The Big Debate – 3rd April 2016




Sunday 3rd April | 15.00 – 18.00

King’s Auditorium, Kings College Conference Centre, University of Aberdeen.



Chair:  Prof Claire Wallace, University of Aberdeen

Belinda Brown, social policy researcher and writer

Bonnie Greer OBE, playwright, novelist and critic

Dr Lesley Orr, feminist historian and activist, University of Edinburgh

Heather Wakefield, UNISON Head of Local Government, Police and Justice, Public Finance

Refreshments will be provided.

Tickets are available via Eventbrite at the followng link

Book Your Place Now!

Biographies of speakers

Bonnie Greer

Bonnie was born on Chicago’s South Side, the eldest of seven children of a father who was stationed in the UK in the segregated US Army during WW2 and made his living on an assembly line at night, six days a week, for 40 years. Bonnie’s mother stayed at home to bring up her seven kids, working from 5am until 3am the next day at the job of being a mum.

Bonnie grew up in the 60s Civil Rights era; anti-war; students’ movement and womens’ movement.

She obtained a BA in History from DePaul U. and went on to study playwriting with several eminent practitioners in both NYC and Chicago. She stayed active in politics: particularly open housing in NYC. She moved to the UK in 86, teaching in Brixton and North London and working with a women’s theatre group. She became a UK national in ’94 in order to vote for a Labour government.

Active in the arts, she is an award-winning playwright; and is also an arts critic. She has been –among other things-Deputy Chair of the British Museum; sits on the government’s WW1 Advisory Group; is a director of ALCS; and was awarded the OBE for contributions to the arts. She was named one of 300 Public Intellectuals by “The Observer” in 2010. She was the only woman playwright. She is a regular contributor on politics to Sky News and the BBC. And is Chancellor of one of the most ethnically diverse universities in the country: Kingston University in Kingston, Surrey.

Dr Lesley Orr

Dr Lesley Orr is Duncan Forrester Fellow and an associate director at the Centre for Theology and Public Issues, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh.  She is a feminist historian and activist – most recently co-editor of Scottish Women 1780-1914: A Documentary History (Edinburgh University Press 2013).  She previously has held posts at the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Lesley also has extensive experience of work in the third sector and with the Scottish Government’s Strategy to Address Violence Against Women, and is engaged in initiatives for new politics and active citizenship in Scotland.  She has been involved for many years in movements challenging gender based inequality, abuse and violence in faith communities and wider society.  She was consultant to the World Council of Churches Decade to Overcome Violence 2001-2010, is on the Boards of Zero Tolerance and Common Weal, and elected member of Women for Independence National Committee, for whom she has curated ‘Shall We Not Speak for Ourselves? History, HerStory, Your Story’ – a major event to commemorate women’s protest and political engagement in Scotland (Dundee, March 2016).  Lesley is also a longstanding member of the ecumenical Iona Community.

Heather Wakefield

Heather Wakefield is the Head of the Local Government, Police and Justice section of UNISON – the UK’s largest public service trade union.  Three quarters of UNISON’s members are women.

Her activism began in the women’s movement – fighting for the first women’s refuges, equal pay and abortion rights.  Her commitment to women’s equality has been at the heart of her work in the trade union movement, where she began as a shop steward and was the first woman President of her local trades council.

Heather’s first job was as a feature writer on a rock magazine.  She was subsequently a social worker, and a researcher investigating women’s employment in London’s Docklands.  She began work in UNISON – then NUPE – in 1989, as a researcher.

Heather has written extensively on women’s issues and local government, with a regular blog in Public Finance magazine.

She lives in unfashionable south east London, where she has an allotment and lots of friends.  Heather loves travel, film, theatre, Scrabble and music.  She has two amazing adult sons.

Born Heather Macrae, her paternal roots are in Nairn, where her father was born and grew up.

Belinda Brown

Belinda Brown studied Social Anthropology at LSE and then spent five years living in Poland where she watched the transformation from communism to market society at first hand.  Whilst there she completed her masters degree at the Central European University, had her son, and wrote “The Private Revolution; women in the Polish Underground Movement” based on research and interviews with activists in the Polish underground movement.

After returning to England she worked as a Research Fellow at UCL and the Young Foundation conducting research into childcare, Polish migration, children’s mobility and range of other subjects.  She has written and contributed to a number of well-cited academic papers.

For the past few years Belinda has been caring for her husband who has a progressive degenerative condition, her young daughter and her father who has Alzheimer’s.  Becoming a carer has given the  Belinda the opportunity to stop working and write what she likes.  She is now  a regular blogger for The Conservative Woman and contributes  to Woman’s Hour, The Daily Mail and various other publications.  She has also done research for Men for Tomorrow, is an advisor for Mothers at Home Matter and recently helped to set up the Gender Equity Network which runs regular talks at UCL.

Belinda also lives in South East London which she didn’t know was unfashionable!