The fight for civil rights

A day of ThinkIns on Saturday 12 October 2019

Every few decades, a struggle arises to define and enhance civil rights: the rights to which all citizens are, or should be, entitled. The last such period was the Sixties. Now, the fizzing convergence of identity politics, the technological revolution, anxiety about Big Data, the renewed vigour of LGBT campaigning, the #MeToo phenomenon and the tensions between religious and secular freedoms is generating another such age of vigorous debate. This whole day of Tortoise ThinkIns is a unique opportunity to explore this exciting and challenging terrain: make your voice heard.

For all the information on how to book, where to go and more, scroll down to the bottom of this page and have a read of our FAQs.

Take a look at our guest speakers here.

Give the people what they want: Representative democracy versus direct democracy


For centuries, we have clung to the orthodoxy that Parliament is the best means of defining and championing our rights. But is this still a safe assumption, in the age of referendums, social media campaigns, e-petitions and AI that can make intelligent decisions about the needs of every neighbourhood? Which is more responsive: your smartphone or your MP?


Our special guests include Amanda Chetwynd-CowiesonEd Dowding and Tabitha Morton.

Secular versus religious rights: what should happen when they clash?


Freedom of worship is an uncontested right in our multi-faith society. But is there a further right not to be offended by perceived blasphemy? And what are the lessons of the schools row over LGBT rights?


Our special guests include Khalil Yousuf, Rev Lucy Winkett and Andrew Copson.

Data rights and the digital citizen


The newest front in the battle for civil rights is being fought in cyberspace. In exchange for the unprecedented convenience of digital services, we are handing over prodigious quantities of personal data – which is being put to all kinds of unexpected uses, some harmless, others much less so. We need new rules to protect the digital citizen from the unpoliced use of Big Data. So what should they be, who should design them, and can they be enforced?


Our special guests include Alice ThwaitePerry Keller, Gus Hosein, and Pascal Crowe.

Being black, British and male in the 21st Century


Black men are playing an ever more prominent role in politics, culture and society. But that’s only part of the story. Black people are over 3 times as likely to be arrested as white people and and in England and Wales are 40 times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched. Young men of Afro-Caribbean descent still face extraordinary levels of discrimination and – as a consequence – grow up feeling alienated from mainstream society.


Our special guests include Alex Reads, Fiona Compton, Leroy Logan MBE, Nels Abbey and Matthew Ryder QC.

Alphabet anger: how tolerant is the LGBTQ+ community?


As rightwing populism spreads, bigotry towards the LGBTQ+ community is surging again – but what about the bigotry within? In theory, LGBTQ+ people ought to be be predisposed to acceptance, stretching out the hand of solidarity to one another. But what happens when tensions arise within this diverse community, and the traditions of unity that have driven the campaign for LGBTQ+ rights and the spirit of collective pride are threatened by diverging interests?


Our special guests include Rob Berkeley and Peter Tatchell. 

#MeToo: where next for the movement that shook the world?


Those who speak blithely about the ‘post-MeToo era’ are missing the point. The movement has only begun. But how do we convert the energy of a movement into structural change for women around the world? And do we need to start drawing up ‘rules for redemption’ – a path back for male perpetrators who are not convicted of crimes but are driven from employment and/or polite society?


Our special guests include Mandu Reid, Smita Bhide and Minna Salami.



How to book tickets – for members and non-members

  • Tortoise members can book ThinkIns for the Civil Rights Day through the app as normal, or on Eventbrite. Members’ tickets are complimentary. If you’re asked to provide your booking code you can find it under ‘My Membership’ in the ‘My Tortoise’ section of the app. If you run into problems, drop us a line at and we’ll help you out.
  • If you’re a member, you’re welcome to bring a friend. (Your ‘plus one’ ticket is complimentary too) If you’d like to bring a guest, just book two tickets – one for you and one for them. It’ll make our lives a little bit easier if you use the email address you used for your Tortoise member login when you book.
  • If you’re not yet a member of Tortoise, we’d love to see you at the Civil Rights Day.
    – It’s £25 per person, per ThinkIn.
    – If you’d like to stick around all day (there’ll be food!)  early bird full-day tickets are £65 each and include a year’s ‘digital’ membership of Tortoise worth £50.
    – After the early bird tickets run out, the standard price for full-day tickets will be £95. These also include an annual ‘digital’ membership.
    – If you’re a student, your ticket is complimentary. We’ll just ask you to show a valid student ID / NUS card when you come.
  • Tickets will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • All the ThinkIns will take place in our newsroom on Eastcastle Street near Oxford Circus in London. Capacity is limited, so do book as soon as you can because we expect some ThinkIns will fill up quickly.
  • When you book the ThinkIn on Eventbrite, you’ll receive an email confirmation. Bring it with you when you come.


Please bring your Eventbrite confirmation email and photo ID with you on the day. Unlike normal ThinkIns, we’ll have security and bag checks on the door for the Civil Rights Day.

When to arrive

Each ThinkIn has an arrival time and a start time. If you get here sometime in between those two, you’ll have plenty of time to check in, get a drink and mingle before the ThinkIn starts.

Venue capacity and catering

If you’re doing several ThinkIns across the day, you’re welcome to hang around for food and drinks between ThinkIns. Please bear in mind our home isn’t big enough for hundreds of people so if it all gets a little cosy, the plan is to decamp to one of the many coffee shops or pubs close by…

Where to find us

The day of ThinkIns takes place at Tortoise’s home, which is Fora, 16-19 Eastcastle Street, London, W1W 8DY. The nearest tubes are Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road and Goodge Street. Here’s a map.