The East Kent Salon is a forum for debate, launched in 2019. It is part of a network based in cities including Manchester, London, Leeds, Liverpool and Zurich, and is inspired by the annual London 'Battle of Ideas' festival run by the Academy of Ideas.

We acknowledge a debt to the ‘enlightenment salons’ of the past, which emerged from the literary and philosophical movements of the 17th and 18th centuries. They hosted many of the great thinkers of the time, such as Diderot, Rousseau and Voltaire. The salons reflected the intellectual ferment of their age, and acted as the seeding ground for ideas that would usher in the new age of democracy and the freedoms which have shaped the society we live in. They were precursors of a 'public sphere' through which the public could be a part of debating and shaping the ideas of the age that in turn shape their lives.

This spirit is much needed in the present and for the future. In 2019 the value of free speech and democracy itself have been called into question, whilst online public fora often resemble echo chambers. By contrast the salon is a space where ideas can be put forward and where audiences can listen, discuss and argue back. Our discussions are always pitched towards an interested general public.

The salons are held at public venues in Canterbury and elsewhere in East Kent. Discussions will generally be introduced by speakers, but there will always be an emphasis on input from the audience. Events are designed to be conversational, ensuring that as many people as possible have the opportunity to speak their minds.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Book Launch: Joanna Williams discusses her latest book, 'How Woke Won: The Elitist Movement That Threatens Democracy, Tolerance and Reason'

For our post-Covid relaunch we are excited to have locally based social commentator and author Joanna Williams discussing her new book: How Woke Won: The Elitist Movement That Threatens Democracy, Tolerance and Reason (John Wilkes / Spiked 2022). 

Date: Tuesday 28th June, 7-9pm

Venue: The City Arms Tavern, Butchery Lane, Canterbury

Tickets: £5 on the door / please reserve if possible via Eventbrite.

Politics, academia & corporations now seem beholden to new orthodoxies around gender, race & identity. How Woke Won explores how we got here, and why what poses as a radical outlook is embraced by the privileged. Williams argues that those interested in a free, egalitarian & democratic society must tackle wokeness head-on.

Bring your thoughts on the phenomenon of 'woke'. In East Kent Salon style, the audience gets plenty of opportunity to contribute and question, as well as to listen.

Commendations for the book:

‘This book is the essential guide for our era of confusion and incoherence as moral revolutionaries tear down statues, institutions, and widely held values. With clear thinking and gripping storytelling, Williams explains how how a minority of the elites in Britain and America were able to intimidate the rest of the elites into silence or complicity, imposing a "revolution from above" that is anti-democratic and cruel. Anyone who wants to restore sanity, beauty, or simple humanity to our public life should read How Woke Won’. --Jonathan Haidt,  author of The Righteous Mind, Co-author of The Coddling of the American Mind.

‘A brave and lucid book’ – Robert Tombs

‘One of Britain’s sharpest writers on woke’ – Julia Hartley-Brewer

‘A searing read’ – Paul Embery

Joanna Williams is a columnist for Spiked and writes regularly for the Spectator and The Times. She also regularly appears on the BBC, Sky News, talkRADIO and GB News. Williams taught at the University of Kent for over 10 years and has extensive experience in think-tanks. She is the founder and director of Cieo, a new think-tank for a new political era. Her previous books include Women vs Feminism (Emerald, 2017), Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity (Palgrave, 2016) and Consuming Higher Education (Bloomsbury, 2012).

Get your copy here, or for Kindle, here.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Satire in the Age of Brexit and Trump

For our second East Kent Salon we are lucky to have comedians Francis Foster and Oliver Double leading our discussion.

Date: Thursday January 30th, 7-9 pm, 
Venue: The City Arms Inn, 7 Butchery Lane, Canterbury CT1 2JR
Satire: the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

In the past satire has most often been about challenging the politics and sensibilities of the establishment. Many argue it serves that function today. After all, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson – satirised by Punt and Dennis, Josie Long, Frankie Boyle and a host of others - can hardly claim to be of humble means.

Others see much of today’s satirical comedy output as aimed – either directly or by implication - at the ordinary voting public who put their cross against Trump in the USA, or for Brexit in the UK. Recent polls suggest pro-Leave posh Boris is 20 points ahead of (also posh) Jeremy amongst non-posh C2DE voters. So, is satire 'punching up' or 'punching down'?

Marcus Brigstocke has talked about people walking out during his anti-Brexit routine. A recent Nish Kumar charity gig, featuring gags at the expense of Boris and Brexit, was met with boos and the throwing of a bread roll. Madeleine Grant argued in the Telegraph that ‘Brexit-deranged comedians are now Britain’s biggest bores’. Kumar joked of his critics ‘I would like to apologise if I triggered any of them’.

Chris Rock stopped playing US college gigs because of what he saw as the students’ conservative views: ‘Not in their political views — not like they’re voting Republican — but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody.’ US stand up Dave Chapelle has been criticised for hate speech in routines referring to MeToo and transgenderism. His response? ‘I am sorry if I hurt anybody, etc etc etc, yada yada yada, everything I am supposed to say…’ UK comedian Alistair Williams claimed that   ‘Because I am a comedian that supports Brexit you can no longer find me on the comedy club circuit’.

It can seem at times that comedy is engaged in a mini culture war between wokeness and offence giving. If so, what of the casualties? Can jokes be hate speech, causing harm to minorities? Are comedians who transgress deserving of censure? How would Lenny Bruce get on in today’s comedy world? Does ‘punching up’ or ‘punching down’ really matter – after all, it's only comedy.

Francis Foster and Oliver Double will introduce the discussion, but the Salons are all about the audience – come along and discuss Comedy in the Age of Trump and Brexit in the bar at the City Arms Inn in Canterbury.

Oliver Double is a comedian, Reader in Drama at the University of Kent, organiser of the Funny Rabbit Comedy Club and producer of the podcast A History of Comedy in Several Objects. You can find details of Oliver’s comedy, writing and much else on his web site.

Francis Foster is a comedian described as  ‘ridiculous man who hails from the lands of Venezuela and Wigan by way of south London’. He co-hosts, along with Konstantin Kisin, the Triggernometry podcast. There is a great pic of Francis on his web site.


Entry to the discussion is £5 (£3 concessions). Discussion is in the bar, and food is available, so please patronise our generous hosts at The City Arms Inn (if you want to eat at the City Arms Inn, arrive early and get your order in before 6.30pm)

*Join our East Kent Salon Facebook group where all events will be announced, and discussions can be pursued post-salon.

*Where possible indicate your intention to attend via the 
East Kent Salon Facebook group  or via  Eventbrite as we are limited by venue size.

                                     ***Spread the word - all welcome!***

Some light reading on the topic:

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Who is stealing young people’s future?

For our very first East Kent Salon we are lucky to have sociologist Jennie Bristow introducing a discussion on the generation wars: Who is stealing young people’s future?

Date: October 17th, 7-9 pm, 

Venue: The City Arms,  7 Butchery Lane, Canterbury CT1 2JR

The so-called ‘generational divide’ between old and young seems to inform many political debates today. On the one hand it is claimed that older generations voted for their interests and prejudices over the needs of the young, to whom the future belongs. On the other, the younger generations are heralded as either the saviours of politics or the victims of greedy parents. Indeed millennials are often encouraged to regard their parents’ generation as entitled and selfish, and to blame the baby boomers of the Sixties for the cultural, economic, and political problems of today. But is it true that young people have been victimised by their elders? And who stands to gain from making this claim?

In her new book Stop Mugging Grandma: The 'Generation Wars' and Why Boomer Blaming Won't Solve Anything, sociology lecturer Jennie Bristow interrogates the rise of intergenerational conflict. Bristow argues that, throughout the Western world, assumptions about differences of interests and needs between generations have become a new ideology, distorting the framework for wider social and economic debates.

In this inaugural event of the East Kent Salon, Bristow will give a short lecture exploring the prominence and popularity of terms like ‘baby boomer’, ‘millennial’, and ‘snowflake’ in mainstream media and will assess how the discussion on generations relates to important issues such as housing, education, pensions, and employment. Salon attendees will then discuss the issues raised by the book and have the opportunity to interrogate the key arguments that surround the ‘generational war’.

Jennie Bristow is senior lecturer in sociology at Canterbury Christ Church University and an associate of the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies. Her other books include The Sociology of Generations: New Directions and Challenges (Palgrave 2016) and Baby Boomers and Generational Conflict (Palgrave 2015).

Entry to the discussion is £3. Discussion is in the bar, and food is available, so please patronise our generous hosts at The City Arms

*Join our East Kent Salon Facebook group where all events will be announced, and discussions can be pursued post-salon.

*Where possible indicate your intention to attend via the East Kent Salon facebook group  or via  Eventbrite as we are limited by venue size.

                                     ***Spread the word - all welcome!***

Some reading on the topic:

*The futility of generation warsJennie Bristow, spiked, 21 June 2019
*The Theft of a Decade: How the Baby Boomers Stole the Millennials’ Economic Future. Reviewed by:Craig R. Roach. NY Journal of Books, May 14, 2019
*A Generation of Sociopaths review – how Trump and other Baby Boomers ruined the worldJane Smiley, Guardian, 17 May 2017