Archive for December, 2010


Saturday, December 4th, 2010 | Humanism, Travel

Last weekend, we hit Edinburgh as part of Weekend Away 2010. It’s been several years since I’ve been to the city so it was great to see it once again and despite the snowy weather, our train was only delayed half an hour each way, which while arguably appalling in many places is a relative victory in Britain.

On the Friday evening we joined the Edinburgh University Humanist Society to watch the Blair Hitchens debate live. It was most entertaining, despite Tony Blair not bringing any arguments to the table though it was shocking to see how withered Christopher Hitchens now looks.

Saturday saw us take a look round Edinburgh Castle which was free entry (win), followed by some shopping and then heading our for a few drinks in the evening. We started the evening with dinner at Biblos which delivered probably the best steak I’ve had from a non-steak dedicated restaurant and then headed to Frankenstein but Angry Tom was all angry about the music so we ended up at a rock bar which while failing to live up to it’s early promise of Taking Back Sunday, delivered relatively good music.

Sunday saw us take in the National Gallery of Scotland and the National Museum of Scotland, both of which were great but as the museum was closing early because of the weather conditions (apparently they’re not prepared for snow in Scotland) we only got an hour in there. Finally we went round the Christmas Market before heading home.

Muslim avoiding Debate Initiative

Saturday, December 4th, 2010 | Humanism

When I first heard of the MDI (Muslim Debate Initiative) I thought, what an excellent idea for an organisation. A robust exchange of ideas is not only the basis of a strong, diverse society but also a sign of respect…

Last year, when ran the Perspective Course for a second time and as part of our session on Islam, Nicola had arranged a speaker from the MDI to come up to Leeds to present a talk.

Being a student society we are very restricted on funding so the MDI had agreed to pay the travel costs associated with sending someone but we set about providing a welcoming atmosphere, moving our social away from the pub and to a local sheesha bar.

Then, on the day before the talk, the speaker phoned me saying he was about to book his train and wanted to check that we were fine to pay all the costs. I explained that Nicola had already agreed with the MDI that they would pay the costs but he denied this and insisted we pay the £70 train bill. I reluctantly agreed, presuming the situation was sorted.

However, twenty minutes later I received another phone call from the speaker saying that actually because he was booking at the last minute, the train bill would come to £250 and were we alright to pay this? To which I, of course, said no and he decided he wouldn’t be able to attend after all. Thankfully, within a day, the Leeds Makkah Mosque were kind enough to provide us with a speaker.

Maybe this was a mix up. I can understand that sometimes this happens.

Earlier this year we began planning a big debate between Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association and an Islamic speaker, so we once again contacted the MDI, presuming on good faith that last time has been a mix up. They agreed to send a speaker and after many emails being exchanged, everything seemed to be in place.

Then, when we contacted them a week before the debate was due to take place to confirm all the final details, the speaker emailed us back saying he had been told the debate was cancelled and so would not be attending.

I then contacted the MDI to find out what was going on and they confirmed what their speaker had said – they had decided the event was cancelled and told him not to go. They then asked if they would like them to provide another speaker and I said yes – and then never heard back from them.

Another debate successfully avoided.

What is interesting, is the parallels between these incidents and the infamous February 2009 debate with the Islamic Society at Leeds in which they actually went out of their way to prevent the event from going ahead. After all of this, I find myself very nostalgic for the debates we had back in the day with the Christian Union.

I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue

Saturday, December 4th, 2010 | Distractions

Last week I was lucky enough to have tickets to a recording of the Radio 4 comedy programme I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue taking place at Leeds Town Hall.

It was well attended, mostly by your classic demographic of Radio 4 listeners, making me feel very young indeed. What really struck me though was the access to the range of good comedians you got – all at once. The panel consisted of long time ISIHAC guests Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Barry Cryer along with Phil Jupitus and Jack Dee – not a bad line-up for the relatively cheap ticket price!

Of course the two highlights of the evening were seeing the lovely Samantha in person whose descriptions really don’t do her justice, and finally learning how Mornington Crescent actually works – it’s all so obvious when you see it!

Intimate Details debuts

Saturday, December 4th, 2010 | Foundation, Humanism, News

Yesterday, the first session of Intimate Details took place at Leeds Atheist Society. Intimate Details is a course which looks at sex, relationships and surrounding issues from a secular perspective – and indeed given it covers a lot of the same material as UCCF’s Pure course, some have cheekily nicknamed it “Impure.”

Yesterday’s session looked at sexuality and the various sexual orientations that exist, taboos and fetishes and the attitude towards sex in society such as sex in the media and education system as well as pornography, prostitution and religion.

Next week’s session will be looking at dating, relationships and sex. You can join us for that at 7pm on Friday 10 December.