Revitalising free speech on campus: Living Freedom and Speak Easy

Battle of Ideas festival 2023, Sunday 29 October, Church House, London


Many young people report they self-censor and fear ostracisation for deviating from orthodox opinions. On campus, student societies often encounter problems when wanting to discuss ‘controversial’ topics or invite diverse speakers. Given the new duty of free speech placed on universities in the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act, how can students use this to their advantage? Here we celebrate two initiatives that invite students themselves to champion free speech and take the lead in remaking the case for critical inquiry, free expression and open debate.

Speak Easy is a new platform for real debate and disagreement. Tired of debating societies and a lack of free speech on campuses letting you down? Feel like the topics and speakers you want to listen to don’t appear at your university? Finding it difficult to change the culture within student unions and societies on campus to stand up for open debate? Then look no further. Speak Easy is a movement fighting back against debating-society establishments by fostering a culture of diversity of opinion, casual debating and not shying away from the big topics.

Living Freedom is dedicated to renewing freedom through education and debate. Through ‘What can we learn from…?’, a series of salon-style events touring UK universities in autumn 2023, Living Freedom ensures new generations can face up to the challenge of understanding historic principles, present challenges and future oriented ideals as a means to renewing this core value of modern liberal societies.

Come along, find out more… and join us in creating a free speech renaissance.

Jack Barwell
chairman, Speak Easy National Movement; president, Exeter University Speak Easy Society; founder and president, Bridge the Gap;

Felice Basbøll
project assistant, Ideas Matter; student, Trinity College Dublin

Emma Cabezaolias
student, Durham University; treasurer, Speak Easy national committee;

Ella Nixon
curator; writer; PhD student, Northumbria University; fellow, Common Sense Caledonia; 2023 fellow, Roger Scruton

Alastair Donald
co-convenor, Battle of Ideas festival; convenor, Living Freedom; author, Letter on Liberty: The Scottish Question