the team

Claire Fox, Academy of Ideas Director

Claire Fox is the director of the Academy of Ideas, which she established to create a public space where ideas can be contested without constraint. She convenes the yearly Battle of Ideas festival and initiated the Debating Matters Competition for sixth-formers. She also co-founded a residential summer school, The Academy,… READ MORE

CONTACT Claire Fox



Geoff Kidder, Membership and Events Director

Geoff Kidder is Director of Membership and Events at the Academy of Ideas. He supervises our administration and event management including the Battle of Ideas festival, runs our associate member scheme and convenes our Book Club. Geoff is also the Academy’s resident expert in all sporting matters.


CONTACT Geoff Kidder


Alastair Donald, Associate Director

Alastair Donald is associate director of the Academy of Ideas and acting co-convenor for the Battle of Ideas Festival.

Alastair is also secretary of the boi charity and convenor of Living Freedom, its annual residential school for young people. He is an experienced cultural programmer having worked in the… READ MORE

CONTACT Alastair Donald


Rob Lyons, science and technology director

Rob is a journalist, specialising in issues relating to science, technology, health, food and the environment. He is a columnist for the online magazine, spiked, where he worked for over a decade before joining the Academy of Ideas as science and technology director in 2014. His writing has featured in… READ MORE



Simon Belt, Technical Consultant

Simon Belt started his IT career working in the rather restrictive environment of the civil service, moving into the more flexible and innovative international outsourcing world. Looking to implement technology the way it is meant to be deployed, rather than what suited any given contract, in 1999 Simon Belt established… READ MORE

CONTACT Simon Belt

Jacob Reynolds, Partnerships Manager

Jacob is partnerships manager at the Academy of Ideas. He was previously a consultant at SHM, a strategy consultancy specialising in using insights into human motivation to help organisations solve complex human-centred problems. Prior to joining SHM as a consultant, Jacob read the BPhil in philosophy at St Cross College,… READ MORE

CONTACT Jacob Reynolds


associate fellows

Adam Rawcliffe, Associate Fellow

Adam joined the Academy of Ideas in October 2014, having graduated from the University of St Andrews, where he studied Modern History. Adam has produced debates at the Battle of Ideas on everything from dating apps to ‘killer clowns’. A proud Prestonian, Adam competed in and won the 2010 Debating… READ MORE

CONTACT Adam Rawcliffe


Justine Brian, Associate fellow

Justine is director of schools at Civitas. She was formerly the director of the Institute’s Debating Matters sixth-form debating competition.

She believes in education and grappling with big ideas – and practised what she preaches by completing a degree in Classical Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London,… READ MORE

CONTACT Justine Brian


Joel Cohen, associate fellow

Joel co-ordinated volunteers for the UK’s toughest schools’ debating competition, Debating Matters, and was instrumental in setting up the competition in Israel. Joel is now communications manager at BeyondMe and drives the development and delivery of campaigns, which comprise communications and events activities, to support BeyondMe’s growth. BeyondMe brings professionals,… READ MORE

CONTACT Joel Cohen



Rossa Minogue, Associate fellow

Rossa was founding producer of the Podcast of Ideas, took care of the our audio and video content, and has been one of the organisers of the Battle of Ideas festival. Prior to that he was a staff writer at the online magazine spiked and before that a tour guide… READ MORE

CONTACT Rossa Minogue

David Bowden, associate fellow

David is associate fellow at the Academy of Ideas, having acted as its associate director until July 2016. In his time at the Academy he played a key role in the expansion of the Battle of Ideas at the Barbican and the development of Battle of Ideas Europe. He has… READ MORE

CONTACT David Bowden


Dolan Cummings, Associate Fellow

Dolan Cummings is an Associate Fellow of the Academy of Ideas, having been research and editorial director from 2001 to 2010. He is part of the committee that programmes the annual Battle of Ideas, and a regular participant at the festival and other Academy of Ideas events. He is… READ MORE

CONTACT Dolan Cummings

Helen Birtwistle, Associate Fellow

Helen is a history teacher in a South London school. Working with our Debating Matters Competition for six years, she has been inspired to teach by the teachers, colleagues and students she worked with during her time at the competition.

Helen is also an associate fellow of the Academy of… READ MORE

CONTACT Helen Birtwistle

Craig Fairnington, Associate Fellow

Craig took part in the Debating Matters Competition in 2006 before graduating with a BSc in Physics from the University of St Andrews in 2009. He helps organise our annual Battle of Ideas festival, where he’s organised and spoke at sessions on topics such as gay politics, climate change and… READ MORE

CONTACT Craig Fairnington



Jason Smith, Associate Fellow

Jason Smith is an Associate Fellow of the Academy of Ideas and was previously Partnerships Manager for the Debating Matters Competition.

He writes and comments, on a freelance basis, about food, farming and attitudes toward the countryside and developments in agriculture. He has been a member of the Battle… READ MORE

CONTACT Jason Smith


Shirley Dent, Associate Fellow

Shirley Dent is an Associate Fellow of the Academy of Ideas and was formerly Communications Director.

She worked as Head of Communications and Campaigns Advisor for the UK’s phone-paid regulator, where she led work on children and connected devices such as smartphones. Shirley recently set up Spark Mobile -… READ MORE

CONTACT Shirley Dent

Tony Gilland, Associate Fellow

Tony is the former director of the Debating Matters competition. Tony led DM for 10 years, overseeing its growth into a UK competition for nearly 300 schools and its expansion to India through a partnership with the British Council. As the Academy’s Science and Society Director Tony organised a number… READ MORE

CONTACT Tony Gilland


Bernie Whelan, Associate Fellow

Bernie Whelan was events coordinator at the Academy of Ideas. She is a reviewer for spiked. She has written on a wide range of topics from Elvis Presley to Seamus Heaney. She worked as office manager at the East London Science School and is a member of our Arts and… READ MORE

CONTACT Bernie Whelan

what's happening next

The unintended consequences of lockdown

Wednesday 2 December, 7pm, online, via Zoom