British Academy launches series of public debates discussing the biggest issues of our time

22 Jan 2014

New for 2014, the British Academy is launching a series of free debates to encourage the public to discuss some of the most important challenges of our time and show the role academic research plays in helping us understand and address them. 

The British Academy Debates will look in turn at some of today's toughest questions and illuminate the crucial issues involved, with the aim of helping individuals, communities and politicians make better informed decisions in key areas that affect their lives. 

British Academy President Lord Nicholas Stern says: "We are not driving to answers for these questions, but putting on the table serious analysis from across the spectrum of the humanities and social sciences. We want to get beyond the usual cut-and-thrust sloganising in which these subjects are discussed." 

The British Academy Debates will focus in turn on issues surrounding Ageing, Immigration and Well-being. In the first series, leading academics and public figures will debate the challenges – and the opportunities – posed by our steadily ageing population, with debates in London, Sheffield and Edinburgh, chaired in turn by journalist Evan Davis, classicist Mary Beard and actor Simon Callow. 

Each debate will focus on a different aspect of ageing, with questions ranging from 'Is Britain's ageing population a benefit or burden?' to 'How can we challenge negative stereotypes of later life?' 

Speakers in the Debates include leading academics and experts in aspects of ageing including Professor Alan Walker, Sir John Hills, Professor Pat Thane and Professor Ian Deary. 

They will join in debate with commentators and public figures with a particular specialism or personal interest in the topic – such as TV presenter Sally Magnusson, author of "Where Memories Go: How Dementia Changes Everything", written about her mother, and Ilona Haslewood from the Ageing Society team at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. 

Registration and more information about the British Academy Debates can be found online and via #bigdebates. 


The British Academy Debates: Ageing events are: 

Benefit or burden? Coming to terms with ageing Britain 

The Royal Society, London 

Wednesday 26 February, 2014, 6pm 

Is the welfare generation a myth? Is our ageing population a 'burden' or this just a lazy concept and out of step with the new dynamics of ageing? What can our economy gain an older workforce, and will our politicians and policy-makers harness the potential in an ageing population? 

Chair: Evan Davis 

Speakers: Professor Alan Walker, Professor Sir John Hills, Professor Julia Twigg and Bronwen Maddox, Editor and Chief Executive of Prospect Magazine. 


Too Old and Ugly to be Useful? Challenging Negative Representations of Older People 

University of Sheffield 

Tuesday 25 March, 2014, 6pm 

Has there ever been a golden age for ageing? As the numbers of older people grows, how can we promote and celebrate their positive contribution, and challenge the pervasive negative stereotypes of later life? How can we debunk popular myths about the status and welfare the older population? 

Chair: Diarmaid MacCulloch

Speakers: Professor Pat Thane, Dr Lorna Warren, Dr Ilona Haslewood, and author and ancient history professor Tim Parkin.  


The Best Years of our Lives? Body, Brain and Well-Being, 

Assembly Hall, The Mound, Edinburgh 

Tuesday 29 April, 2014, 6pm 

What are the best years of our lives? What are the true consequences of an ageing body and does the physical development of ageing really affect how we can live? Is it time to rethink what we perceive an older body is capable of, and should policy-makers, politicians and business leaders rethink issues such as retirement and flexible working, to enable a longer, fuller life? 

Chair: Simon Callow 

Speakers: Professor Ian Deary, Professor Catherine Ward Thompson, Sir Alan Peacock and BBC Scotland news presenter and journalist, Sally Magnusson. 


Editor's notes: 

1. For further information, images and interviews please contact the Press Office on [email protected] or 020 7969 5263. 

2. The British Academy for the humanities and social sciences. Established by Royal Charter in 1902. Its purpose is to inspire, recognise and support excellence and high achievement in the humanities and social sciences, throughout the UK and internationally, and to champion their role and value. For more information, please visit . 

Follow the British Academy on Twitter @britac_news 

Contact the press office

For further information contact the Press Office on [email protected]  / 07500 010 432.

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