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Here are some of our recent events:

Tuesday June 6th 2023 ‘Defending the right to seek asylum in the UK’. A talk by Mary Brandon, Campaigns Manager for Yorkshire and Humberside Asylum Matters.

Join us for a talk to discuss the current situation for people seeking sanctuary in the UK, tracing the history of asylum in the UK and examining the impacts of the Government's host of new "anti-refugee laws", including the proposed Illegal Migration Bill currently making its way through Parliament. We will also look at how communities across the UK are fighting back against these laws to defend the right to seek safety, and the right to offer it, both in the UK and internationally. 

Click here to download a copy of Mary's presentation slides.

About Mary

Mary Brandon joined Asylum Matters as Campaigns Manager for Yorkshire & Humberside in June 2018. With Asylum Matters, she has co-led the Lift the Ban campaign for the right to work, as well as being part of many other campaigns for asylum rights and protections. Before Asylum Matters, she worked as an Adviser & ESOL tutor at RETAS Leeds and also in mental health. She has been involved in her local City of Sanctuary group since 2015. In her spare time Mary is a proud trustee for Mafwa, a community theatre company based in Leeds.

The information about the Fight the Anti Refugee Laws campaign is available by clicking

And here are some  further reading references


Useful further reading and briefings:


  • The Law Society: briefing on legal implications of the Illegal Migration Bill:


  • Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID): briefing on detention measures within the Illegal Migration Bill:


  • Explainer on modern slavery clauses in Illegal Migration Bill:


  • Briefing on implications for women of Illegal Migration Bill:'Illegal%20Migration,limit%20on%20the%20detention%20ofI


  • International law: record of UNHCR concerns raised over the Bill:,Bill%20with%20the%20UK%20Government


  • Joint briefing on constitutional implications:


  • Article by Rainbow Migration on implications for LGBTQ+ community:

Tuesday July 4th 2023 'Talks by Café members'. 

We had the following three interesting talks:

‘Art and Class: How the middle classes hijacked the nation’s galleries’ by David Kennedy.

In the Victorian era the nation’s galleries were packed with working class visitors. Today less than eight per cent of visitors are from the working classes. What was once “art for the many not the few” has become “from the many to the few.” The working classes now subsidise the middle classes through entrance charges, membership schemes, tax deductions and a range of curatorial policies which deny the working classes access to our galleries.

The talk will expose how the working classes are not only paying for the cultural activities of the middle classes but in being denied access to art their children are being denied cultural capital which is a crucial aspect of out our increasingly unequal society.

Knowledge of art and music, which middle-class children acquire through visits to galleries and concerts , is a crucial component of cultural capital which working -class parents cannot afford. This precious commodity opens the door to pupils who score highly on cultural capital and go on to the elite universities.

I argue that everyone should have access to the nation's art , but this will only be achieved if the boards of today's galleries represent all classes and develop inclusive charging and curatorial policies.

"Common Security and the Olof Palme International Peace Center in Stockholm" by Michael McGowan.

I have recently visited the Center in Stockholm which was established in 1992. When Olof Palme, the Prime Minister of Sweden, was murdered in February 1986  it was a great loss to the international community. He was a key figure during the Cold War, highly critical of both the United States and the Soviet Union, active in seeking peace and co-operation in South Africa and the Middle East, and promoted the concept of Common Security.     

Olof Palme rejected the idea that security is dependent on military strength. He was  appointed Chair of the UN Commission of Common Security  pointing out rthat climate change, the warming of the planet,  extreme poverty, inequality, terrorism; lack of empowerment of women  - all put life on earth at risk. . 

In Leeds we decided to launch an annual leacture in honour of the life and work of Olof Palme with support from Leeds City Council, the universities, and the the peace movement across the city. Lecturers included Liz Palme the widow of Olof Palm who came to Leeds from Sweden, John Hume from Northern Ireland, US Senator George Mitchel  and Caroline Lucas  MP of the Green Party. 

Olof Palme visited Leeds University as a student politician and last year the lecture was by Anna Sundstrom , Secretary General of the Palme Centre in Stockholm.

50 Ideas For The North - by Patrick Hurley and Tris Brown.

Based on a book which the presenters have recently had published, Patrick and Tris wanted to find out what social innovation ideas the people of the north of England would like to see in their communities. So they did a radical thing - they went and asked them!!! Over the course of 18 months or so, they ran workshops every few weeks in another town or city in the north, and asked for ideas to improve their local area. We collated and wrote up the 50 ideas that appealed the most and put them in a book. This talk will summarise the story of the project and a run-through of some of the most eye-catching ideas.

Tuesday October 3rd 2023: ‘The challenge of decoupling energy use from GDP: recent findings and implications for meeting the Paris Agreement targets’. A talk by Dr Paul Brockway, from the Sustainability Research Institute at the University of Leeds. 


To meet our Paris / climate change targets, energy models assume a key role for energy efficiency to reduce energy use, in combination with a huge deployment of renewables. But is this blind faith in energy efficiency merited? I examine historical global trends, and find there has been no global historical absolute energy-GDP decoupling, and yet this is a key assumption in the models. So, what is causing the disconnect between past and future assumed energy-GDP trends? I explore the evidence for large economy-wide rebound as a plausible explanation, and find compelling support for this hypothesis. It also confirms an underrecognised role for energy efficiency in enabling economic growth. So what can we do? I close by considering what we can do in response, covering modelling and policy actions.

About Paul Brockway


Dr Paul Brockway is an Associate Professor in Energy and Economics at the Sustainability Research Institute at the University of Leeds, UK. He has a 5 year research fellowship on the topic ‘Applying thermodynamic laws to the energy-GDP decoupling problem’, where he applies an Exergy Economics approach to study thermodynamic energy conversion within energy-economy modelling frameworks.


Tuesday November 7th 2023: ‘“A Local GP and his experience of the NHS”, Dr Matt. Barton, GP Partner in Bramley.’

The powerpoint slides of Dr Barton's talks is available here.


Matt will discuss (among other things) the state of the nation's health, the importance of Primary vs Secondary care, future positive change for the NHS.


About Dr Matt Barton


I am GP Partner in Bramley, West Leeds and have been working there for the last 10 years. I grew up in Lancashire from a family of police officers, teachers and farmers; and went to school in Blackpool. I initially read Chemistry at University of Sheffield which involved a year working for Ineos in Cheshire. I then moved to Leeds to read medicine in 2003 and have lived here ever since. I initially was training in Orthopaedics before realising I preferred a more general career and moved into General practice. I specialise in holistic medicine, Safeguarding and General practice training. Out of work I have 2 young children who are schooled in Headingley, we enjoy camping in the UK, I am a member of Hyde Park Harriers and currently training to be a run leader. 

Tuesday December 5th 2023:  Why don’t trains run on time? Why are fares so expensive? Why are there so many strikes? A  talk by Dr Tom Haines-Doran, Leeds University Business School.


Few would disagree that Britain’s railways are broken, and have been for a long time.In his talk, Dr Haines calls for a radical rethink of how we view the railways, and explains the problems we face and how to fix them. This is based  on his recent book      ‘ Derailed: How to fix Britain’s Broken Railways’. Haines-Doran argues that the railways should be seen as a social good and an indispensable feature of the national economy. With passengers and railway workers holding governments to account, we could then move past the incessant debates on whether our railways are an unavoidably loss-making business failure. An alternative vision is both possible and affordable, enabling the railways to play an instrumental role in decreasing social inequalities, strengthening the economy and supporting a transition to a sustainable future.

Tom Haines-Doran is a West Yorkshire Policy Fellow at the Leeds University Business School. He is political economist specialising in transport systems, infrastructure and social movements. He currently works at the University of Leeds, leading research on transport decarbonisation. He previously worked as a researcher for the Urban Transport Group, authoring research documents for high-level decision makers in local and national government.

Book Review: Derailed: How to Fix Britain's Broken Railways by Tom Haines-Doran | LSE Review of Books

Tuesday January 9th 2024: Councillor Mohammed Rafique, 'Leeds City Council's Waste Strategy.

The talk will focus on the Council’s approach to waste management in our city – including the push to reduce, reuse and recycle, and our tough stance on fly tipping and the work of new Serious Environmental Crime Team.

About Councillor Mohammed Rafique:

Councillor Mohammed Rafique has been a Labour Councillor for Chapel Allerton since 2004, and a member of Executive Board since 2015. Prior to his election, he previously worked for the council as an officer within Education Leeds. 

During this time, he has held several portfolio’s including Skills and Post-16 Education, Environment and Active lifestyles, Housing and his current Climate, Energy, Environment and Green Spaces portfolio. Councillor Rafique has also held other positions such as, Community Committee Chair, Plans Panel Chair and Scrutiny Chair.


Outside of his council responsibilities Councillor Rafique is on the board of governors at Chapel Allerton primary school, and he is a Trustee of the Wades Charity. He also has keen interest in recycling, improving the environment and raising educational standards.


Tuesday February 6th 2024: Emeritus Professor Malcolm Sawyer, 'Economic Stagnation in the UK: causes and consequences


The talk begins by a brief review of recent UK growth (of GDP) experience,  making comparisons with other countries and with previous periods. Many factors have fed into the near stagnation of recent years, often impacting on many countries. These include policies of austerity and rising inequality. The quantity and quality of investment and the focus of research and development (which may be ascribed to ‘pursuit of shareholder value’), the dominance of the financial sector (‘financialisation’), rewards based on power and not on contribution (‘rentierism’), and monopolisation. Climate change has also impacted on productivity growth. A brief examination of each of these follows and it is argued that each of these factors have played a role. Further, the slow growth of GDP has not been associated with moves to a low carbon environmentally sustainable economy.  The requirements for the future are not so much for faster growth of GDP, but rather policies which promote development of economic and social well-being within planetary boundaries.

About Malcolm Sawyer


Malcolm Sawyer is Emeritus Professor of Economics, University of Leeds previously Professor of Economics, University of Leeds, and University of York. In ‘retirement’, he continues to pursue economic research on a range of topics including fiscal policies and alternatives to austerity, policies for full employment, financialisation, ecological macroeconomics,  economics of stagnation and monetary policy. He was the lead co-ordinator for the EU funded 8 million euro, 15 partner, five year project on Financialisation Economy Society and Sustainable Development ( He has authored 13 books including Can the Euro Survive?, Polity Press, and most recently Financialization: Economic and Social Impacts Agenda. He was managing editor of International Review of Applied Economics for over 30 years. He has edited or co-edited over 30 books. He has published over 140 papers in refereed journals and contributed over 160 book chapters on a wide range of topics.

March 5th 2024: Alexis Percival, 'A talk about the Roundhay Environmental Action Project (REAP).



Roundhay Environmental Action Project was set up to address the rising worries of local residents hoping to tackle climate change on their doorstep. Over the past 17 years a range of exciting projects have been rolled out for communities to get engaged in the climate agenda and take action. Projects have included transport projects, from green technology and gardens open days to community gardens, tree planting and community orchards, EV charging point and bike rack installation, rewilding spaces and energy education. REAP has also hosted the wonderful Roundhay Live and Tour de Roundhay all supported by the fabulous Oakwood Farmers’ Market.


About Alexis Percival

Alexis Percival is a Trustee of REAP. In her day job she is the Environmental and Sustainability Manager for the Yorkshire Ambulance Service, a post she has held since 2009. Her challenging role involves reducing the carbon footprint of the blue light ambulance service through innovative technologies in the estates, fleet and procurement departments. She set up the GrEAN (Green Environmental Ambulance Network) in 2010 connecting all of the sustainability leads across the ambulance services of the UK to drive forwards the Net Zero agenda.

Alexis has over 25 years of experience in the environmental field as a Consultant working on large international and national projects in the UK, Brazil, Germany, Mozambique and Australia. She took a career break and spent three years driving around the world in an ex-military ambulance, travelling overland to Australia and then around South America.

Tuesday April 9th 2024: The growing movement of Community Wealth Building’. A Talk by Matthew Brown, Leader of Preston Council.

A term barely unheard of a decade ago many areas in the UK are looking to Community Wealth Building to challenge systemic failures of conventional economic development which has led to rising inequality, economic stagnation, and environmental crisis.


The well-known ‘Preston Model’ is one example of how to develop a more democratic economy in place using various levers and strategies to ensure there is more ownership and control within communities. This is accompanied by a growth of Community Wealth Building policies in many areas of the UK alongside significant international advancement. Matthew Brown from The Democracy Collaborative who is also Leader of Preston City Council will give a talk about the exciting trends to genuinely take back control by promoting strategies that put wealth in a wider number of hands and democratise capital at source.

About Councillor Brown

Councillor Matthew Brown is Leader of Preston City Council in the north of England, where he has been widely credited as the driving force behind the ‘Preston model’, an economic strategy at the city and county level that presents a comprehensive, interlinked approach to community wealth building as a practical and transformative alternative to austerity and disinvestment. First elected to represent the Tulketh ward in 2002, Councillor Matthew Brown subsequently took on portfolios that included community engagement and inclusion, social justice and policy initiatives, leading to his election in 2018 as Council Leader.

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