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.

Rethinking Anti-Semitism

In our first Letter on Liberty discussion of 2023, author and campaigner, Daniel Ben-Ami, will introduces his new LetterRethinking Anti-Semitism, in which he argues that:

‘… a misunderstanding of the causes of modern anti-Semitism is stopping us from waging a serious battle to defeat it. He argues that a contemporary amalgam of far-right Jew-Hatred, far-Left anti-Semitism and Islamist genocidal influence has formed a new, hybrid ideology, and indeed hybrid anti-Semitism. A future of freedom from anti-Semitism and the hatred of Jews can only be achieved through a commitment to free and open debate, he argues. It may be difficult to stomach, but fighting it effectively means challenging it in the open, rather than forcing it to hide in the shadows’.

Buy, or download his Letter for free, here.

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 23 February 2023 at 19.00 in the Brunswick Inn, Derby.

Tickets (£3 plus fee) available on Eventbrite.

About Daniel:

Daniel Ben-Ami is an author, journalist and creator of the website Radicalism of Fools. He has contributed to numerous national, specialist and international publications, and his books include Ferraris For All (2010) and Cowardly Capitalism (2001).

(Illustration/Design: Jan Bowman)

Britain’s Empires

‘For more than four centuries, Britons have been dominating and colonising other peoples and territories. Britain’s Empires tells that story without flinching from the oppressive and exploitative side of the imperial mission that shaped world history. It also aims to tell the story of the colonial past as one marked by change and reinvention, where each new era was embarked upon as a break with the past’.

At our first Salon of 2023, James Heartfield will introduce his latest book which is a history of the many different British Empires – the Old Colonial System (1600-1776), the Empire of Free Trade (1776-1870), the New Imperialism (1870-1945), Decolonisation (1945-1990) and the era of humanitarian intervention (1990-2020).

Buy Britain’s Empires on Amazon (ebook £24.99)

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday, 19 January 2023 at 7 PM in the Parlour of the Brunswick Inn, Derby.

Tickets £3 (plus fee) from Eventbrite.

About James Heartfield

James is a writer and lecturer. He was born in Leeds in 1961, but has lived in London since 1980. James lives in Archway, with his partner and two daughters. James has been teaching and lecturing in London for the last twenty years, at a number of universities, colleges and professional associations.

He has written many books on the history of the British Empire, and some others on social policy and urban regeneration. Visit his personal website: for more information.

Risking it all: the freedom to gamble

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 17 November, 1900-21.00 in The Brunswick Inn, Derby

Tickets (£3 plus fee) on Eventbrite:

In our latest ‘Letter on Liberty’ discussion, gambling writer and amateur poker player, Jon Bryan will introduce his new Letter – Risking it all: the freedom to gamble. Jon argues that we should all be concerned about the introduction of more restrictions on gambling. Almost every proposal on gambling regulation today is about limiting what we can do, he argues, often taking away both our privacy and basic freedoms. The narrative behind concerns about gambling is the idea that the state should step in and control our finances, as we cannot be trusted with them. The consequences of accepting controls and restrictions in this area of life, he argues, sets a precedent for their introduction elsewhere.

Kieran Saxon and Anne McDonnell will be respondents. Join us to discuss why being free to risk it all is something worth protecting.

Buy Jon’s Letter on Liberty (or download for free) here

About Jon

Jon is a gambling writer and (amateur!) poker player. He is a recreational gambler who decided to put pen to paper to try and challenge the dominant narrative in the debate about gambling, the public and government regulation.

He has played poker for all of his adult life, and played in the 2006 WSOP Main Event in Las Vegas, after coming first in an online poker tournament against 500 other players. He still regularly plays poker, usually in Newcastle upon Tyne, where he lives with his family.

Frustrated by both the one-sided narrative in the debate on gambling, and the lack of a voice for the gambling consumer, Jon began to write about this in 2017. He is now a regular contributor to the website SlotsHawk and an occasional writer for Gambling Insider. Jon has also written articles for online publications including spiked and the Future Cities Project, as well as appearing on Sky News, Sky Racing, Wright on the Nail podcast, and BBC daytime discussion programmes on gambling. Jon also spoke about gambling and freedom at the online Babbleon in December 2020 organised by WORLDwrite.

Jon is active in his local community, including being treasurer of the Great Debate – a group based in the north east that organises talks and debates. He has also written articles for their website on gambling at

Follow Jon on Twitter @JonBryanPoker