School & College Debate Judges


Peg Alexander is a double award nominated TV and Radio presenter, event host, speaker and occasional writer. Currently, she is the twice award shortlisted current affairs presenter on Made in Leeds TV, and has presented on BBC1 Inside Out. She also works as a BBC radio journalist and presents radio shows on a station in Bradford. She came to broadcasting after over 20 very successful years in campaigning, public policy, charities and regeneration, with a short spell at leadership level in national politics. Peg lives in Leeds but enjoys travelling, and has recently spent a year backpacking around the world.

William Atkinson went from an academic career spanning Sports Science, Management and Environment Studies to a professional career working for an environmental education charity in London, helping young people set up their own sustainable enterprise projects. This led him to higher education working for Hull York Medical School to increase its intake of students from under-represented groups, the University of Leeds admissions and now for Leeds Beckett University, where he’s responsible for projects helping young people who’ve been in care progress to higher education and for collaborative outreach projects with other West Yorkshire HE institutions and Leeds Beckett Students’ Union.



Sally Bavage is the Fundraiser for Headingley LitFest. After qualifying in Biological Sciences, she worked initially as a secondary science teacher, before moving on to work with younger pupils and teach across the curriculum.  A master’s degree in Education, advisory and consultancy work in science, mathematics and IT followed before becoming a secondary deputy head responsible for implementing curriculum change.  Work for the local education authority, and working to get free access to wide-ranging out-of-school opportunities for some of the most deprived young people, completed a career spent enjoying chances to broaden minds and extend opportunities.

Dr Kate Brown lives in East Leeds and is a Lecturer in Social Policy and Crime at the University of York. Before studying for her PhD she worked in the third sector for around ten years supporting vulnerable groups such as young women who sold sex, young drug users and families affected by domestic violence. Her book Vulnerability and Young People: Care and Social Control in Policy and Practice was published by The Policy Press in 2015. Kate is also Chair of Trustees for Basis Yorkshire, a sex work and sexual exploitation support charity.

Paul Butterworth graduated from Manchester University in 1989 (Politics and Philosophy, The Smiths and New Order), had a great temp job in the BT stationery store in Bristol (lots of characters and a big old tea pot) before obtaining an MSc in Human-Computer Interaction in Edinburgh. He worked his way up through the IT industry, from carrying enormous monitors through software development and management, and is now Head of Technical Support Services for the NHS IT delivery arm, NHS Digital. His favourite book is Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller, although he’s also read The Silmarillion 13 times (but not recently).



Dan Clayton is a freelance researcher, writer and cameraman, and a part time bike mechanic and Documentary Film Maker. He has worked in IT, construction and as a handyman in French ski resorts. He recently helped research and produce the documentary Sylvia Pankhurst: Everything is Possible. Dan has a degree in History from the University of Birmingham, and is the Leeds Salon Web-manager.

Cathy Cook is an Associate Solicitor at LCF Law based in Leeds. Until February 2016, Cathy was Head of Company and Commercial Law at Jordans Solicitors in Wakefield, where she set up its Wakefield Sixth-Form Debating Competition. She has also previously set up and run a community art day. Originally from the North East, Cathy arrived in Leeds as a student to study English Literature at Leeds University and other than a short stint in London as part of her training contract she hasn’t left.



Dr Mark Davis is Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Leeds, Founding Director of the Bauman Institute and Director Building Sustainable Societies. He is interested in the capture and translation of the social world into economic interests, specifically how individual freedom is reduced to market choice and how this can be reconciled with the challenge of creating fairer, more resilient, and more sustainable societies. He is author of Consumer Culture and Society: A Critical Introduction, and editor of Liquid Sociology: Metaphor in the Writings of Zygmunt Bauman’s Sociology. Mark was elected a Fellow of the RSA in 2010.

Sarah Derbyshire-Thomas is originally from Lancashire, and graduated from the University of Liverpool in 1994 with a Degree in Economic and Social History. Following a two year period teaching English in Madrid she embarked on a PGCE in History at the University of Leeds. After teaching History and Social Sciences in Hong Kong and West Yorkshire Sarah joined Leeds Beckett University in 2002 in the Widening Participation Department. She is now the Widening Participation Projects Manager and help to set the agenda and strategy of outreach programmes within our University.



Dr Susan Grant-Muller is Professor of Technologies and Informatics in the Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds She is a grounded statistician, inspired by the potential of communication technologies to reduce the carbon-energy burden from the transport sector. She is currently researching the potential of positive incentives delivered through innovative mobility schemes to reduce the use of conventionally fuelled vehicles for EMPOWER.



Richard Horsman is a radio journalist with 30 years’ experience in West Yorkshire. He was news editor at The Pulse in Bradford, and he also served as a consultant to Real Radio when it launched, overseeing the station’s education and training initiatives. He is now a Principal Lecturer in Journalism at Leeds Trinity University, and received the BBC North Education Partnership Achievement award for Developing Talent two years ago, and is Chair of the Radio Academy in Yorkshire.



Patrick Kelly is a special educational needs consultant and works for Leeds City Council.  His background is in Linguistics; he is a masters graduate from Birkbeck College where he researched language development in children with special needs. He has a degree in Fine Art from Goldsmiths College. Patrick is fluent in written and spoken Japanese and lived in Tokyo for 3 years. Particular interests include anything food related, anything wine related, postwar art and cinema. His favourite debaters include Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens.



Michele Ledda is a PhD researcher on education policy at the University of Westminster. He is a former English teacher and until recently he was the director of Civitas Schools, a group of Saturday and evening schools teaching English and maths to children from disadvantaged backgrounds. He has written articles on education, the curriculum and the teaching of poetry for various publication, and is the author of a chapter on English teaching for The Corruption of the Curriculum (Civitas, 2007).



Michael Meadowcroft has been active in Liberal politics for over fifty years. He has been a Leeds City Councillor, a West Yorkshire Metropolitan County Councillor, and was MP for Leeds West, 1983-87. Over the past twenty years he has been mainly concerned with new and emerging democracies, and has led or been a member of some fifty missions to thirty-five countries. His academic thesis was on Leeds City government and he has lectured extensively on Leeds local history. Michael has had a lifetime’s interest in classic jazz and still leads the Granny Lee Jazz Band. Visit his website.



Zoe Nicholson is a Private Client Solicitor at Michael Lewin Solicitors on Roundhay Road, Leeds, specialising in wills, lasting powers of attorney, probate, trusts and estate administration, care home fee planning and court of protection work. She has a particular interest in contentious probate matters.



Dave Oxley is a cyber and data security subject matter expert, working with Lloyds banking group, IBM and Vodafone. He is a friend of Leeds Salon and a judge in the Institute of Ideas sixth-from Debating Matters competition. He's also a keen cyclist and Middlesbrough Football Club fan.



Nathalie Rawson: After teaching English for 18 years in high schools in Leeds and Sheffield, Natalie is now a campaigner for holistic education as a vehicle for social justice, as well as a researcher in the Philosophy of Education and part-time lecturer at Leeds Beckett University. She is also a writer of plays, poetry and prose; walker of hills and fells; sufferer of gym and swim; and frequent theartre and cinema goer. She believes that family and friends go well with foor and drink.

Lindsey Rhodes is a specialist in Community Care and Mental Capacity Law at Switalskis Solicitors, Leeds. She has a wide range of experience working in the public and not-for-profit sector in community care and welfare rights, and has been a trainer in community care law for public sector employees and social work students. Lindsey is particularly interestd in furthering the legal rights of poeple with disabilities, and regularly receives referrals from the Official Solicitor to act in Court of Protection matters. Lindsey was shortlisted for the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Awards Health & Social Care caterory in 2006.



Zoë Sawyer is Curator at The Tetley, and has curated and co-produced projects with Project Space Leeds (which runs The Tetley) since 2009. Zoë also maintains an independent curatorial practice, producing projects across a variety of formats including exhibition making and publishing. Having trained as an artist at University of Leeds and UC Berkeley, she co-founded theartmarket & kunstfreund gallery, a curatorial project and art bookshop which ran a rolling exhibition programme in Leeds’ Merrion Market from 2006 - 2012. In 2011 she co-founded curatorial project space and collective MEXICO which she currently co-directs with artists James Maxfield and Simon Boase.

Jack Simpson was born and grew up in Leeds, studied Philosophy and Politics at Leeds University and an MA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at York University. He’s generally interested in questions surrounding moral and political philosophy. In particular questions around distributive justice. Alongside this, Jack co-founded Leeds’ main music magazine, Vibrations, co-owns the recording studio/venue Eiger and has recently launched The State of the Arts, a cultural resource aims to enhance Yorkshire’s arts infrastructure.

Richard Smyth is a novelist, journalist and critic, among other things. His work has appeared in journals including the Times Literary Supplement, New Scientist and New Humanist, and his first novel, Wild Ink, was published in 2014. He also compiles crosswords for a number of magazines and is part of the team that sets questions for BBC Mastermind.



Kenn Taylor has been Head of Participation at The Tetley since 2014, and has over eight year’s experience in the management of arts and heritage learning and participation programmes with organisations including Tate Liverpool and Sir John Soane's Museum. This work informs his research and writing on culture, community, participation and the urban environment which has appeared in The Guardian, The Big Issue, Museum Practice, Mute and Liverpool University Press. Kenn has also lectured and delivered talks for institutions including the Royal College of Art, Liverpool John Moores University, the Institute for Education and London South Bank University.

Russell Thomas is a senior manager in HM Revenue & Customs based in Leeds. Having started in the most junior civil service roles, he worked as a VAT inspector before successfully completing the Civil Service Fast Stream. He has held senior leadership roles in HMRC's Excise Policy, Compliance and the Risk & Intelligence Service. A father of two, in his spare time he enjoys volunteering as a scout leader, gaming and conducting often disastrous experiments with home-brewing.



Jake Unsworth took part in Debating Matters in 2009 for Guiseley School, and was awarded the highly commended prize at the National Finals. He holds a degree in History from Newcastle University, where he wrote extensively for the Courier student newspaper. Since leaving University, Jake has worked as a Business Analyst for Santander UK, and now has a legal Training Contract with law firm Bond Dickinson. He has also produced sessions at the Institute of Ideas annual Battle of Ideas festival of debate, and is the convenor of the Debating Matters Ambassadors.



Neil Walshaw is a councillor representing Headingley Ward on Leeds City Council for the Labour Party. He is Chair of the North & East Plans Panel & sits on the City Plans Panel & the Development Plan Panel. So lots of planning features in his World. He is married with three young children & therefore frequently tired! He likes history, science fiction and computer games.

Dr Mark Wanstall has lived in Leeds for over 20 years. He has a BA (Hons) degree in Geography and a PhD in Geography from the University of Leeds. He gained a PGCE in FE/HE from Huddersfield University in 2003, and is a Senior Lecturer in Childhood Studies, and occasionally in Education Studies, at Leeds Beckett University, and is a member of the Leeds Salon.

Dr Paul Wetherly is Reader in Politics and member of the Politics & International Relations Group of the School of Social Sciences at Leeds Beckett University. His teaching and research interests include political ideologies, governance, and migration & diversity. Political Ideologies, edited by Paul, is due to be published by Oxford University Press in 2017.

Richard Wilcocks is Secretary of the annual Headingley LitFest and is a member of the steering committee of Leeds Peace Poetry. He has been a journalist, a teacher, an examiner, and has worked for the British Council at the University of Poznan in Poland. He was closely involved with the Stephen Lawrence Education Standard at Education Leeds, and has recently published a book Stories from the War Hospital, based on eighteen months of research into the First World War hospital which was at Beckett Park.

Dr John Willott: Following a PhD in Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia, John gained a Royal Society Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at Manchester University. For this, and research on tropical forest loss, he managed a research station in northern Borneo. He subsequently worked on the EU-funded MEDALUS programme at Leeds University on climate change, desertification and land use in the Mediterranean region. After a career break, he joined Leeds Beckett University, securing EU funding to deliver projects on social inclusion and improving access to HE and employment. His research interests include marginalised groups, particularly refugees.

Diane Wilson has worked in education for 25 years starting as a teacher of students who have learning difficulties and of literacy.  She worked abroad teaching English in Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Sicily before returning to take up a regional role with the learning and skills council.  Diane is currently a senior manager at Leeds City College with strategic responsibility for SEN and maths and English. Diane' s interests include gardening, reading and bird watching.  She is an ardent feminist and a member of the women's' equality party.  Her current interest is the work of William Buckley Jr and Gore Vidal.

Dr Katy Wright is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Bauman Institute, University of Leeds. Currently, she is critically exploring theories of community resilience through qualitative empirical work in South Wales, involving the development of an alternative approach to understanding resilience. Previously, Katy has worked on research projects covering topics including human rights in post-conflict societies; health and social care; and disability and employment; and she has a particular interest in the themes of community, engagement and risk/vulnerability.


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