Why a Salon in the 2020s?

Salon organisers from Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester will be in Derby on Thursday 23 January to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the East Midlands Salon.

The East Midlands Salon was founded in 2010. Our first Salon on 26 January featured the distinguished philosopher, poet, novelist, cultural critic and clinical neuroscientist, Professor Raymond Tallis, who defended the proposition ‘I am NOT a Beast’, and explained ‘how we humans evolved to be so different’ which was the theme of his then forthcoming philosophical essay Michelangelo’s Finger: an exploration of everyday transcendence (Atlantic Books 2011).

Since then dozens of distinguished speakers have come to Salons in Derby to engage in debates and talk about their work and often to put forward some very controversial ideas. Like other Salons in the UK and internationally, we defend the freedom to think, to act, to say what needs saying – even if it offends others. .

This 10th Anniversary Salon will be a celebratory event . We have invited speakers from other Salons to share their experiences and to discuss the importance of Salons in the 2020s. Speakers include: Simon Belt (Manchester Salon), Rosie Cuckston (Birmingham Salon) and Paul Thomas (Leeds Salon).

Simon Belt in conversation with Ray Tallis 26 January 2010

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 23 January at 7 PM in the Brunswick Inn, Derby. (Refreshments will be provided) This Salon is free but registration via Eventbrite is required.

The Military: Muscle or Mindfulness?

Our first Battle of Ideas Satellite of 2018 will be a panel discussion. Speakers include journalist Charlie Peters, former soldier and now a post-graduate student, Beveley Henshaw, researcher into the effects of military intervention, Dr Vanessa Pupavac and military historian Professor Keith McLay.  Chair: Dr Ruth Mieschbuehler (East Midlands Salon)

“Be a tinker or a tailor, but not a soldier or a sailor. The British armed forces are experiencing a debilitating recruitment problem. It seems that no one wants to ‘be the best’ anymore. The British Army values selfless commitment, courage, discipline and level-headedness in the face of adversity, yet these are values that no longer appeal to millennials. This leaves the forces with a dilemma: do they adapt to a more politically correct culture to fill the ranks with sensitive, emotional individuals and compromise on these traditional values or try to emphasise the ‘masculine’ ideals essential for soldiering?

Market research in May 2017 found that millennials viewed the Army as an elitist and non-inclusive organisation that privileged white males. As a result, earlier this year the Army launched a new recruitment campaign, answering questions like ‘Can I be gay in the Army?’ and ‘What if I get emotional in the army?’. Many civilians have welcomed the new campaign for its positivity in appealing to all walks of society. Some feel this campaign moves some way towards building social cohesion, at a time of increasing discussion about misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia and hate crimes. Calls have been made to change the Army’s logo and the motto of ‘Be the Best’ in order to move away from this elitist and non-inclusive image.

 However, many serving and past soldiers are outraged and remain staunch supporters of the army culture, arguing that removing the ‘be the best’ ethos would undermine the military. Political correctness has seeped into the Army with rules such as banning shouting at recruits. While some would argue that shouting at recruits is cruel, many soldiers would argue that potential soldiers could not cope on a battlefield with screaming casualties and prolonged gunfire without this conditioning and desensitisation. The very function of the armed forces is, after all, to fight.

What does this debate about the military say about Britain today? The military was once a great institution, but the values it represents are in decline in wider society. Is it time for this institution, or at least its traditional values, to fall? What would that mean for the United Kingdom socially, economically and politically?”

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 4 October 2018 at 7 PM in the Hallmark Hotel Derby Midland, Derby. Tickets (£5) available on Eventbrite.

Continue reading

Is it time to depoliticise art?

“The author Howard Jacobson once wrote that if an artist’s work is political, it only works as art if it transcends politics. Today, curatorial choices seem to have been driven by political perspective rather than artistic merit. Or, as art critic Matthew Collings wrote of the Tate Modern, its overriding message now appears to be ‘Meaning must always entail moralising’.

Worse still – argues our speaker Wendy Earle – “the modern politics of art is trite, the idea of collective art-making and performance art largely uninteresting, and the general slightness and messiness of many of the works irritating and the overall lack of nuance, subtlety and, yes, beauty is wearisome and tedious.”

Date, Time and Venue: 11 May 2017, 7 PM in the Parlour of the Brunswick Inn, Derby. £3 (£2 unwaged).

Speaker: Dr Wendy Earle

Wendy writes on the arts and culture for spiked and is convenor of the Institute of Ideas Arts and Society Forum, which promotes open and open-ended discussion of the arts and culture and of the place of arts and culture in society. She works at Birkbeck, University of London, to promote knowledge exchange and public engagement with research in the arts, humanities and social sciences. Previously she worked in educational publishing and at the British Film Institute.

A selection of Wendy’s articles is available in the Spiked Author Archive

Chair: Dr Vanessa Pupavac (University of Nottingham)

Knowledge versus Skills: the great education debate 2016

Do we want children to learn ‘the best that has been known and thought in the world’ or do we want them to have the skills necessary for work and life in the 21st Century? Why impose an elite, Victorian curriculum on children today? Children need to be empowered to unleash their creativity and to develop the soft skills for a new world and a new workplace. Do really need latter day Gradgrinds pouring ‘facts’ into empty vessels and then examining them? Continue reading