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Salon series promises a spring of lively debates at Dome

Provocative questions and scintillating debate return to Brighton when the University of Sussex-led Sussex Salon Series of topical discussions returns to Brighton Dome for 2011.

The public debates, involving expert opinion and feedback and questions from the audience, focus on hot current affairs topics and draw on the expertise of University academics and leading commentators in the fields of law, politics and sociology.

Last year's events - which debated themes as diverse as the coalition government and whether doctors know better than patients what's good for them - proved so popular that the venue has now changed from the Founder's Room in Brighton Dome to the Dome's Pavilion Theatre in New Road, Brighton.

The February Salon discussion, (Wednesday 2 February at 8pm at the Pavilion Theatre) is entitled Are EU countries right to ban the wearing of religious symbols? The debate features University of Sussex academics Dr Alana Lentin (a sociologist and author of The Crises of Multiculturalism) and law lecturer Dr Charlotte Skeet, who is a member of the Human Rights Lawyers Association and whose research interests include constitutional law and feminist legal theory.

The panel will discuss the legal, ethical and practical implications of banning of religious symbols - a move that has already caused controversy in France, Belgium and Italy. Joining the Sussex academics will be University of Sussex Chaplain, Chaplain to the Queen and BBC radio presenter the Reverend Canon Dr Gavin Ashenden and Dr Peter Cave, Chairman of the Humanist Philosophers of Great Britain and author of Do Llamas Fall in Love?  33 Perplexing Philosophy Puzzles and Humanism: A Beginner's Guide.

The Salon debate for March (Wednesday 9 March at 8pm at the Pavilion Theatre), What is the role of law in international affairs? asks questions such as 'Does international law play any role in the governance of conflict zones such as Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan' and 'How can such law be best enforced?' Speakers include Professor Craig Barker (International Law and International Relations, University of Sussex) and University of Sussex Lecturer in Law and International Security Dr Tarik Kochi (author of The Other's War: Recognition and the Violence of Ethics), Birkbeck, University of London Professor and barrister Bill Bowring (author of The Degradation of the International Legal Order?) and the University of East London's Dr John Strawson (author of Partitioning Palestine).

A special Brighton Festival Salon debate - What does a festival add to a city? - asks whether or not a festival help develop a city's identity. Do all its inhabitants benefit or is it for the elite few only? Speakers will include Festival and Dome CEO Andrew Comben and Sociology Fellow Dr Monica Sassatelli, whose research covers arts festivals and European public culture. This event takes place on Sunday 22 May, from 6pm to 8pm at the Pavilion Theatre.

And in June, audience members who missed the Salon debate from December, postponed due to the bad weather, will get another chance to hear gay rights activist, campaigner and writer Peter Tatchell, campaigner, writer and broadcaster Simon Fanshawe and University of Sussex academics Dr Craig Lind and Dr Ben Fincham discuss the difference that civil partnerships have made to society. In What differences have civil partnerships made?, the speakers will look at whether all the debates have now been won for same-sex rights, or whether are there still political, social and religious obstacles en route to equality.

The Sussex Salon Series is organised by Dr Ruth Woodfield, a University of Sussex sociologist and Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange for the School of Law, Politics and Sociology. The series offers an alternative evening out and highlights research at the University that engages with contemporary issues in a way that will appeal to a wide audience.

The practice of debating intellectual matters in public places such as coffee shops was a part of everyday life in 18th-century Europe. Such events were known as "salons", hence the title of this university series. There will be some audience participation, too, 21st century-style, as audience members will be able to register their opinions during each debate by using an electronic voting system in response to specific questions.

For more information about the Sussex Salon Series, visit: BrightonDome or contact Margaret Greener

Notes for Editors

University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune, Jacqui Bealing and Daniëlle Treanor. Tel: 01273 678 888. Email:

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Last updated: Wednesday, 16 March 2011