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First Tuesday current affairs discussion - Tuesday 5 December 7:00pm start

Tuesday 2nd Jan: First Tuesday Current Affairs discussion

We'll discuss two topical subjects

Public discussions and debate in Manchester
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Recent Discussions

Music and poetry: in perfect harmony?

October 2013

Mike Garry, Akala, Shirley Dent and Norman Warwick opened a discussion on the artistic tensions involved in blending poetry with music, chaired by Rania Hafez

 

Mike GarryWhile performance poets and popular songwriters used to revel in their status outside the poetry establishment, the critical acclaim afforded to veteran performers such as John Cooper Clarke, feted lyricists such as Bob Dylan and rising stars such as Kate Tempest point towards its contemporary respectability.

Akala

 

Yet if the celebration of such artists by the literary world is no longer controversial, there seems less consensus that their work fits into a poetic tradition. Some point towards the rich history of collaboration between the ‘sister arts’ of poetry and music, and see performance artists and rappers as a contemporary extension of the Bardic tradition or the lyric poets. Yet some critics and performers remain sceptical over whether such judgements are being made on a purely artistic basis, or whether they’re driven more by a desire to prove poetry can still be popular and relevant in the 21st century.

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Recent Discussions

Fracking: a technological innovation too far?

September 2013

James Woudhuysen, Joanne Green, Erik Bichard and Tony Bosworth introduced a discussion on fracking

James WoudhuysenAlthough the UK government has been mindful of the looming energy crisis for the last decade, it has responded like rabbits caught in the headlights. Finally, there is some political will to start resolving the matter with more than a few solar panels or wind turbines on the roof. In the 2012 budget, George Osborne approved the construction of new gas-fired power stations, and established the Office for Unconventional Gas and Oil, to join up responsibilities across government and provide a single point of contact for investors and streamline the regulatory process for deploying technologies like fracking.

Joanne Green

 

Alongside the introduction of some more developed techniques to extract gas and oil from previously hard to mine sources, fracking is the latest of these technologies to pose a serious option for governments and industry to invest serious levels of resources into. This isn't a technique without its critics though, and the political climate set against high-tech solutions hasn't gone away, even though the wind has been taken out of its mills recently. So how much of a change has there been in the climate of political opinion in this second dash for gas?

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Recent Discussions

Is childhood beginning to dominate adulthood?

September 2013

James Heartfield and Ian Parker spoke of the impact childhood experiences and Freud's unconscious has on adulthood, chaired by Ken McLaughlin

 

James Heartfield

Freud’s theories of the unconscious, the importance of early childhood experiences and repression have had an enormous impact on society. The debate over recovered and false memories in the 1980s and 1990s centred on whether adult patients were accurately recovering repressed memories of childhood abuse, or whether such memories were constructed during therapy and/or implanted by the therapist. Today, many TV dramas use the theme of disturbing experiences in childhood to set up and explain character motivation.

Ian Parker

 

Past abuse has also been used to explain anything from the onset of psychotic experiences to violent or criminal behaviour. Pete Townsend, of rock group The Who, on being found to have downloaded images of child pornography said in mitigation that whilst he could not remember being abused in the past he thought that he might have been. If we add to this the current trend in neuroscience to explain behaviour as not consciously chosen but merely as a result of brain activity – my brain made me do it, your honour; is Freud’s legacy the psychoanalytic equivalent – it wasn’t me constable, it was my unconscious.

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Recent Discussions

Sex sells: promoting images of women

June 2013

Anna Percy, Nina Powell, and Emily Pitts introduced a discussion on the promotional imagery of women and how society should respond

Anna PercyAdvertising and propaganda have a long history of using carefully selected images to visually substantiate claims made in words. Often, images of women for, example, are used to sell a variety of things such as cars (the sexual pose over the bonnet of a car), clothes (the slim, stereotyped version of how women should look) or lifestyle (the 1960s domestic goddess / 1990s ‘girl power’). The right to free speech, and the right of us all to see and read messages that others don't want us to, is often claimed by those opposing restrictions on the form and content of advertising and social or political messaging, and the right to be protected by those wanting restrictions.

 

Dr Nina Powell

The images and words used in promotional advertising, or those that aim to create a common narrative of a wider socialising character, have long been debated. Feminist campaigners in the 1970s were energetic in developing more progressive images of women in society, and published a variety of pamphlets and story books for children portraying women in the way they thought they should be - deliberately and consciously countering messages of the period portraying women as housewives. Whilst there were some notable campaigns against images of topless women in newspapers, these were often seen as censorious, being associated with Mary Whitehouse prudishness. Today, similar campaigns don't seem to grate so much against society and are gaining a more popular hearing, for example there have been campaigns threatening legal action under employment legislation against newsagents selling lads mags such as Nuts, Zoo and FHM.

 

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Recent Discussions

Assisted dying: does it benefit society?

May 2013

Kevin Yuill, Ray Tallis, Jane Barraclough and Bob Pounder introduced their considered thoughts on assisted dying / suicide 

 

Kevin Yuill

As a new Assisted Dying Bill is tabled by Lord Falconer and as religious bodies such as the Unitarian Church show increasing tolerance towards assisted suicide, we ask the question, is taking one's life ever permissible, whatever your faith? The taboo against suicide held for millennia, enforced by sanctions against it in all the world’s major religions. Whereas most humanist and atheist organizations favour a liberalisation of the laws, major churches and most official religious bodies incline against it (the Catholic Church, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Lutheran faiths, Islam) or are simply vague about it.

Ray Tallis

 

There are some useful case studies from a formalisation of assisted dying being permitted in certain circumstances when particular formalities have been met, so are these examples enough of a reassurance to those who are holding onto the line that assisted dying should not be formalised in law and regulated through procedure? Or do the examples from other countries merely highlight the unnecessary unravelling of a societal norm that could lead to unwelcome consequences of a move toward more generalised acceptance of suicide and euthanasia.

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Recent Discussions

Modernisation, development and conservation

April 2013

Dominic Standish, Angela Connelly, Tom Jarman and Alex Solk opened up 'sustainable development' to some critical thinking, chaired by Jane Leach

Dominic StandishDebates about sustainability and development permeate multiple aspects of life throughout the world in the twenty-first century. With increasing urbanisation, those debates are often focused on the life of cities, including Manchester, Venice, Nairobi, Shanghai and Rio de Janeiro. Appropriate planning according to the changing character of geographical areas is especially challenging due to social and economic transformation. In addition, as rural areas become more managed, how we balance protecting the environment with development has become a pressing question.

 Dr Angela Connelly

With most worldwide manufacturing employment outside Western Europe and North America, how does this change life in these regions? Can Western cities become cultural, tourist, educational and service centres or is there still a role for industry? What implications do these questions have for western city development versus preserving ancient heritage?

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