Understanding the other: the Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society

By - Thursday 23rd August, 2018

Join a society that tries to connect people with opposing views through the medium of debate

Photo by Suhan Srinivasan, used with permission.

Croydon is full of opposing ideas, and we often hear that we are more politically polarised than ever before. I’m not sure that that’s true – however, with 100+-channel TV, the internet, and social media, it is fair to say that we are more polarised in the views that we listen to and the groups that we speak to.

Google searches, Facebook and Twitter timelines feed you more of what you already see and we have few, if any, ‘come together’ TV shows or shared moments for all. Society benefits when we try to see the other point of view.

The Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society first met in 1909. Then called the Coulsdon Literary and Debating Society, it met in Coppard’s Hotel and Restaurant on the corner of Brighton Road and Lion Green Road. In its first three meetings it covered public ownership, votes for women and free trade, two of which are still hotly debated today. Votes for women is an interesting topic as it wasn’t until 1981 that women were accepted as members of the society. The society closed briefly between 1915 and 1919 and again between 1940 and 1945 for the duration of the world wars, but has otherwise continued meeting on Monday evenings to debate the issues of the day.

Debating societies are designed to test your skills in truly understanding a different view

The society’s debates run in a format of twenty minutes to propose a motion, twenty minutes to oppose. After a break, those attending get up to five minutes to express their views followed by a summing up by both debaters.

Debating societies are designed to test your skills of debate, to truly understand a view, not just express your passion for it. Those proposing or opposing a motion do not necessarily argue the view that they personally take, but instead are arguing the merits of the view that have been given. This makes you comprehend a view on subjects you either have little concern with or have the opposing view on. We live in a free democratic and vibrant society. For this to work, we must understand the other. As readers of the Croydon Citizen we tend to pride ourselves on our belief in pluralism. Why not flex those muscles and join us at the society for a debate night?

The society has a Facebook page here, and you can add the following dates to your diary:


  • 3rd September: ‘Whoever its president, the USA will always be Europe’s strongest ally’
  • 5th November: ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’
  • 17th December: Christmas party and balloon debate


  • 4th February: Schools debate
  • 1st April: 1265 visitors’ dinner
  • 13th May: AGM and annual dinner

Meetings are held at the Old Coulsdon Centre, Coulsdon Road, CR5 1EH, starting at 19:30. We look forward to seeing you there!

Michael Swadling

Michael Swadling

Michael works in the IT Industry for and has lived in Croydon all of his life. He has been a governor in local schools for over twelve years. During the referendum he was the Croydon Area Manager for Vote Leave, Now promoting Classical Liberalism and Freedom. Visit Croydon Constitutionalist for events and articles on Classical Liberalism in our area http://croydonconstitutionalists.uk/. Former UKIP candidate for Croydon North and Croydon Council.

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  • Anne Giles

    How does one debate balloons?

    • Michael Swadling

      With great difficaulty as they are so static!