New Acropolis

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by New Acropolis's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from New Acropolis is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Chair Sabine Leitner
World Philosophy Day 2017
New Acropolis are an educational charity with the
aim of promoting the renewal of philosophy in the
“classical tradition” and a rediscovery of the timeless
values that have guided humanity throughout history. They
work in the fields of philosophy, culture and volunteering
to provide – what they call – an “education for head, heart
and hands”. Chairing this organisation is Sabine Leitner,
who tells
more about the value of
Why philosophy?
Many of the problems facing humanity today – social, environmental, moral and
spiritual – will not be solved long term with more technology or money alone.
They are problems created by ourselves and a way of life that is the product of our
thinking, that is, our “philosophy”. In order to create a future that resolves these
problems, the solutions must include or, indeed, be rooted in an inner development
of our thinking and collective values – that is, a change in our philosophy. How can
this be achieved? This question has inspired us and guided our activities for more
than 20 years.
What is philosophy in the classical tradition?
At New Acropolis, we understand philosophy in its classical sense as
meaning “love of wisdom”: the discovery of wisdom through a practical and active
»Chair: Sabine Leitner
»Founded in 1996
»Located in Highbury and
»No. of trustees: 9
»No. of students: 50, from all
walks of life, aged between 18
and 70
»600 participants in our
courses, talks and events every
New Acropolis
Highlighting best practice
attitude to life rather than something
purely intellectual or contemplative.
Wisdom is knowing how to act,
knowing what is ‘good’ and knowing
which ends are worth striving for.
What do we do?
We work in three areas: philosophy,
culture and volunteering. Our
approach pursues two goals: the
development of the latent potential
within the human being through
education (from the Latin
to train, and
to draw out,
to bring forth) and the renewal of
culture, the soil in which human
Our philosophical activities are centred
around ongoing weekly evening
classes for adults (around 600 hours
of teaching a year). Our syllabus is
based on the comparative study of the
major systems of thought of Eastern
and Western traditions. The purpose
is to make the vast heritage of human
wisdom accessible to all and to draw
inspiration for our own actions from
the universal ideas that have stood the
test of time.
We organise about 20 public events
a year, such as talks, courses and
workshops, where we invite guest
speakers from a wide range of fields,
including philosophy, psychology,
medicine, economics, science
We also stage public “happenings”
to promote broader philosophical
conversation. Last year we organised
an event in front of the National
Gallery on the theme of Philosophy
and Art to celebrate UNESCO’s
World Philosophy Day. We find
at these events that many people
really appreciate the opportunity
for philosophical conversation and
the chance to explore their values
and ideas. We always encounter
surprising insights and heartfelt human
exchanges. Since 2013, we have
been publishing a digital bimonthly
magazine on a range of relevant topics
covering philosophy and culture.
Why culture?
We understand culture as the ‘soil’
in which individuals can find all the
nutrients they need to flourish. Culture
is education in the widest sense of
the word because it transmits values
and provides us with forms through
which we can express these values.
We transmit to our students the value
of culture and encourage them to
think what kind of culture we need to
create in order to bring out the best in
the human being. To support this, we
organise visits to museums and trips to
sites of cultural and historical interest
in Britain and abroad. We revive
traditions and celebrations to enable us
to reconnect with nature and human
history in a profound way.
Why volunteering?
Our programme of studies is
designed to provide an education
that develops not only our mind
but also other human faculties such
as love, compassion, imagination,
Public talk at the New
Acropolis centre, Islington
– “Immanuel Kant:
Certainty in an Uncertain
Wisdom is
knowing how
to act,
knowing what
is ‘good’ and
which ends
are worth
striving for
perseverance, willpower and
creativity. Volunteering helps to
develop these key faculties and forms
part of our philosophical training,
and we encourage our students
to become active and involved in
Our own volunteering projects
include helping with the planting and
maintenance of the public garden
in front of our school. For the last
nine years we have been helping
to organise a garden volunteering
day every month, which also brings
together neighbours and other
Londoners. This has created a much
stronger community within our
neighbourhood and a good co-
operation with Islington Council.
We also transformed a derelict space at
the back of our premises into a garden
and created a bee sanctuary, as bee
populations are under serious threat
in the UK and elsewhere. Currently
we have two beehives, which are
managed in a bee-centred way, with
the idea of providing a home for bees
rather than obtaining honey. Every
year we open our bee sanctuary to the
public under the auspices of “Open
Garden Squares Weekend”, attracting
hundreds of visitors who are attended
to by our volunteers and receive talks
about thebees.
For several years, we supported a
local homeless project run by the
Union Chapel Margins charity, and
this year we have started to put our
gardening skills to use with another
local charity which works with isolated
elderly people in Islington. Our school
of philosophy itself offers many
volunteering opportunities as it is run
entirely by volunteers.
Philosophy is the foundation
of the future
How can we measure the success of
our work? We think the success of our
work is visible in the changes within
the people who attend our classes. We
further believe that our kind of holistic
and practical philosophical education
awakens a clearer sense of purpose
and a greater sense of responsibility,
initiative, respect, courtesy, generosity
and tolerance of differences. It can
produce a profound transformation
within the individual, which in turn can
lead to new ideas and transformation
in society.
All our activities were achieved with
an annual budget of around £30,000
and no salaried roles. Our work
demonstrates that a shared vision, an
attitude of co-operation and good
will can achieve as much as, or more
than, material resources. Our belief
is that we need to cultivate human
potential and non-material resources
in our society so that we can resolve
the problems we are currently facing
and prepare a better society for the
Without commonly shared and
widely entrenched moral values
and obligations, neither the law,
nor democratic government,
nor even the market economy
will function properly.”
– Václav Havel
culture as the
‘soil’ in which
individuals can
find all the
nutrients they
need to
Volunteering day at
Compton Terrace
Gardens, Islington

This article was sponsored by New Acropolis. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy