The Society for Curious Thought

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The Society for Curious Thought
Formation 2008
Headquarters The Society for Curious Thought, Hanseatic House, Harton Street, London, SE8 4DD
Official language

A diverse international association, the Society for Curious Thought encourages intellectual discovery, collaboration and new opportunities for socio-cultural transformation across science, religion and the arts through writing, photography, film and music. The Society for Curious Thought was founded by the writer Simon Marriott who is also the current director. Notable contributors include Stephen Bayley, Steven Berkoff and Aung San Suu Kyi[1]

In 2014 the Society for Curious Thought launched the initiative, What Makes a Fair Society?[2] This question was put to writers, ecologists, academics, humanitarians, film makers, artists and others in order to gather together ideas/ ideals/ mechanisms to improve civic institutions/ civil society, education and to advance knowledge of rights and responsibilities, to enable people in all societies to change their own lives and communities for the better. Among the contributors were Amol Rajan, Sue Cook, Anton Gill and Errollyn Wallen.

In 2014, Simon Marriott published his blueprint for a new model for open access learning, writing, ‘institutions are a vital component in creating tolerant, plural societies, ensuring power is sustainably devolved and the delivery of services, policies and initiatives for the benefit of the wider public good continues no matter what political persuasion the government of the time might be. As mechanisms of social interaction and progress, institutions for learning are essential to serve society’s needs, helping to form connections and facilitate dialogue to enable progressive reforms and positive change in our communities. At a time when university humanities programs are closing, tuition fees are increasing, financial support is being replaced with loans and the accelerated development of private universities continues, compromising consultation, autonomy and collective decision making, a new model would provide a democratic, open access educational institution offering full and equal participation for all – engaging everyone in learning on matters of social justice, political philosophy and democracy. The notion of socially engaged learning occupies a vital place in civic life, as a democracy can only be as progressive, dynamic and energetic as the minds of it’s citizens. A new model institution would be designed to encourage a different approach to learning, where intellectual enquiry is important for reasons other than economic growth, one which values questions more than answers – a place where speculative thought can be pursued free from obligations of financial value. `An institution such as this would seek to foster a collaborative spirit to challenge orthodoxies, encourage individuals to pursue innovative approaches to fundamental societal challenges through co-operation with other organisations and the wider community – advance public education, learning and knowledge of the rights and responsibilities of citizens. A new, permanent campus site with an international faculty would comprise a number of Fellows – academics, practitioners, innovators and independent thinkers who challenge conventional wisdom. Each Fellow would be on site, completing individual residencies for inter disciplinary research/ work of varying lengths between one week and one year. Fellows would work across media producing publications innovative public education projects and/ or the launch of new campaigns. While in residence, Fellows would be encouraged to organise and participate in conferences and program events. A permanent campus site would allow Fellows to engage in activities such as hosting panel discussions, conferences, readings, screenings and lectures in a space which might also include a library open to the public. And with Fellows participating in policy debates and promoting their ideas, there would be a continual sharpening of the new model institutions thinking, questioning it’s assumptions and broadening it’s understanding of current political and social issues. Students would be given the opportunity to attend the new model institution whenever they chose to do so, pursuing all subjects through individual/ group tutorials, lectures, seminars and classes; these would be organised by Fellows and/ or students in order to develop their own independent learning, critical thinking and methodologies, to question their ideas and reformulate their theories though dialogue. Working together in this way, students and Fellows would improve their own individual creativity, autonomy and resilience, encourage learning of both intellectual breadth and specialised knowledge and foster tolerance of diverse ideas and experiences; to engage in a process of open dialogue and cooperation. A new model institution would seek funding in the form of donations from individuals, charitable trusts and foundations ensuring independence and freedom to manoeuvre. What makes a fair society is a matter for us all. It is essential, therefore, to provide a space, geared to the future as we imagine it can be, to ensure we are well informed on the question of what a free, tolerant, democratic society might be and able to change our own lives and communities for the better’.


In 2010 The Society for Curious Thought launched the Curious Thinker in residence program[3] giving successful applicants the opportunity to spend three weeks in a cabin in rural England working on the subject of their choosing. The first residency was completed by Alice Myers.

The Old/ New Minds Program was launched in 2014 to encourage new methodologies for enabling people with dementia and Alzheimer’s to claim their own independence of thought and action through visual, expressive means. The intention of the program is to assess the possibilities for learning, dialogue and progress in empowering people with dementia. Residents are invited to organise a seminar or present a short lecture on their work and ideas as part of the ‘Hours of dusk’ program – a public discussion forum on dementia, art and society. The program is located in Wiesbaden.


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