Hard News by Russell Brown


Splore 2020: The Listening Lounge

As I've done for the past few years, I'm curating and presenting The Listening Lounge, the talk programme at Splore. On the morning of Saturday the 22nd at the Living Lounge stage, the korero goes like this.

Yes, we're talking about drugs again, not just because I'm professionally interested in drug policy and public health, but because the feedback is that people deeply appreciate hearing these informed discussions.

10:00 News You Can Use With Know Your Stuff

KnowYourStuff has become the go-to for good information on party drugs and safety, for both media and punters alike. And they're more legit than ever,  thanks to a neat compromise by which researchers have spent the summer studying the impact of of their drug-checking work. (But for New Zealand First's intransigence, we'd have a law explicitly allowing it.) KnowYourStuff's deputy manager Dr Jez Weston will join me to talk about what nasties they're seeing this season – and when Auckland might expect to see something like the monthly services the New Zealand Drug Foundation has been hosting at its office.

10:30 The Reeferendum Gets Real

Last year, you could have been forgiven for wondering where a "Yes" campaign for the forthcoming referendum on legalising and regulating cannabis was coming from. This year will be different. I'm joined by Chris Fowlie, one of the founders of Make It Legal, whose work is about to step up, and Drug Foundation principal advisor Renee Shingles, who will be heading the foundation's reform campaign. Renee will be a new name to most people, but she's spent the summer engaging with the public at events. Her CV includes work for Crosby Textor – which might just be what it takes.

11:00 The New Zealand Microdosing Trial

Dr Suresh Muthukumaraswamy of the University of Auckland School of Pharamacy was the neuroimaging specialist on several studies at Imperial College Cambridge that are regarded as foundational to the new science of psychedelic therapy. This year in Auckland, he will be leading an unprecedented study of an aspect of that science that's been talked about a lot but remains poorly understood – microdosing. A group of healthy young men will take subperceptual doses of LSD "in the wild", and go about their lives. Suresh will explain the study – and why, for now, the study group will be male-only. He'll be joined on stage by Amadeus Diamond and Dr Will Evans,  two colleages from The Entheos Foundation – whose launch was announced from the Listening Lounge stage last year.

11:30 The Infinite Game: How do we move past our differences, get together and save the world?

University of Auckland psychologist Dr Niki Harré is the author of two books deaing with humans and common cause: Psychology for a Better World and The Infinite Game: How to Live Well Together. This panel discussion takes its cue from those ideas. Niki will be joined onstage by Takunda Muzondiwa, whose amazing speech last year as head girl at Mt Albert Grammar, about belonging and identity, blew up and went viral; and Mark Pierson, the pastor and "worship curator" with the Rhythms of Grace church community, who may overturn any ideas you had about modern churches. There could be another panelist too ...

And that's not all! For the first time this year, the Splore institution that is Wendy's Wellness will be hosting "tent talks" and two of them will be proper deep dives conducted by Listening Lounge panelists:

2.30pm Saturday: Amadeus Diamond and Will Evans will talk about the current state of psychedelics research, its therapeutic potential – and the striking changes emerging in the legal environment around it all.

4:30pm Saturday Niki Harré will be conducting an Infinite Game workshop – a structured process designed to establish what our shared values really are. (You'll also see a very cool online version of the same thing, and an Infinite Game installation onsite.)

NB: There's an error in some iterations of the Splore programme that has these on the Friday. They're definitely on Saturday.

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