South Liverpool Debating Society

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it's faced

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About

The South Liverpool Debating Society began in August 2020 during the first Coronavirus lockdown and was a response to the lack of opportunity to discuss and debate ideas during this period.

The group was partly founded by members of community groups, which stopped face to face meetings during this time, and other Liverpool residents who simply felt compelled to seek out human contact in order to make sense of the unique set of circumstance that the country found itself in. The group always stayed within the laws that were current at the time and sometimes met in groups of six in Sefton Park, or sometimes not at all.

The format of debate was important because many groups had formed on the internet and elsewhere which attracted people who shared the same ideas and, as a result, society seemed to becoming more tribal and anyone with an alternative view was often demonised or simply not listened to. It was felt that it was important to listen to the best arguments of the people you disagreed with, and then to allow the possibility than one’s mind might be changed.

The main idea of the group is to freely debate the most pressing and important issues of the day in a manner that is considerate, dignified and respectful to others. There is no agenda apart from a shared desire to pursue the truth and to genuinely consider that some of our ideas and beliefs may be wrong.

 

How it works

Normally between 10 and 20 members attend each debate – enough for a variety of opinion but small enough for everyone to actively take part if they wish to. Some people are happy just to listen for much of the debate.

There is sometimes a dinner at about 6.30pm during which people can get to know each other or catch up. The point of this, apart from just being enjoyable and pleasant, is that sitting down and eating together tends to make people much more inclined to treat each other in a dignified and respectful way. Of course, people may still argue passionately about a topic they feel strongly about but if they have had a meal together they are more inclined to treat the person who disagrees with them as a human being.

At the beginning of the debate there is a round of introductions and each person states whether they are for or against the particular motion of the day and why. The main part of the debate is a free-flowing discussion on the topic, with a system of raising hands and turn-taking if there are too many people wanting to speak at once. At the end of the debate, each member of the group again states if they are in favour of the motion or against – describing why they have either changed their mind or stuck to the same position. Sometimes the group ends with a show of hands to indicate if the motion has been carried.

The debate lasts for about an hour and half and people often stay for drinks at the end.

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