About the Leeds Salon

The Leeds Salon is a discussion group founded in early 2009 by Michele Ledda and Paul Thomas, inspired by similar initiatives they had attended and, in particular, their participation in the Institute of Ideas sixth-form Debating Matters competition.

The Salon organises public discussion around political, cultural and scientific issues, with the aim of challenging any orthodoxies along the way. Writers, academics and experts in their field are invited to present their ideas and to have them debated and held up to scrutiny by the audience. The Salons are lively, informal and open to all — but please let us know you intend to come along by e-mailing us at contact@leedssalon.org.uk, and sign up to our mailing list here.

Leeds Salon also helps to run and organise various school & college debating competitions in Leeds and West Yorkshire.


“To be a speaker at the Salon is a special joy as you feel that you are entering into serious dialogue. I left knowing more, and thinking harder about, the subject I had spoken on, than when I had arrived. A stimulating intellectual forum for the open-minded.” — Professor Raymond Tallis


“The Leeds Salon is an intellectually lively set of discussions, in which by means of cunning and vocality, poets, scholars, thinkers and educationalists — and I have had the pleasure of being among them — pursue the tyrants of relevance until they track them down in their social and educational lairs.” — George Szirtes, Poet


"The Leeds Salon is a fabulous idea, brilliantly executed. Well organised discussions in informal surroundings means that a stimulating public debate is followed by a combination of constructive argument and handy networking. A thoroughly enjoyable event." — Austin Williams, director, Future Cities Project


Leeds Salon Organisers


Paul Thomas

Paul ThomasCo-founder of Leeds Salon

Paul is a civil servant who has lived in Leeds for over 30 years. He's a graduate of the Open University and is a qualified FE teacher.

He is a judge and chair in the Institute of Ideas sixth-form Debating Matters competition, both in the UK and internationally. He also runs the Headingley Festival of Ideas and The Tetley competitions for years 10&11 pupils.


Dan Clayton

Daniel Clayton

Webmanager of Leeds Salon

Dan Clayton is a freelance researcher, writer and cameraman, and a part time bike mechanic. He has worked in IT, in construction and as a handyman in French ski resorts.

He recently helped research and produce the documentary Sylvia Pankhurst: Everything is Possible. He has a Degree in History and Politics from Birmingham University, an MA from Leeds University and is also a judge with Debating Matters.

Mark Wanstall

Mark Wanstall

Mark has been a lecturer in Childhood Studies at Leeds Beckett University since 2004. He previously studied Film & Photography at the Polytechnic of Central London in the early 1980s, and Geography at Leeds University from the late 1980s, where he obtained a PhD in 1997.

Mark has written the articles Time to Rethink the Child-Centred Society? and What We Can Learn From the World's Strictest Parents for Freedom in a Puritan Age, and is also a judge with Debating Matters. 

Current Sponsors

Jordans Solicitors are a West Yorkshire law firm with a 70 year record of excellent service. They are the highly acclaimed choice for the Yorkshire area and beyond in both business and individual legal matters: jordanssolicitors.co.uk


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The Leeds Salon is a Debating Matters judging partner

The Leeds Salon is a judging partner of the sixth form Debating Matters competition

The Tetley and The Leeds Salon are partners in school debate for central and south Leeds


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Leeds Debate Links

Café Everythinque

Café Psychologique

Café Scientifique (Chapel Allerton)

Café Scientifique (Headingley)

Headingley Festival of Ideas

Headingley LitFest

Leeds Phil & Lit Society

Leeds Skeptics in the Pub

Taking Soundings

Talking Allowed In Leeds: PiPs


National Debate Links

Birmingham Salon

Brighton Salon

East Midlands Salon

Liverpool Salon

London Legal Salon

Manchester Salon

Sheffield Salon

Debating Matters

Institute of Ideas

Manifesto Club

The Great Debate



Global Debate Links

Berlin Salon

Dublin Salon

Zurich Salon


Donations gratefully received