From the Director

Congratulations to Durham Johnston Comprehensive School, winners of the 2009 National Final of the Institute of Ideas and Pfizer Debating Matters Competition, which took place at the Royal Society of Medicine in London on 3-5 July (see below for full details). The whole event was truly inspiring, with the eight finalist schools from around the country joined by a small army of enthusiastic Debating Matters alumni keen to pass on the benefits of their experience to the teams as they faced formidable panels of judges in debates on everything from copyright to assisted dying. The weekend culminated in a debate between the triumphant Durham Johnston and SM Choksey School from Pune, winners of Debating Matters India, who narrowly won an exciting encounter that also benefited from heated and incisive contributions from the other teams in the audience. Well done to the Debating Matters team, who are already hard at work on the 2009-2010 competition!

This month also sees the unveiling of the programme for this year’s Battle of Ideas festival at the Royal College of Art on Saturday 31 October and Sunday 1 November, with all session titles now on the Battle website, and full blurbs and speaker details to appear soon. See below for details.

One more important notice: the IoI urgently needs financial support to continue our vital work of raising the level of public debate through the recession. Please consider making a donation, or join the Institute of Ideas... and benefit from reduced price early bird tickets to this year’s Battle of Ideas.


Battle of Ideas 2009 programme now finalised
Saturday 31 October - Sunday 1 November 2009

The programme for this year’s Battle of Ideas on the weekend of 31 October and 1 November has now been finalised. Session titles can now be viewed on the Battle of Ideas website, with full blurbs and speakers to appear in the coming weeks. Highlights include strands on the Battle for Reproductive Choice, the Battle for the Economy, the Battle for Energy and the Battle for Work, and keynote sessions on everything from Rethinking Education to The Good Society and Post-recession Virtues. Following the success of its Freedom Summer initiative, the Manifesto Club will join us for a strand of debates on political activism on the Saturday in the RCA Students’ Union Activism Zone, while Sunday sees the return of the Creativity Zone. Further highlights will be announced as the festival approaches.

BOOK NOW to benefit from reduced price early bird tickets.









      IoI FORUMS
The Parents Forum will resume in the autumn. Contact Jane Sandeman at
The Education Forum will resume on 21 September with a discussion on 'The Myth of Racist Kids'. Contact
The next Culture Wars Forum will be in August. Contact
The Postgrad Forum will resume in the autumn. Contact
On Tuesday 14 July, the forum will discuss 'The cut-price state: miserable austerity or freedom and accountability?', introduced by Rob Killick. Contact Martin Earnshaw.
On Tuesday 8 September, Dave Bowden will introduce Something to Tell You by Hanif Kureishi. Contact
The next meeting will take place on Sunday 2 August, on the balance between production and services in the economy. Contact
On Thursday 16 July, CAF members will attend 'All Consuming', a debate at the RSA, before adjourning to discuss attitudes towards consumerism with one of the speakers, financial journalist Daniel Ben-Ami. Contact
On Tuesday 21 July, Dr Rob Clowes will be present on 'Mind, Brain and Self in the Age of Facebook'. More details at:
The next Manchester Salon meeting will be on Tuesday 14 July when Stuart Derbyshire will introduce a discussion on behavioural economics.
The next Belfast Salon will be on 28 July when Eric Lyons from the Sonic Arts Research Centre, Queen's University, will explore ways in which Western composers have addressed the nature of freedom in their societies, sometimes in praise, sometimes ironically. Contact:
The next event will be a Battle of Ideas satellite. Details to be announced.


6-7 July: Tiffany presented a paper on ‘Who are we to decide? The influence of the heritage sector on the contestation over human remains’ at a conference on Appropriating the Past: the uses and abuses of cultural heritage, at Durham University.



22 May: Geoff Kidder discussed MPs’ expenses on BBC Radio Wales

26 June: Geoff Kidder discussed BBC expenses on BBC Radio Wales.

28 June: Tiffany Jenkins was on BBC1’s The Big Questions, discussing immigration and the Parthenon Marbles.

15 July: Claire Fox will be on the last Moral Maze of this series, BBC Radio 4




How to preserve the future of museums, by Tiffany Jenkins, spiked review of books, 24 May 2009

The implosion of the political class, by Brendan O’Neill, spiked, 1 June 2009 (an edited version of an introduction Brendan O’Neill gave at the Institute of Ideas’ Current Affairs Forum on 31 May 2009)

Censorship is the wrong way to combat the BNP, by Claire Fox, Index on Censorship, 3 June 2009

—reply by Andy Newman

Claire’s response to Andy Newman

Diluting sport will create a nation of losers, Sunday Herald, 5 July 2009

Claire Fox writes on idealism in the summer issue of the Fabian Review, along with others including Richard Reeves, Jessica Asato and Jon Cruddas.

Dolan Cummings has the lead essay in the August edition of Blueprint magazine, about the hyperregulation of public space, following an experiment conducted as part of the Manifesto Club’s Freedom Summer.

The online Codex Sinaiticus changes book scholarship for good, by Shirley Dent, Guardian books blog, 8 July 2009

Shirley Dent also has a regular blog on Independent Minds. Recent pieces have discussed science communication, cultural identity, the Daily Mail‘s disappearing poll, and trial by media.

    June's highlights on Culture Wars included playwright Ella Hickson on the recession and the twenty-something generation, Robert Greenwood on the mythology of jazz, Hamish Todd on Fanny and Alexander, and Luke Gittos on human rights. Dolan Cummings interviewed Dave Cullen on American high school shootings, and wrote about the merits of a ‘drinking culture’, while Sean Bell reported on the Brighton Salon's ‘protest picnic’ against the city’s clampdown on drinking in public places.  

Durham Johnston Comprehensive School have won the 2009 National Final of the Institute of Ideas and Pfizer Debating Matters Competition, which took place over three days at the Royal Society of Medicine in London on 3-5 July.

Winning all three of their debates across the weekend, the team impressed judges with their sound research and persuasive arguments. Speaking after a debate in which Durham Johnston starred, Nicholas Hytner, Director of the National Theatre, said of the teams:

‘It was very inspiring to see 17-18 year olds engaging deeply and thoughtfully in these issues with one another. I think it is essential for young people to think clearly and logically and the Debating Matters Competition is salutary in getting them to do this.’

Other top-name judges at the final included: AC Grayling, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, Anita Anand, presenter of BBC2’s The Daily Politics, Sarah Sands, deputy editor of the London Evening Standard and Simon Wessely, Professor of Epidemiological and Liaison Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London.

Debating Matters
Audience Questions

Despite the disappointment at not winning overall, the seven other National Final teams all dusted themselves down and carried on contributing to the discussions throughout.  A number of judges remarked how amazed they were by the enthusiasm that greeted the announcement of ‘audience questions’ in each debate. David Elstein, former Chair of Channel 5, said: ‘I have never seen such a sea of hands from an audience!’

With at least one student from each school winning an ‘honourable mention’ or prize for their contributions to the weekends’ debates, all of the teams impressed throughout. As Lauren Blenkinsop from Graveney School remarked of her experience:

‘I’m still on a high from just being in the same room as Nicholas Hytner! That, and getting the chance to argue face to face with Simon Hughes MP, made not -winning easy!’


Debating Matters
Question time panel L –R: Jessica Asato, Claire Fox, Kenan Malik and Simon Hughes MP

Following their final triumph against Queens’ School from Bushey, the Durham Johnston team went on to take part in the first ever international debate in the competition’s history when the winners of Debating Matters UK and Debating Matters India, SM Choksey School from Pune.

After a nail-biting debate and an impressive to and fro with the judges, the Indian team won through and will be returning to Pune with a trophy marking their success. Debating the motion ‘Protecting the public from terrorism should come before civil liberties’, the Indian team were delighted with their win. Speaking afterwards, Mrinalini Shinde from Choksey said of their London trip:

‘I have shouted from the rooftops about how wonderful and thrilling DM India was, and how I have been brilliantly dazzled by the London National Finals, but most interesting of all was talking and debating with the UK teams and discovering how much we have in common.’

Teams and individuals also received some fantastic prizes. The winners, runners-up and semi-finalists have won £7000 worth of books and educational resources from Hodder Education, and team prizes from Waterstones, Encyclopaedia Britannica and magazine subscriptions to Prospect and The Week. The ‘Best Individual’ of the weekend, Nathan Ifill from New College, will be enjoying a weekend at Bestival, Jake Unsworth from Guiseley School Technology College, winner of the ‘Highly Commended Prize’ will be enjoying a concert at the Roundhouse in London and Chigozie Nri, winner of the ‘Commended’ prize will be making her own music, having won a rare facsimile copy of Mozart’s piano concerto in C minor from the Royal College of Music.


Semi finalist 1: Cardinal Newman Sixth Form College, Hove

Semi finalist 2: New College, Swindon

Runners up: Queens’ School, Bushey

Winners: Durham Johnston School, Durham

Individual Prizes

Gina Owens Award: Shivanand Ambalavan, S.M. Choksey School

Honourable Mentions: Catherine Smith (New College), Adrian Sawyer (New College), John Taylor (Durham Johnston Comprehensive), Jacob Reynolds (Queens’ School), Ellie Wilson (Bromsgrove School), Alex Platts (Queens’ School), Nick Devlin (Cardinal Newman School), Andrew Rhodes (Cardinal Newman School),  Mrinilani Shinde (SM Choksey School), Alice Minnick (Madras College), Ellen Bowman (Madras College).

Commended – Chigozie Nri, Graveney School

Highly Commended – Jake Unsworth, Guiseley School Technology College

Winner – Nathan Ifill, New College


Debating Matters
Nathan Ifill, New College team, makes the case for copyright






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