Annual debate

The Tenth Annual BIRTHA Debate: 'Talking Colston: Memory, Commemoration and Bristol's Slave Legacy'

Edward Colston (1636-1729) is one of Bristol's most famous sons. He is remembered for his philanthropy and memorialized through the names of schools and a concert hall and with a statue in the city centre. But in recent years, a growing awareness of Colston's involvement in slavery and the slave trade has made this celebration seem problematic in a multicultural and multiethnic city such as Bristol is. Recent controversies, such as the demands of the Rhodes Must Fall movement for the removal of Cecil Rhodes's statue in Oxford, have highlighted the ethical and political issues of memorialization for country with an imperial past. BIRTHA has brought together a panel of distinguished experts to debate the issues and there will be space for the general public to contribute to the discussion.

Venue:  The Station, Silver St, Bristol BS1 2AG
Thursday, 5 May 2016, 6-8 pm


Dr Edson Burton is a writer, historian, and programmer working across Bristol's voluntary, educational, arts and culture sectors.

Dr. Madge Dresser is Associate Professor of History at the University of the West of England and has published widely on the field of slavery and its legacy in Bristol and beyond. 

Francis Greenacre, Former Curator of Fine Art at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and co-author of the Public Sculpture of Bristol, 2011.

Dr Olivette Otele is a Senior Lecturer in History at Bath Spa University and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. She specialises in French and British colonial history and post-colonial legacies, memory, identity politics and geopolitics in the Atlantic World.   

Listen to the debate here:


The Ninth Annual BIRTHA Debate:

This house believes that the "impact agenda" is a threat to academic freedom

Venue:  The Old Council Chamber, Wills Memorial Building
Wednesday, 6 May 2015, 3 pm

Speakers for the motion:

Thomas Docherty, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Warwick University

Rowan Tomlinson, Department of French, University of Bristol


 Speakers to oppose:

 Nils Langer, Department of German, University of Bristol (School Impact Director)

Robert Bickers, Department of History , University of Bristol (Faculty Research Director)


To be followed by tea and cake.


The Eighth Annual BIRTHA Debate: 'Mind, Brain and Behaviour: Is there a best way to understand pain and healing?'

Venue:  The Old Council Chamber, Wills Memorial Building
Wednesday, 7 May 2014

An event involving partners from the 'Great Western Four Alliance' of research-intensive universities across the South West.



For related events, see also the workshop on modelling health interventions in animals and humans, which was jointly organised by the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research Events and the Cabot Institute.

The Seventh Annual BIRTHA Debate: 'What is University?'

Venue: The Old Council Chamber, Wills Memorial Building
Wednesday, 8 May 2013 at 3.00 pm

At the Sixth Annual BIRTHA Debate in 2012, six members of the University addressed the question 'What is a University?'. There was a consensus in seeing universities as a public good that produces critical thinkers, citizens and ethical professionals upon whom individuals and societies can rely. Some members of the audience argued that diverse voices from other constituencies should be brought into the debate; for example, it would be helpful to hear from representatives of the University's support staff and administrators. Moreover, several called for a presentation of views held by some from outside of a university milieu.

To that end, the Seventh BIRTHA Debate will aim to fulfill these requests and revisit the question: 'What is University?'

Among the speakers will be:

The Debate will be followed by refreshments. All are warmly invited.

For catering purposes, please RSVP Sam Barlow.

Urban Identity: Whose street is it anyway?

Rise, Independent record shop, 70 Queens Road
25th February 2013, 6-8 pm

Following the BIRTHA (Bristol Institute for Research in the Arts and Humanities) debate 2012 - "What is a University?" - the Faculty of Arts and the People's Republic of Stokes Croft ask the question "Whose street is it anyway?" in a panel discussion and debate.

The Sixth Annual BIRTHA Debate: 'What is a university?'

Venue: The Reception Room, 1st floor, 43 Woodland Road
Wednesday, 25 April 2012 at 3.00 pm

This year's BIRTHA debaters are:

Past debates