Debating Matters Beyond Bars

The Academy of Ideas Debating Matters Competition is delighted to be working in partnership with G4S, on ‘Debating Matters Beyond Bars’.

Following the pilot in 2016, Debating Matters Beyond Bars has seen our challenging schools debating competition format returning to HMP Birmingham. Teams of offenders of all ages will engage each other in debate on a series of contemporary social, political, biomedical and cultural debates, encouraging them to think about the world around them. In the words of Academy of Ideas Director, Claire Fox, “This project is an exciting opportunity to demonstrate that debate can flourish in unexpected places and that no idea should be beyond critical discussion or contest.”

The prison teams will be supported by Debating Matters with on-site debate training days, giving an overview not just of the competition format but also of the importance of debate more broadly. The prison debaters will also receive a series of specially updated Topic Guides, the competition’s acclaimed resources, which set the contemporary scene in which the topical issues they will discuss are taking place. Each debate will be judged, as always, by a panel of three invited guests, from all walks of life and professional backgrounds, who will cross-examine the prisoners on what they’re arguing.

You can see what two of our judges thought about the Debating Matters Beyond Bars pilot in 2016:
A prison project that aims to unlock the potential of inmates - Miranda Green
In a Birmingham jail, I discovered the point of Michael Gove - Hugo Rifkind

The Debating Matters Beyond Bars 2017 debates will be held over two separate days in August and September 2017, and culminate in a grand finale between the two teams who win through to the final debate. As part of the final day, a ‘Question Time’-style debate will be staged, chaired by director of the Academy of Ideas, Claire Fox, with a panel of special guests, and an audience of prisoners, family members, HMP Birmingham staff and guests.

Debating Matters Beyond Bars 2017 Programmes

Day of Debate, 31 August

Grand Final, 2 October

Debating Matters Beyond Bars 2016 Programmes

Day of Debate, 6 September

Grand Final, 15 September

In partnership with  


For further information about this partnership or you are interested in coming along to one of our Beyond Bars events, contact Adam Rawcliffe


Thursday 27 June:
Oxfordshire Championship at Oxford Union, in partnership with Magdalen College School and Oxford Festival of Arts

Friday 5 July:
North East Championship at Durham Sixth Form Centre


Find a list of all our previous championship events here.


Bernie Whelan, our DM coordinator, is raising money for Debating Matters. To stage one of our Championships for six to 12 teams costs £6,000. Find out more on Bernie’s Wonderful fundraising page.


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