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BBC One's The Big Questions broadcast live from Brunel


Is it ethical to go to the World Cup, should you be able to declare your gender and can the British High Street be saved?

These were the burning topics up for debate yesterday when Brunel hosted BBC One’s 250th The Big Questions moral dilemma discussion show with Nicky Campbell.

Broadcast in front of a live audience from the Eastern Gateway’s auditorium, the show tackles tricky ethical issues with its front-row experts and hand-picked studio audience.

This week’s experts included former Amnesty International director in Moscow, Sergei Nikitin, Daily Telegraph sports writer, Oliver Brown, and University of Leicester’s Dr Heather Brunskell-Evans, who wrote Born in Your Own Body.

Framing the first debate, Nicky Campbell noted the poisoning of the Skripals in sleepy Salisbury, the result of investigations into downed Malaysian Airlines flight 17 and mysterious deaths of journalists in Russia. These events, he said, left many feeling uneasy about England taking part in the Russian-hosted World Cup starting next week.

“McDonalds, Budweiser, Adidas and Coca-Cola are four reasons we’re going,” he said. “This is such an amazing money-churning thing watched by so many people across the globe that it would take a very brave government to say we are not going.”

Russia is the second biggest killer of Syrian people in Syria, said SyriaUK’s Heba Ajami. “Syrian people in general love the World Cup,” she said “and they are going to watch it but they need to keep in mind what Russia is doing in their country and inside Russia. Putin doesn’t deserve to be a symbol of handing the World Cup to the winners.”

Government plans to speed up and de-medicalise the Gender Recognition Act are what sparked the second topic: should people be able to self-declare their gender?Until now, people who wanted to change their gender had to live as their chosen gender for two years and gather signatures from doctors and psychologists before a panel of experts decides whether to grant a gender recognition certificate.

Treating trans women as women is a step too far, said Dr Heather Brunskell-Evans. It would mean changes to people’s birth certificates that could potentially put rapists and sex offenders into women’s prisons, she argued.

Turning to the fate of the British High Street, University College London consumer behaviour expert Joe Gladstone said social experiences, coffee shops and autonomous cars will replace big brands. “This is the most transitional period in the history of the British High Street,” said Alex Schlagman from “Everybody has a part to play: the property sector, media, government, industry innovators, big and small businesses,” he said, calling for an industry-wide initiative to create the conditions for success.

 The episode is available to watch on iplayer until 3 July, 2018

Reported by:

Hayley Jarvis, Media Relations
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