body image.

In ‘Fashion and the selfie culture’ Mal discusses and debates the role that fashion plays in stereotyping ideals of beauty and asks whether empathy can ever change the strict doctrines of current beauty codes.

'Fashion and the selfie culture' on the Fringe website

War and peace

Professor Jolyon Mitchell, who completed his PhD in divinity at Edinburgh, worked as a producer and journalist for BBC World Service and BBC Radio 4 before moving into academia. Now Professor of Communications, Arts and Religion at the University of Edinburgh, Jolyon’s research is driven by the relationship between religion and the media.

In the show 'Swords into ploughshares', Professor Mitchell is joined by another graduate, feminist historian, theologian, writer and activist, Dr Lesley Orr.

Lesley’s career and thinking has been concerned with challenging domestic abuse and all forms of gender based violence and injustice including working on the Scottish Government’s National Strategy to address violence against women.

In their show Jolyon and Lesley discuss whether dangerous memories, toxic religion, intractable conflicts and gender violence be transformed by different media and arts. Drawing on a range of international, national and domestic examples they explore both whether and how ‘swords can become ploughshares’ and weapons can be transformed into art.

Weapons  tell stories of harm and oppression, and our world is saturated with images of violence. In the face of conflict and suffering, the memories people carry are so often traumatic and disempowering - and sadly, so often enshrined in misbegotten myths or symbols which entrench and incite more harm. But is it possible to imagine a world not framed and defined by violence? 

Dr Lesley Orr

'Swords into ploughshares' on the Fringe website

Alumni with ideas

Book tickets

Tickets can be purchased on the Fringe website and cost £8, £7 concession. For more information please visit the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas website.