Uncharted Berkeley Festival of Ideas 2015: The best yet

Masha Gessen and Lance Knobel at Uncharted 2015. Photo: Pete Rosos
Putin expert Masha Gessen shaking hands with Berkeley Ideas Festival curator Lance Knobel after a gripping conversation. Photo: Pete Rosos

The third annual Uncharted Berkeley Festival of Ideas closed Saturday after two days of engaging and compelling conversations that ran the gamut from the inadequacies of the criminal justice system — outlined in no uncertain terms by Judge Alex Kozinski — to the flaws in our education system, articulated by extraordinary 18-year-old reformer Adora Svitak, the perils of Vladimir Putin, who writer Masha Gessen described bluntly as “a thug,” and the dangers of over-treatment in the healthcare system, articulated all too clearly by activist and author Shannon Brownlee.

The festival, held in downtown Berkeley and on the Cal campus, was far from being one long downer, however. For what emerged from nearly all the sessions and discussions, on and off the stage, was a call to action of sorts: to get uncomfortable and to fight back. Or, as Krissy Eliot interpreted it in her excellent report for California Magazine of the festival’s first day, “Screw the system” — let’s dismantle and then reconstruct some of those systems to create a fairer society.

And perhaps that, ultimately, is what an ideas festival is all about: people coming together with a diverse range of experiences and perspectives to wrestle with the pressing issues of the day and then to begin to look for creative ways to make progress. And what more fitting place for that to happen than in Berkeley?

As the host of Uncharted, Berkeleyside would like to thank all the speakers, moderators and performers who opened our eyes to a wealth of new knowledge, or transported us with their singing (thank you, Meklit) or cracked us up with their humor (salute to W. Kamau Bell); the attendees who brought the whole festival to life; as well as our partners who, with their financial and in-kind support, made it possible to put the festival on in the first place.


For those who missed the festival, or just some of the sessions — or for anyone who wants another chance to take in the thought-provoking discussions that took place there — Berkeleyside aims to make available podcasts of some or all of the Uncharted conversations.

Meantime, to provide a taste, we bring you a small selection of the wonderful photographs taken over the course of the festival by photographers Pete Rosos and Kelly Sullivan.

See more Day 1 and Day 2 photographs on Flickr.

Adora Svitak, 18, in conversation with Kathryn Ellison at Uncharted Berkeley Festival of Ideas 2015. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
Adora Svitak, 18, in conversation with writer Katherine Ellison. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
W. Kamau Bell at Uncharted 2015. Photo: Pete Rosos
Comedian W. Kamau Bell has the audience in stitches. Photo: Pete Rosos
Scott Timberg and Patrick Dooley at Uncharted 2015. Photo: Pete Rosos
Scott Timberg, a culture writer, and Patrick Dooley, the founder of Shotgun Players, in conversation about culture and its future. Photo: Pete Rosos
Malo André Hutson and John King. Photo: Pete Rosos
Urban planning expert Malo André Hutson shakes hands with John King, urban design critic at the San Francisco Chronicle. Photo: Pete Rosos
Festivalgoers walk through the UC Berkeley campus towards the Uncharted 2015 party at Alumni House, led by Elsa Tranter and Colleen Neff of the Berkeley Path Wanderers. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
Festivalgoers stroll through the UC Berkeley campus towards the Uncharted Party at Alumni House. The walk was led by Elsa Tranter and Colleen Neff of the Berkeley Path Wanderers. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
Meklit Hadero performs at Uncharted 2015. Photo: Pete Rosos
Meklit Hadero performs on Friday morning at Uncharted. Photo: Pete Rosos
Speaker Robin Sloan talks with festivalgoers at the Uncharted 2015 party. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
Berkeley author and Uncharted speaker Robin Sloan talks with festivalgoers, including writer Scott Rosenberg (right), at the Uncharted Party. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
Eliane Miller Bond takes festivalgoers inside a hummingbird's nest at Uncharted 2015. Photo: Pete Rosos
Wildlife photographer Elaine Miller Bond takes festivalgoers inside a hummingbird’s nest. Photo: Pete Rosos
Tiffany Shlain at Uncharted 2015. Photo: Pete Rosos
Filmmaker Tiffany Shlain talks about taking a break from technology. Photo: Pete Rosos
The iPhoneography/Autodesk lab at Uncharted 2015. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
Getting into technology at the iPhoneography/Autodesk lab at Uncharted. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
Festivalgoers talk with speaker Judge Alex Kozinski at Uncharted 2015. Photo: Pete Rosos
Festivalgoers talk with speaker Judge Alex Kozinski at a coffee break. Photo: Pete Rosos
The Rent is Too Damn High lab at Uncharted 2015. Photo: Pete Rosos
The Rent is Too Damn High lab, led by Malo André Hutson and Doug Solomon. Photo: Pete Rosos
Alice Medrich leads a "flour power" lab at Uncharted 2015. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
Cookbook author Alice Medrich leads a “flour power” lab. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
Pastor Michael McBride and Joshua Johnson at Uncharted 2015. Photo: Pete Rosos
Pastor Michael McBride and KQED’s Joshua Johnson get real about Black Lives Matter. Photo: Pete Rosos
Festivalgoers consult their printed programs at Uncharted 2015. Photo: Pete Rosos
Festivalgoers consult their programs at Uncharted. Photo: Pete Rosos
Lance Knobel with Jamelle Bouie at Uncharted 2015. Photo: Pete Rosos
Berkeleyside’s Lance Knobel asks Slate’s chief political correspondent Jamelle Bouie what we can expect at the 2016 elections. Photo: Pete Rosos
Regina Evans at Uncharted 2015. Photo: Pete Rosos
Poet and actor Regina Evans performs a powerful piece to raise awareness of sexual slavery. Photo: Pete Rosos
Coffee break treats courtesy of Whole Foods Catering at Uncharted 2015. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
Coffee break treats, courtesy of Whole Foods Catering, at Uncharted. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
Alice Dreger at Uncharted 2015. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
Historian of medicine and science, Alice Dreger, who says she won’t walk away at signs of trouble, talking about why she resigned from Northwestern University. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
The Uncharted Festival 2015 party on the patio of Alumni House. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
The festival Party, supported by The Grubb Company, on the patio of Alumni House. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
Elñora Tena Webb at Uncharted 2015. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
Elñora Tena Webb, president of Laney College, talking about increasing access to education. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks at Uncharted 2015. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
Cal Chancellor Nicholas Dirks talks about the university’s global campus. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
Uncharted 2015 party at Alumni House on the Cal campus. Photo: Pete Rosos
Uncharted Party at Alumni House on the Cal campus. Photo: Pete Rosos
Tigerlily Bar's xxx serving up signature festival cocktails at the Uncharted 2015 party. Photo: Pete Rosos
Tigerlily Bar’s Polina Kharnas serving up signature festival cocktails at the Uncharted Party. Photo: Pete Rosos
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The core Uncharted Festival team (l to r): Tracey Taylor, Lance Knobel, Wendy Cohen, Greg Fuson, Kate Williams, Emilie Raguso, Frances Dinkelspiel and Helena Brantley. Photo: Pete Rosos

For full information about the Uncharted Festival, visit BerkeleyIdeas.com. If you would like to receive information and first dibs on discounted tickets for Uncharted 2016, sign up for the Uncharted email.