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First Tuesday current affairs discussion - Tuesday 3 September 7:00pm start
Public discussions and debate in Manchester
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Recent Discussions

City 2.0: Forging a new urban outlook?

June 2012

Alastair Donald, Mindy Gofton, Martin Bryant and Lisa Raynes introduced a discussion on the lure of the social city and what role it can play in regenerating city space.

Alastair Donald

‘Open source cities’; ‘smart cities’; ‘intelligent cities’. The choice of prefix may change, but enthusiasts seem increasingly convinced that digital technologies are transforming not only the nature of communication, but also the way we design, build, use, and interact within cities. On awarding the TED 2012 prize to The City 2.0, the organisers disputed the idea that this city of the future was a ‘sterile utopian dream’. Rather, they argued, we are seeing a real-world upgrade, tapping into humanity’s collective wisdom to create places of ‘beauty, wonder, excitement, inclusion, diversity, life.’

 Mindy Gofton

There are many other claims made for new technologies. Hewlett Packard’s version of City 2.0 asserts that the Information Age is reinventing the city for scalability and sustainability. IBM argue that intelligent technologies are turning neighbourhoods into ‘manageable ecosystems’. According to engineers Arup, new malleable systems increase citizen awareness of the relationships between activities, neighbourhoods, and wider urban systems. Unlike the inflexible, monolithic 20th century city, the Smart City, they say, is a place that citizens collectively modify.

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Is literature the new politics?

May 2012

John Siddique, Angelica Michelis and Ian Betts will introduce a discussion about the role the novel plays in shaping conversations about politics

John SiddiqueDespite a widespread desire for politicians to resolve problems in society, paradoxically there's also a widespread sense that politics is failing to take society forward. So where does all that desire to discuss important ideas and moral issues find an outlet? The popularity of devices like the Kindle comes from more than the ease of using the technology to read, but is based on a broad and sustained market for reading across all ages in society. It is argued by many that the renaissance for reading novels, from the university of the third age discussion groups to the buoyant popularity of child focussed books, is reinvigorating a broader discussion about society's values in a way politics maybe used to fufil.

 Angelica Michelis

Since its inception in the early Eighteenth Century the novel came to replace other forms of literature, such as the epic, the romance and poetry, as the most popular. Maybe its attraction lay, not in the high ideals or the universal, but in the fact that it spoke about real people in believable situations, becoming increasingly popular during Victorian times as it expanded to include characters and stories about the middle and working classes. Many writers have since experimented with shifting the focus further inward to examine human consciousness either through stream of consciousness, as shown by the early Modernists, or collective consciousness as can be found in the ‘Experimental’ novels of Emile Zola. The most enduring, however, are the existential writers such as Sartre and Camus, whose concern was that of the individual isolation within the collective.

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Recent Discussions

How chilling is Leveson for Press Freedom?

April 2012

Patrick Hayes and Helen Nugent introduced a discussion on what impact the Leveson inquiry is having on Press Freedom

Patrick Hayes

Established following the News of the World hacking scandal, the Leveson Inquiry has seen a flood of celebrities expressing their disdain for the way the media has operated, alongside a wide range of others, from scientists, to feminists, broadsheet journalists and pro-drug campaigners.

 Helen Nugent

While Lord Justice Leveson himself has said he’d be ‘surprised if government regulation ever entered [his] mind’, some form of new regulatory body – even just in the form of a revamped Press Complaints Commission ‘with teeth’ looks almost certain. Would such a body be effective in ensuring that another Hackgate arises again? And, if so, could there be unintended side effects? What could be the implications for investigative journalism – and, more broadly, for press freedom?

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Recent Discussions

Engineering a solution to the energy crisis

March 2012

Mike Koefman, Lauren Collins and James Woudhuysen introduced a discussion on how science can help develop a solution to the looming energy crisis

Mike KoefmanThe Manchester Salon hosted a discussion in October 2011 entitled Fukushima fallout, which brought the impending energy crisis in the UK into stark relief. What also became very clear was that the terrain of discussing such an issue has transformed itself quite profoundly in the last decade or so. Many in the audience questioned the proposed use of nuclear technology as a solution to existing and indeed increasing demands for energy production in a way that didn't seem to connect with how the nuclear industry insiders discuss their solutions.


Lauren CollinsThe assumption that society's use of more power should be answered by simply producing more power is commonly questioned, and indeed many in education as well as politics, now teach (or preach) that society should learn to consume less through Reducing, Reusing or Recycling what we have rather than producing more. There seems to be a growing gulf between discussions around reducing waste within energy production and society in its consumption of energy. The talking at cross purposes isn't helpful and as misanthropic views of humanity and its profilgate and rapacious use of energy become more widespread, so the discussion within the industry about how to produce more will be impacted with profound consequences for the lights going out.

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Recent Discussions

Technology, Philosophy and Religion: why the anxiety?

February 2012

David Lewin and James Heartfield introduced a discussion on how technology is discussed across society

David LewinThe public’s use of the internet is causing many liberals some anxiety. Our unfettered access to it has made some begin to question whether all this communication and networking is entirely a good thing—especially when it takes place out of view from officialdom.


In the past, governments have always been exponents of censoring, regulating and questioning merits of access to content including pornography to hate-speech. But now, more and more liberals are themselves questioning the effects of technologies being deployed in wider civil society from unfettered access to the internet through road building, house building to genetic modifications of food.

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Recent Discussions

Religion, Education and Tolerance

November 2011

Richard Harris, Rania Hafez, Dennis Hayes and Charles Brickdale introduced a discussion to ask why religious education and faith schools cause such frisson today. 

Richard HarrisIt is over a hundred and twenty five years since Friedrich Nietzsche popularised the slogan ‘God is dead!’ in Also sprach Zarathustra, so in our secular world the current attacks on religion by Dawkins and others are just not news. To the religious and particularly to Muslims and Christians, the new militant atheism can be explained as a response to the revival of belief. It is not only traditional religions that people appear to be turning to, as there is a big increase in new age beliefs, such as paganism, witchcraft, and spirituality.


Rania HafezOutside of these philosophical debates more and more parents want to send their children to faith schools and as many oppose them. Whether you love them as bastions of a traditional education and discipline, or loathe them as peddlers of homophobia and sexism, faith schools regularly occupy the headlines. Opponents call for their abolition in the name of integrating different cultures rather than allowing educational ghettoisation, equal access to state-funded institutions, and educational openness rather than indoctrination. Defenders of faith schools point to their excellent academic record, and argue that institutions must be free to set their own rules based on their beliefs, noting that the right of free association is not worth much without the right not to associate with some people. Should this argument be allowed to stand, however, when children are being taught values with which much of society now takes issue?

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