Birmingham Salon

Are Boys in Trouble?

7.15pm, Thursday 10th April 2014, at The Victoria, 48 John Bright Street, Birmingham B1 1BN

We seem to live in a world where culture and education are more feminised. In schools, for example, things as diverse as emotional and personal development discussions during circle time and PHSE and selling off playing fields are pointed to as signs that traditional masculine values and behaviours are being demoted. In the West the increasing academic and professional success of girls and women is clear. Some complain that while we live a world where women are promoted as being equal to men, boys’ views of girls and relationships are being affected by the “bombardment” of pornography. That means that although girls are doing well, they now have more strongly to fend off boys who have got a distorted view of who they are and how they will behave. 

So have boys become disorientated? Is envy of girls’ success making them either so aggressive towards or shy of girls that they need mentors to help them negotiate their relationships, and even chat up girls? Do boys need better male role models, or better sex education, or even perhaps wider moral development education, to help them succeed? Or are boys and girls equally sensitive and strong enough to be able to find their own way in the world?


Sally Millard

Sally is co-founder of the Institute of Ideas Parents Forum which was set up in 2006 to provide a meeting place for those who want to discuss policy developments in relation to children and parenting so that they can work out how to challenge them.

Olga Fotakopoulou

Olga Fotakopoulou is a Lecturer in Developmental Psychology in the Division of Psychology at Birmingham City University. Her main area of interest and expertise is in the human development from early childhood to adolescence.The scope of her research is based on three major pillars: cognitive development, social development and developmental determinants. 

The debate is chaired and produced by Rosamund Cuckston.

Recommended resources

Sexual advice charities such as Brook say teachers should not stop pupils from watching pornography

Ally Fogg appeals for better sex and relationships education for boys

Fraser Nelson argues that now, in the fight for equality, we should be looking out for young men

Laurie Penny observes that we don't have any models for post-patriarchy masculinity

Birmingham University's Knightly Virtues programme for schools is aimed at both boys and girls

Ministry of Love? CONTESTING radicalism and mental health care

7.15pm, Thursday 13th February 2014, at The Victoria, 48 John Bright Street, Birmingham B1 1BN.

The war against terrorism has moved away from its exclusive focus on the pursuit and arrest of suspected terrorists. CONTEST, the latest counter-terrorism strategy, advocates nationwide advice and support to ‘prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’. The Home Office recommends the deployment of special panels of care professionals offering packages of support to vulnerable individuals ‘at risk from radicalisation’ arising from feelings of injustice or the desire for political change. It points to individuals like Nick Reilly, who was diagnosed with an autistic spectrum condition and tried to bomb a Giraffe restaurant in 2008. 

Some see this multi-agency care approach as an Orwellian mental health route to social conformity; it is an uncomfortable reminder of the novel 1984, in which the Ministry of Love brainwashed Winston Smith into submission. Treatments under the COUNTER programme can extend to long-acting injectable anti-psychotic medication and hospital detentions. The strategy has led to 2,500 referrals since its introduction in 2007.

Can mental health interventions prevent mass killings by extremists and help individuals lead better lives? Or is the NHS sleepwalking into Soviet-style 'medicalisation' of political dissidents?


Raj Persaud, Consultant Psychiatrist, recently elected Fellow of University College London and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The Times newspaper recently placed him as one of the Top Twenty Mental Health Gurus in the world.
Mashud Ally, Assistant Director of Equalities and Human Resources, Birmingham City Council. Mashud's responsibilities include co-ordination of the council's response to the government's Preventing Violent Disorder (PVE) strategy.
Dr Vanessa Pupavac, senior lecturer at University of Nottingham in School of Politics and International Relations, with research on humanitarianism, human rights and therapeutic governance.
The debate is produced and chaired by Dr Jo Hurlow.

Recommended resources

BBC News reports on the deradicalisation of 500 terror suspects, 2013

Dr Raj Persaud discusses Anders Breivnik’s mental state with Dr Jeremy Coid:

Dr Raj Persaud has written the following Huffington Post articles on this subject:

The final 2011 Reith Lecture. Baroness Lady Eliza Manningham-Buller, former Director General of MI5, argues that 'not all terrorists are evil although their acts are. Nor are they all pathologically violent. 

A few are but many are not and have their own rationale'.

Home Office guidance, 2012.


Whose Womb is it Anyway?

A Battle of Ideas Satellite Event

7.00 pm, Wednesday 6th November 2013, at The Victoria, 48 John Bright Street, Birmingham, B1 1BN


Dr Pam Lowe, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Aston University
Vicki Fitzgerald, Chief Executive, Gateway Family Services


Dr Helene Guldberg

Public health advice to women who plan to become, or who are, pregnant increasingly emphasises the effects of their choices about their lives, or their circumstances, on long term outcomes for the child, with everything from coffee consumption to language skills examined for negative effects. Policy documents suggest that how the mother lives and behaves from conception onwards can affect how her child learns, earns, and becomes part of society and at the same time there is increased emphasis on the need for intervention and support services. By implication, a huge responsibility for the problems of society is now focussed on the pregnant woman. Is it right that she be expected to bear this burden, either alone, or with expert help and advice? Or is it reasonable for society to demand certain responsibilities for the unborn? Are we becoming too focussed on the developing foetus at the expense of the mother’s autonomy?

We ask for a £5 donation to cover our costs.  This can either be made on the door or via the EventBrite link.

Pregnant women aren't incubators so why does medical advice treat them as though they are? - Jennie Bristow, The Independent, June 2013

Evaluation of Lay Support in pregnant women with Social Risk (ELSIPS): a randomised controlled study - S Kenyon, K Jolly, and others, BMC Pregnancy Childbirth Vol 12, February 2012

How much of pregnancy health advice is plain old prejudice and fear? - Glosswitch, The New Statesman, August 2013

Advocating alcohol abstinence to pregnant women: Some observations about British policy - Dr Pam Lowe and Dr Ellie Lee, Health Risk and Society Vol 12 Issue 4, July 2010


Forthcoming Birmingham Salon Events