Who are the thinkers of our time? What are the ideas that matter? What do we really value? Does anyone care?
The Sheffield Salon is part of a small but growing movement that seeks answers to these questions. We see public debate as an end in itself, engaging the widest audience in issues of the day. We’re serious about civil society and passionate about Sheffield and aim to catalyse debate about the future of our city. We’re taking the city seriously.
But we’re not all local. We’re committed to philosophical interrogation, as well as spiritual enquiry and we aim to address both through a format that is open and accessible. We may not agree, but we defend the right of everyone present to argue their case, because we’re taking ideas seriously. And by doing so, we make it possible to know and name the things we might actually believe in, and uphold. Also, in the same spirit, to know and name the things which we might reject.
Beginning in late October 2011, we will strive to create a space to explore these ideas. Sheffield Salon will aim not to be yet another sterile ‘talking heads’ session. Rather it will be a forum in which the public audience is very much involved in the testing of ideas and can robustly (but respectfully), debate them. A forum with healthy balance between heated argument and useful exchange between people who wouldn’t usually be talking to each other!
We very much hope that the Salon will foster, in some small part, a little of the optimism and curiosity at the core of the humanist spirit… a spirit which seems sorely lacking in these often doom-laden, and censorious times. The spirit of the Salon can be summed up in the words of John Stuart Mill in that mankind is still ‘capable of being improved by free and equal discussion.’
‘The thing I found best about the Sheffield Salon was that it was not so much about the speakers on the platform as the quality of the discussion generated by the audience. I was so impressed that so many people came along, not only with their own experiences and considered opinions, but with a willingness to share and debate them. We might not have come up with any answers, but I think we clarified some of the questions.’ Dr Mike Fitzpatrick, GP, author and speaker at Sheffield Salon.