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First Tuesday current affairs discussion - Tuesday 4 July 7:00pm start

Tuesday 4th July: First Tuesday Current Affairs discussion

Discussing First topical issue (Mark Iddon) and Second topical issue (Simon Belt)

Public discussions and debate in Manchester
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Recent Discussions

Transgression in sex and relationships

Transgressions in sex and relationships

Monday 7th March 2016, 6:45pm start

Chrissie Daz, Rosie Garland and Luke Gittos explored our interest in transgressing sex and relationships, chaired by Pauline Hadaway

 

There's currently something reminiscent of the heyday of the promiscuous and 'let it all hang out' 1960's, whilst paradoxically transgressions of this new 'openness' are being given short shrift by a shrill intolerance towards yesterday's norms. From same sex marriage being enacted with muted opposition, to Christian bakers facing prosecution for refusing to make pro gay-marriage cake, is intolerance is proving the hallmark of this 'liberal' era?

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Recent Discussions

Welcome to the Drone Age?

October 2015

Andy Miah, Anna Frew and James Woudhuysen introduced a discussion on the ethics of drone flight

 

Andy Miah

Commercial drone use has dramatically expanded in recent years, with an increasingly inventive set of uses. Drones have been deployed in fields as diverse as aerial photography and humanitarian relief whilst retailers in Japan have even started to use them to deliver products (Amazon’s much-vaunted Prime Air is still in prototype testing). While much attention has been focused on their military functions and use by law enforcement – Indian police have purchased ones which could be used to pepper spray protestors – yet their increasing affordability and commercial ubiquity poses numerous problems for regulators. Dutch feminist campaigners were able to fly abortion pills into Poland to circumvent its restrictions on reproductive healthcare, whilst there are increasing numbers of injuries created by their use: the singer Enrique Inglesias was one high profile casualty, with a drone nearly severing his fingers on stage. There have already been several near-misses with passenger aircraft.

 

Anna FrewWhile new technologies are often praised by their ‘disruptive’ qualities, law-makers have had to act swiftly to regulate their civilian use. Yet, as with the development of the driverless car, there are also profound questions about how drones alters human relationships with technology. The use of drones in Chinese schools to prevent students cheating in exams is merely the latest example of the ethical questions raised by rapidly advancing surveillance techniques. Moreover, increased automation through smarts systems and advanced robotics in the ‘second machine age’ raises serious economic challenges, with the delivery and freight sectors only among the most visible jobs threatened by the use of drone technology. Yet others remain more skeptical about drones’ large scale commercial capabilities, as well as Western societies’ willingness to adapt to their needs.

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Recent Discussions

Will Devo-Manc help strengthen or fragment UK politics?

April 2015

Devo-Manc fragmenting UK politics?

Jonathan Schofield and Michael Taylor discussed Devo-Manc and whether it will help strengthen or fragment UK politics, chaired by Niall Crowley

 

In the autumn of 2014, Scottish voters very nearly heralded the biggest constitutional change in the way the UK is organised. On the back of that independence campaign, and ahead of the General Election, George Osborne signed a deal with the overwhelmingly Labour administration in Greater Manchester for substantial devolution of powers over government spending in the region.

 

Jonathan SchofieldThe deal for Devo-Manc has been heralded as a revolutionary moment for voters in Greater Manchester, and one that will lead to wider devolution of budgetary powers in the region. There was no widespread campaign for Devo-Manc by the electorate, no marches demanding it and no election to give a mandate for the deal, so where is the impulse for devolution coming from? Is this a civil service led empowerment programme or a backroom deal to centralise powers - after all it is Whitehall that decides who gets devolved powers (Manchester does) and who doesn't (Liverpool doesn't).

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Recent Discussions

Writers and war: reflecting or shaping our perceptions?

October 2014

Shirley Dent, Jonathan Ali, John Greening and Jane Potter introduced a discussion on how literature shapes our perceptions of war, chaired by Rania Hafez

 

Shirley Dent

Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori. Whether schooled in the classics or not, this is the one line of Latin that most of us can probably recall from our school days and our introduction to war poetry through Wilfred Owen’s visceral and haunting lyrics. Next to Owen’s young soldiers bent double like old hags towing a gas-ravaged corpse we may have been asked to compare Rupert Brooke’s The Soldier, read by the Dean of St Paul’s at Easter 1915. The poem’s gold-tinted, almost giddy, expostulation to the concealed dust in some corner of a foreign field that is forever England seems as jingoistic and sentimental as Owen’s lines are tormented and disillusioned.

Jonathan Ali

 

It is the later poets of the First World War – notably Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen – who set the timbre and tone for not just the poetry that came out of the trenches but for a genre of poetry, literature and art that deals with the subject of war. Following the trenches, gone is the sentimental glorification of sacrifice for country, replaced with the savagery and senselessness of war. If the First World War was ‘the war to end all wars’ First World War poetry is ‘the poetry to define all wars’.

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Recent Discussions

North and South: a siren call to tame industrial ambition?

October 2014

Angelica Michelis, Helen Nugent, Alan Shelston and Vanessa Pupavac introduced a discussion on what North and South says about society today, chaired by Pauline Hadaway

 

Angelica MichelisCostume dramas of nineteenth century Britain, self-consciously becoming more gritty than rosy, have recently captured the popular imagination way beyond the more prissy offerings of the 1970's. To mark the opening of the newly refurbished Elizabeth Gaskell House in October, this Salon discussion is going to have a look at what insights Gaskell's novel North and South, first published in 1855, offers us in understanding the dynamics of Britain's industrial revolution and what if anything it can tell us about society today. There is common reference made to a North / South divide, but compared to the times of Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens, the Bronte sisters, and even Thomas Hardy is there still such a difference, and if so how does that present itself and what characteristics prevail? How should we be reading novels from different historical periods, and are we likely to misread them when transposing their messages for today?

Helen Nugent

 

In contrast to some earlier novels, with their own critique of the 'self-made man' from a capitalism dominated by individuals, Elizabeth Gaskell helps herald in a new genre of the social problem novel located in industrial Britain. North and South is notable, although not the first, in not dismissing industrialisation, with the heroine Margaret Hale acknowledging that her celebration of the countryside might be bit romantic and whilst cottage workers might be poorer, there was a real hope of overcoming the dangerous and insecure conditions for industrial workers.

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Recent Discussions

Cycling: four wheels good, two wheels better?

September 2014

IET CommunitiesMark Birbeck, Gabriele Schliwa, Helen Nugent and Nick Vaughan introduced a discussion on improving the road experience for all, chaired by Keith McCabe

 

Mark BirbeckHaving a bicycle for a child was often a precursor to travelling beyond the physical confines of your neighbourhood, and the first steps to adolescent freedom. Getting on your bike and visiting friends without needing a lift from mum and dad, or being able to cycle to the countryside away from the watchful eyes of adults has long been a rite of passage for teenagers. Though older generations may have known bicycles as their only mode of transport for going to work, most people now have access to a car yet many commuters are frustrated by congestion, and a plethora of impediments on the road. A return to the bicycle as a realistic form of transport is being publicly promoted, so what are we to make of such campaigns to get us on our bike again?

 

Gabriele SchliwaMuch is made of the health benefits of getting the nation out of cars and back on two wheels; indeed the government has designed tax schemes to incentivise us to buy a bike. Are we to believe they want us to experience that freedom we did as kids to whizz down a hill with our feet off the peddles, for no other reason than to feel the wind in your hair? That's clearly stretching things, but there's definitely a social trend to emphasise cycling as a modern and desired form of transport, well exemplified by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, taking every opportunity to promote it. Manchester may not yet have the cycle hire infrastructure of London, but the introduction of many more cycle lanes on main arterial routes, and the Tour de France visiting the region is a step in that direction.

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