Uncharted, an ideas festival in Berkeley, is like the best dinner party ever

by Emily Watson
09.30.2015

By Emily Watson / SF Weekly / Sept. 30, 2015

For Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas, co-founder Tracey Taylor, the two-day event is a little like a chemistry experiment — bringing together lots of different people and ideas and seeing how they all react together.

Here in the Bay Area, people are always chatting about the issues of the day,” she said. “This is like the best dinner party you could have with people who actually know what they’re talking about.”

Some of those dinner party guests include Pastor Michael McBride, a leader with #BlackLivesMatter; Sandra Gilbert, a feminist critic who recently published Rereading Women: Thirty Years of Exploring Our Literary Traditions; and First Amendment expert William Turner.

Uncharted speaker Masha Gessen

Uncharted speaker Masha Gessen

The themes that have emerged at this year’s Uncharted — the third — include race, gentrification, and health care, Taylor says. Some speakers she’s particularly excited about include Shannon Brownlee, co-founder of the Right Care Alliance, dedicated to sparking change in healthcare through social activism; Slate’s new political correspondent Jamelle Bouie; and Timothy Caulfield, a professor of law and public health at the University of Alberta. Caulfield has written a number of articles on health and science issues and is the author of books, including Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?

Timothy Caulfield

Uncharted 2015 speaker Timothy Caulfield

“I can’t wait to see him,” Taylor said. “I find that whole sort of holier-than-thou thing of celebrities telling us what we should be eating annoying, but he’s coming from a very well-researched position.”

Taylor also looks forward to seeing comedian W. Kamau Bell (the first time to have stand up at Uncharted); Russian author and gay rights activist Masha Gessen, who has written books about Vladimir Putin, the feminist punk rock group Pussy Riot, and most recently The Brothers, about the Boston Marathon bombers; and Chris Anderson, a former editor at Wired, who founded DIY Drones.

Taylor says Uncharted has a wonderful opening night party on the Berkeley campus and music and art as well as conversations. Questions are encouraged, and she says Uncharted is much more affordable than other ideas festivals, with discounts for students, early bird pricing and scholarships for those who really can’t afford it.

“I feel it’s special, something different,” she said. “People go to theater or out to dinner or to see a music festival, but there’s nothing like this.”

Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival Ideas
, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 16 and 17, at Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse, 2020 Addison Street and Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2015 Addison St, Berkeley, $145-$345.

For more information about Uncharted, visit berkeleyideas.com