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Drink, smoke, eat: prohibition today

I am producing and chairing this discussion on our changing attitudes towards personal pleasure as part of the Battle of Ideas Festival at the Barbican Centre, London.

Drink, smoke, eat: prohibition today
Sunday 21 October, 5.00pm until 6.15pm, Garden Room Under the Spotlight

Are we entering a new prohibitionist era? Drinking and even smoking are still perfectly legal, but there is a palpable sense that they are less acceptable than they once were. Cigarettes have become far more expensive thanks to punitive taxes, and the authorities would like to do something similar with alcohol. The spread of ‘no drinking’ zones in public places also seems to follow the pattern of smoking bans, which now cover every indoor public space and many outdoor ones too. So are we witnessing prohibition by stealth? Instead of banning certain activities, is the state trying render them socially unacceptable?

Putting smokers beyond the social pale certainly seemed to be health secretary Andrew Lansley’s obje…
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Have we got copyright wrong?

Next Birmingham Salon: Have we got copyright wrong? 7.30pm Thursday 13th September at The Ropewalk, 15-20 St Paul’s Square, Birmingham B3 1QU

Is copyright a principle that is impossible to maintain in the modern world where reproduction is almost effortless? Should we take a pragmatic line and formulate alternative licensing and business models that are adaptive to the new realities of the digital age? Or should we, make a stand against the devaluation of works of art and entertainment as freebies, and defend the notion of social creations deserving of reward and accreditation? And as the British government prepares to make publicly available scientific research for everyone to read for free, are there separate principles involved in research literature on the one hand and artistic works on the other?

Farms shouldn't be sacred cows

One in 10 British dairy farmers will be driven out of the business by Christmas if planned milk-price cuts are imposed by the supermarkets, claimed Andrew Hemming, vice chairman of the campaign group Farmers For Action.
Farmers for Action is encouraging people to sign an online petition to be sent to Defra (the UK Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) which claims: ‘The UK government must do more to protect the interests of British dairy farmers. The low price of milk is forcing extremely hard-working farming families into poverty and increasing the dependence on antibiotics used with animals that will have a devastating affect on the industry. If the price of milk is not increased soon, then the UK will suffer a shortage of supply and thus pay more in the long term.’ Blockades of milk-processing plants have taken place in Worcestershire and Derbyshire. It seems likely that more blockades will occur in the future, despite a deal ‘in principle’ being agreed recently…

Life is a Dream by Birmingham Opera Co.

Two members of Birmingham Salon are taking part in Birmingham Opera Company's next production, the world premiere of Life is a Dream by composer, Jonathan Dove and writer, Alasdair Middleton. They have created a brand new, full length opera and they've used a legendary play by 17th century Spanish Playwright, Calderón. Artistic Director, Graham Vick, designer Samal Blak, and William Lacey from Leipzig Opera are in charge. Singers include British tenor, Paul Nilon as the King, Wendy Dawn Thompson (mezzo), Keel Watson (bass), Donna Bateman (soprano). They'll be joined by American tenor, Joseph Guyton who played Cassio in Othello and is a finalist in Germany's X Factor. Playing the role of Segismund is American baritone, Eric Greene.
One member of the chorus, Niall Crowley, wrote this piece 
for Independent about the production and the company:

Opera for the masses, by the masses?
By Niall Crowley In a disused tin-plate factory in a backstreet of Digbeth in Birmingham, an extra…

Don't shout at the Tele: Queer Politics

I took part in a Worldbytes 'Don't Shout at the Tele, Change the Message' series. I discussed Queer politics and how ideas of equality have changed, with a group of Worldwrite volunteers. Here is the film:

Find out more about Worldbytes

See other films in the 'Don't Shout at the Tele' series

Next Birmingham Salon. Wednesday 8 Feb 2012

Hear podcasts of previous salons on the Podcasts pageThe Sanitised City: How public is public space? Wednesday 8 February The Studio, Cannon St, Birmingham B2 5EP. 7.00pm until 8.30pm and in the pub afterwards. Introduced byAlastair Donald is associate director of the Future Cities Project, and co-editor of The Lure of the City: From Slums to Suburbs (Pluto 2011). He is an urban designer, researching mobility and space at the Martin Centre for Architectural and Urban Studies, University of Cambridge. Nikki Pugh works in the grey areas between and across Art, Science and Technology. She is primarily interested in issues around interaction: how we interact with spaces and landscapes and, in supporting exploration and criticism. She is co-author of the

R.I.P. Dobie Gray

Niall CrowleyWho’s in the ‘In Crowd’ these days?
The late US soul singer Dobie Gray provided the theme tune for uppity working-class kids in 1960s Britain.Dobie Gray, the US soul singer who provided the theme tune for a new generation of uppity British working-class youth in the 1960s, has died. Gray’s 1965 underground dance hit, ‘The “In” Crowd’, fitted like a bespoke Italian suit for the swanky and urbane kids who had even the upper classes chasing their shirt tails. Future-oriented and cosmopolitan, with little time for the outmoded conventions and deference that had choked the country for so long, they were the ‘in’ crowd.