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

The University: no laughing matter?

Our speaker on Thursday 22 September is writer and poet PJ (Jem) Vanston. Jem is the author of two comic campus novels satirising the politically correct and woke university. He will read some extracts from his work and discuss the difficulties of writing satire in a climate dominated by a humourless cancel culture.

Jem’s two campus novels are Crump (2010) and Somewhere in Europe (2020). He is also the author of A Cat Called Dog and the very popular Santa Goes on Strike. His personal website has details of all his works.

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 22 Spetember at & PM in the Parlour of The Brunswick Inn, Derby.

Tickets £3.72 on Eventbrite

Summer Salons 2022

Thursday 12 May

Eastern Europe in the New Hot and Cold War

Experts on Eastern Europe, Professor Robert Hudson, Dr Mladen Pupavac and Associate Professor Vanessa Pupavac, discuss the background and context to the war in Ukraine.

Thursday 9 June

The Embrace of Capital: Capitalism from the Inside

Gay rights activist and plotical blogger, Dr Don Milligan, will launch his new book.

Thursday 14 July

Translation as Liberation

In our third Letters on Liberty discussion, Dr Vannessa Pupavac will discusses her new Letter. Followed by a summer social get together.

Time and Venue. All the Summer Salons will take place on in the Parlour of the Brunswick Inn, Derby, at 18.30 (for a 19.00 start).

The liberating power of education

In his Letter,The Liberating Power of Education, Harley argues that education has always had a tension between the practical or technical application of skills and the broader appreciation of a liberal approach to knowledge. Our contemporary aversion to teaching ‘the best that has been thought and known’, he argues, represents a long-standing fear of what the masses might do with unbridled access to education. Teaching is an act of faith, he says, one which must be free to produce new and exciting ideas.

Download a free PDF, or buy, Harley’s Letter from the Academy of Ideas

Chair: Dennis Hayes

(Copies of our Salon booklet will be available free to all those attending)

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 10 March, 18.30 (for 19.00), in the Brunswick Inn, Derby.

Tickets (£3 plus fee) on Eventbrite.

About Harley

Harley has worked in education publishing for over 20 years and is an organiser of the Academy of Ideas Education Forum. He writes and lectures on learning through the ages and blogs at He has written about pre-state education from Ancient Greece to the Industrial Revolution for the Routledge History of Education (forthcoming).

The New Meaning and Function of Racism

Our next event is a discussion on racism and the dangers of the new anti-racism

Dr Alka Sehgal-Cuthbert returns to the East Midlands Salon in her new role as co-ordinator of the campaign group Don’t Divide Us who are our partners for this event. Alka will lead our discussion of the changed meaning of racism and what anti-racism means today. She has written and spoken many times on issues such as ‘decolonising the curriculum’ ‘white privilege’ and ‘unconscious bias training’. As a taster of her writing, here is a link to a recent article headed: ‘Brilliant exposé of the moral wasteland of Britain’s culture wars is a must read’ and a link to the bookMoral and Political Discourses in Philosophy of Education to which she contributed a chapter on ‘Education, Social Realism and Liberal Cultural Values’.

In 2021 she wrote one of the first of the Academy of Ideas’ Letters on Liberty on The Dangers of the New Anti-Racism

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 10 February at 18.30 (for 19.00) in the parlour of the Brunswick Inn, Derby. Tickets on Eventbrite.

About Alka:

Alka presented an argument for a progressive case for a liberal subject-based education for her PhD in sociology at Cambridge University. She has been a teacher for many years and is currently head of education at Don’t Divide Us. She writes on education and cultural politics for academic and professional publications and is co-editor of the second edition of the recently published What Should Schools Teach? Disciplines, subjects and the pursuit of truth.

How can we defend the legacy of the Enlightenment?

At this special East Midlands Salon event we will launch our glossy 24-page booklet about the Salon that contains two essays giving some philosophical and historical background.

The Salon exists to re-invigorate the Enlightenment tradition that once flourished in Derby and the Midlands. But what is the Enlightenment and why is it important? The Enlightenment is characterised by universal values that we can summarise as a commitment to reason, truth, science and progress.

Those values are challenged today, and our Salon will focus on a round table discussion on how we can defend those values.

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 13 January at 18.30 (for 19.00) in the Parlour of the Brunswick Inn, Derby.

We are asking attendees to donate a small amount to cover our costs (£3 is suggested).

The classic short essay by the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, What is Enlightenment? (1784) is useful background reading.

(Illustration: Reading of Voltaire’s tragedy of the Orphan of China in the salon of Marie Thérèse Rodet Geoffrin in 1755, as imagined by Anicet Charles Gabriel Lemonnier (1812) Public Domain)  

Beyond the culture wars

The December East Midlands Salon is an introduction to the Academy of Ideas’ new series of ‘Letters on Liberty’. It is also a reprise of a discussion at the Buxton Battle of Ideas Festival. Philosopher, Jacob Reynolds, will discuss his Letter on Liberty Beyond the Culture Wars with historian, Nicholas Joseph and social scientist, Vanessa Pupavac. BUT all attendees can respond as the Jacob’s Letter on Liberty is available to buy for just £2 or you can download a copy for free! During the pandemic, public life came to a standstill. But long before lockdowns and viruses threatened the freedoms that we hold dear, there has been a problem with our belief in liberty.

Open debate has been suffocated by today’s censorious climate and there is little cultural support for freedom as a foundational value. What we need is rowdy, good-natured disagreement and people prepared to experiment with what freedom might mean today. Faced with this challenge, the Academy of Ideas decided to launch Letters on Liberty – a radical public pamphleteering campaign aimed at reimagining arguments for freedom in the 21st century.

In his Letter, Jacob argues that the culture wars feature three key trends: the destruction of the private sphere, the moralisation of politics and the replacement of virtues with values. He argues that this hollowing out of politics must be challenged by a radical defence of freedom.

Join Jacob, Nicholas and Vanessa to examine why the culture wars have intensified, explore some of their key characteristics and ask whether we can transcend them. Are those who wish to fight the culture wars merely pining for a lost and dead culture, or is the task before us more radical than conservative? How do we build a future-orientated society where such foundational principles as liberty and universalism are taken seriously? Do we really live in a ‘fragile peace in a culture of fragments’ as philosopher John Gray suggests, or can we offer a more optimistic outlook?

Date time and venue: Wednesday 8 December at 6.30 PM (for 7 PM) in The Brunswick Inn, Derby.

Tickets and further details on Eventbrite

Dante’s Hell – why a medieval fantasy still sizzles!

The East Midlands Salon returns with a discussion of the enduring legacy of Dante’s Inferno.

“Seven-hundred years on, the first part of the Divine Comedy continues to express a very human sense of justice…

The characters in the first part of the Divine Comedy have…made a lasting impression on generations of readers, along with the sheer poetry of the Comedy, even in translation from Dante’s native Florentine dialect. Perhaps that’s because, as well as writing in the everyday vernacular rather than the prestige language of Latin, Dante peopled the afterlife with many of his own contemporaries, as well as more celebrated figures from history and mythology. The result is that all are portrayed as realistic individuals, in graphic and often gory detail.”

Our speaker, Dolan Cummings, is the author of Gehenna: a novel of Hell and Earth (Lockdown Press, 2020) in which he replaces the Florentines condemned to hell with Glaswegians.

Dolan will be in conversation with one of our Salon organisers, Vanessa Pupavac, to start our discussion.

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 11 November 2021 at 7 PM in the Parlour of The Brunswick Inn, Derby.

Tickets £3 from Eventbrite (or register here on Facebook and make a donation on the door).

A Battle of Ideas Festival Satellite event

(Illustration: Dante et Virgile aux enfers by Delacroix (1822) Public Domain)