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Seminars explore St Paul’s connection to public discourse and direct democracy

Full videos from two recent events organised by the St Paul's Institute, are now available to view online.

The seminars, hosted in conjunction with the charity Our Democratic Heritage, explored the history of St Paul’s Cross as a place of public discourse and its relationship to our modern conceptions of direct democracy.

The afternoon session, St Paul’s Cross: Preachers, People and Power, hosted a panel of eminent academics including Dr Mary Morrissey (who has quite literally written the book on the subject); Dr David Colclough who spoke on freedom of speech in the early modern period; and Dr Peter McCullough, Lay Canon (History) of St Paul’s Cathedral. Including extensive references to historical documents of the time, the session was an illuminating look at an often misunderstood part of both the history of St Paul’s Cathedral and London.

Following this session was an evening seminar, Models for Social Change: New Debate and Democracy, that highlighted the renewed drive for democratic participation and explored a number of models that are currently attempting to do so including the Occupy movement and Citizens UK. Speakers included Ludovica Rogers, facilitator of Occupy London general assemblies; Neil Jameson, CEO of Citizens UK; Dr Sara Hagemann, lecturer in EU politics at the LSE; and Dr Dan Plesch, Director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy (SOAS) and Chair of Our Democratic Heritage.

Discussion at both events was lively and there was plenty of debate and challenges put towards the speakers, all of whom did an excellent job at bringing together what were often disparate viewpoints.

Dan Plesch said: "St Paul’s Institute’s co-operation with Our Democratic Heritage, on the history and future of the political and religious life in and around the cathedral, lays the foundation for a vital cultural renaissance. Our Democratic Heritage is deeply indebted to the Institute for its generous co-operation.”

Robert Gordon, Manager of St Paul’s Institute said: "As we approach the anniversary of Occupy London’s arrival at St Paul’s Cathedral on 15 October 2011, and five years into an ongoing global financial crisis, there continues to be a strong desire across all demographics and many organisations to come together in an attempt to renew the level of participation in civil society and ensure that our sense of collective purpose and duty to one another is not lost.

"These seminars, and similar events, are a way for us to help ensure that we continue to ask difficult questions of ourselves and one another in the hope that we can move more cohesively towards a view of the common good and, importantly, an understanding of how to practise it."