Is democracy under threat?

Although we are ‘enjoying’ an election, many people are questioning whether democracy is worth defending. In a year when 4 billion people across the world are voting, the democratic spirit should be thriving, but many people are thinking “none of the above” is the only attractive option.

Meanwhile our elites fear democracy – pointing to the dangers of populism and scoffing at the views of the uneducated, unwashed masses. They increasingly look to work around democratic structures with direct action on climate change, the use of judicial reviews and acceptance of rules made by supranational bodies.

Is a faith in old-fashioned democracy waning despite the fact that real political questions are widely contested? Are our democratic instincts being frustrated by our current institutions? Are citizens’ forums or frequent referendums part of the answer? How can we rescue democracy?


About our speaker

Hilary Salt is standing in the general election for the SDP in her home constituency of Wythenshawe and Sale East. She has recently retired from First Actuarial, a business she co-founded 20 years ago that now employs nearly 500 people across the UK. Her legacy in the pensions field is the development of the ground-breaking CDC pension scheme with the Communication Workers Union and Royal Mail. She is a member of the Council of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries. Hilary has two grown up sons, a lovingly tended garden, a VW campervan and a season ticket to Old Trafford.

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 20 June, 7 PM in the Brunswick Inn, Derby.

Tickets £3 (pus fee) on Eventbrite.

Picture Credit:  La Liberté guidant le peuple by Delacroix (1830) Public Domain. 

The truth about assisted dying

The call for assisted dying is usually made in terms of humanity and compassion for the suffering of the terminally ill.

Writing in The Times in March, Matthew Parris was blunter: We can’t afford a taboo on assisted dying. The old and sick simply cost society too much.

Compassion versus Cost: What is the truth about assisted dying and the claims made for it?

About our speaker

Kevin Yuill is emeritus professor of history at the University of Sunderland. His books include Assisted Suicide: the liberal, humanist case against legalization and Richard Nixon and the Rise of Affirmative Action. He has written academic articles on assisted suicide and euthanasia, as well as on the history of affirmative action, race relations, and gun control.

Kevin has also published on assisted suicide in the Economist, Telegraph, Independent, Spectator (Australia and UK) and regularly contributes to spiked.

He is currently the CEO of the Humanists Against Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia project.

Follow Kevin on Twitter: @historykev

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 23 May, 19.00-21.00, in the Brunswick Inn, Derby.

Tickets £3 (plus fee) on Eventbrite.

(Illustration: Rubens The Dying Seneca (1613) In the Public Domain)

The Case for a Classical Education

At the March East Midlands Salon, Dr Nicholas Joseph (University of Derby) will put the case for a classical education. Richard Harris (Oxford alumnus) will respond. The discussion will focus on “Why do we need a classical education in the 21st Century?”

What is a Classical Education?

Classical education is a rigorous system of education that is content-heavy and based on an appreciation of the best of human culture from Socrates to David Hume and Shakespeare to Goethe. This classical approach has been followed by generations of people, from Ancient Rome right through the rise of industrial society and beyond. The knowledge-based curriculum assumes that a child needs to know the facts about their world before they can develop their critical faculties. Classical education trains children in the foundations of human knowledge and understanding so that, as they grow and mature, they can develop their ability to observe, analyse and question, compare their understanding with others, and engage in dialogue and debate.

About the Speakers

Nicholas is a Salon regular. He has a PhD in medieval European history and has just edited and contributed to a recent book: New Studies in theHistory of Education(Routledge, 2023).

Richard has an MA in Philosophy and Religious Studies from the University of Oxford. A qualified lawyer, he is active in case work involving teachers and lecturers. He is a member of the Academics For Academic Freedom advisory board.


A short and clear exposition of classical education is available on the new St Alban’s Classical Primary School website: What is Classical Education?

A Newham School is also offering a classical education

Martin Robinson’s book Trivium 21c is essential reading.

And you might like to find out about Minimus and if you are interested in what schools are doing, visit Classics For All.

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 21 March, 19.00-21.00 in the Brunswick Inn, Derby. Tickets (£3.00 plus fee) on Eventbrite.

(Image: Plato’s Academy, mosaic, Pompeii. In the public domain)

Self-Censorship: what daren’t I say?

Is self-censorship a growing threat to democracy and the search for truth in academia?

According to a survey by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, 83% of US students self-censor, but is this just an acceptable feature of academic life?

A study by King’s College London found that:

  • 51% of students think the climate at their university prevents some people from saying things they believe because others might find them offensive, while 30% disagree that this is the case.
  • 80% of the UK public overall think that the climate in UK society inhibits some people from speaking their minds, compared with 17% who disagree.

Nearly half of Americans self-censor and some studies show that self-censorship is on the rise and it is harmful psychologically and politically.

It seems that holding your tongue and keeping stum is the new normal in universities, the workplace and in social life.

We will begin our discussion by asking, “When are you afraid to speak up?”

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 29 February at 19.00 in the Brunswick Inn, Derby

Tickets £3 (plus fee) on Eventbrite.

This event is being held in conjunction with the East Midlands AFAF branches at Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield Universities – and with Leeds University AFAF.

(Photo Credit: Jennifer Townsend by Jenifer Townsend)

Which is worse, the devil or the bureaucracy?

At our first salon of the year, Vanessa Pupavac will introduce a discussion of the literary and political masterpiece that is Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita.

Make the book your Christmas must read!

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 25 January 2024 at 7 PM in the Parlour of the Brunswick Inn, Derby

Tickets £3 plus fee on Eventbrite.

(Photo Credit: Lena Kreindlin, Gesher Theater General Director (2010). This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

Abolition Times

This will be a very different Salon at which Vincent Gould will introduce his project ‘Abolition Times’, that includes an album about the abolition of slavery. Taking place on three continents it features untold stories of the people who helped to end the African slave trade.

The stories are told through speech and song and Vincent will perform some of his unique songs.

Vincent is a songwriter, poet, actor and performer. He has spoken at the Battle of Ideas festival and the Birmingham Salon. He will be talking and performing his songs at the Battle in October 2023. His performance will be a taster of what to expect at the festival.

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 19 October at 19.00 in the Brunswick Inn, Derby.

Tickets £3 (plus fee) on Eventbrite.

(Illustration credit: Vince Gould)

The lessons of lockdown

Our September Salon will be an open discussion of the lessons of lockdown.

Our speakers are Salon regulars, Kieran Saxon and Nicholas Joseph, who will introduce a discussion of what we learned from lockdown about ourselves, our freedoms and the state.

Come along with your reflections and assessments. This is the real Covid Inquiry!

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 21 September, 7-9 PM, in the Brunswick Inn, Derby.

Tickets – £3 (plus fee) available on Eventbrite.

(Photo credit: Dennis Hayes)

In praise of boxing

At our June Salon, Chris Akers will speak up in praise of boxing:

“There is a nobility beauty and artistry within the sport of boxing. These qualities of boxing have been conveyed by writes of the calibre of Ernest Hemmingway and Joyce Carol Oates. Boxing can also instil young people with qualities such as discipline and confidence. Boxing has social benefits for individuals and communities far beyond competing in the ring.”.

About Chris

Chris is a psychology graduate. His interests include sport, art and politics. His podcast, the ‘286 Project’ focuses on interviews with notable people in the fields.

Chris is also the ghost writer for autobiography King of the Journeymen: the Peter Buckley story.

He has been a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board since 2021.

Date, Time, and Venue: Thursday 22 June at 19.00 in the parlour of the Brunswick Inn, Derby.

Tickets £3 (plus fee) on Eventbrite.


Chris Akers

Leon Gast (Director) When We Were Kings (1997) Oscar Winning Documentary Film of ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’. Highly recommended.

Lee Groves (2014) The Rumble in the Jungle Retrospective: Ali v Foreman 40 years on, The Ring, 30 October 2014.

Tom Ogg (2012) Boxing Clever. Boxing Clever is Tom Ogg’s account of teaching teenagers at the London Boxing Academy Community Project (LBACP) in Tottenham, North London, who had been expelled from school. The aim of the project was to make use of the strong relationships that boxing coaches have with wayward young men.

(Image Credit: Jan Bowman)

The relevance of Marx in the 21st century

‘The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.’
Marx, 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon (1852)

Our speaker, Efraim Carlebach Marx, pre-eminent critic of and participant in the 19th-century working-class socialist movement, died 140 years ago. If not for the historical significance of the political movement that claimed the mantle of his critique, he might be as little remembered as his contemporary, Herbert Spencer, the British philosopher, more famous in their time, whose grave faces Marx’s in Highgate. Today, that political movement is a rotten corpse emitting the smell of Marx’s apparent irrelevance. Those who invoke him, positively or negatively, express only the gulf separating Marx’s time from our own. Yet we sense that our own time is poorly understood, let alone critiqued, and Marx continues to haunt us. Why?

About Efraim Carlebach

Efraim is a member of the Platypus Affiliated Society, a project founded in 2006, with chapters worldwide, critically investigating the death of the Left, the history of Marxism and the possibilities of emancipatory politics today. He has degrees from the University of Oxford and the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy. He currently lives in Nottingham.

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 25 May at 6.30 (for 7 PM) in the Parlour of the Brunswick Inn, Derby.

Tickets: £3 plus fee from Eventbrite

(Photo cedit: John Mayall (1875) Public Domain)

Censorship in the eighteenth century and now

Criticising powerful aristocrats in eighteenth century France could mean being sent to the Bastille. Criticising powerful ideologues today can mean being cancelled and driven out of your job. Our speaker, historian and author, Julia Gasper, has researched the lives of eighteenth century women, who stood out against tyranny, including Anne-Marie Fauques de Vaucluse and Elizabeth Craven. Julia has also faced twenty-first censorship and is a fighter for free speech and academic freedom. In her talk at the next East Midlands Salon, she will draw on her historical research and personal experiences to assess the state of women’s freedom today.

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 23 March (18.30 for 19.00) in the Parlour of the Brunswick Inn, Derby.

Tickets: £3 (plus fee) via Eventbrite.

About Julia

Julia is an English Literature scholar and historian. She has a D.Phil from Somerville College, Oxford University. She is the author of several books including Elizabeth Craven: Writer, Feminist and European (Vernon Press, 2017), The Marquis d’Argens: A Philosophical Life (Lexington Books, 2014), Theodore von Neuhoff, King of Corsica (University of Delaware Press, 2012), and The Dragon and the Dove: the Plays of Thomas Dekker (Oxford University Press, 1990). She was one of the editors of the Oxford edition of the Plays of Thomas Middleton, and is the editor of The Modern Philosopher and Other Works by Elizabeth Craven(Cambridge Scholars Press, 2017).

She is a member of the Academics For Academic Freedom (AFAF) Advisory Board.