Balloon debate: what’s the best screen adaptation of a book?

Battle of Ideas festival 2023, Saturday 28 October, Church House, London


Six participants argue for their choice in a light-hearted debate with a serious intent. Audience participation encourages you to agree, disagree, challenge, assess… and dismiss those arguments and adaptations that you find unworthy to wear the crown.

The panel have a few minutes only to convince you of their choice. Would Jane Austen have seen Colin Firth’s Mr Darcy in a dripping shirt as a suitable heir? Or would she have preferred Alicia Silverstone’s Clueless teen? Did Blade Runner and Apocalypse Now adapt the original material, or simply use them as inspiration? Was A Handmaid’s Tale more or less terrifying when confined to the pages of Margaret Atwood’s novel? And do you agree with the Wall Street Journal, that the latest adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations ‘belches out the problems of literary adaptation with the dyspeptic regularity of a coal-fired Victorian ironworks’ ?

The discussion allows just five minutes for each panellist’s defence before the audience takes them to task. The audience then votes to chuck three contenders out of the virtual balloon before the remaining candidates make a final plea for their vote.

Jonathan Grant
chartered accountant; arts critic

Ethan Green
researcher, Ideas Matter; fellow, Common Sense Society; national committee member, Speakeasy Group

Phil Harrison
writer; author, The First Day; filmmaker, Even Gods

Sibyl Ruth
writer and editor

Dr Maren Thom
lecturer; writer; acting and vocal trainer; podcast host, Performance Anxiety

Barry Wall
course director,

David Bowden
associate fellow, Academy of Ideas