Archive for April, 2024

Message from our President – May 2024

Posted on: April 29th, 2024 by mlpEditor

May 2024


Exploring a future powered by AI

Welcome to the start of a new term.

I am looking forward to this term’s theme, Artificial Intelligence (AI). It’s a topic that is rarely out of the press and is often cast as a hero or villain, but that angle can limit our understanding of its potential. AI has already impacted all areas of society. We’ll be exploring some of these in the next few months.

We are kicking off this term with Dr Emily C Collins, who will be talking about Human Interactions and Implications for Ethical and Responsible RAI (Robotics and AI).


Partnership events

I had the pleasure of attending this year’s Percival Lecture by Professor Jade Munslow Ong. Her presentation style was engaging and powerful, allowing people new to Modernism to leave with a new understanding, and the more adroit to deepen and explore the movement further.  I would also like to thank everyone involved, both from the University of Salford and our own team, for all their hard work which resulted in a welcoming and perfectly executed event.

As you know from my previous posts, everyone is working hard to raise the profile of Manchester Lit & Phil. One of the projects in the pipeline is our involvement in the big, free festival, We Invented the Weekend. This new partnership is a great opportunity for us to find new audiences for our events. Look out for further updates on the talks we will be co-hosting with the University of Salford.


Working together to secure our future

During April, there has been a lot of activity to define several workstreams to prepare the Society for the future. These projects will run through May, they will look at other organisations, talk to members and then present their findings to the trustees in June. If required, the recommendation will be to go to an EGM / AGM.

We will be sharing further details about these projects with our membership soon via the member’s newsletter: Your Manchester Lit & Phil.


And finally, if you’re not yet a member but are interested in volunteering, we’d love to hear from you. Send an email to

Thanks for your continued support.

Peter Wright 



David Higginson, President of the Society 2009-2011

Posted on: April 25th, 2024 by mlpEditor

We were very sad to hear of the recent death of David Higginson. He passed away peacefully on 7 March, in hospital, after being unwell for the past few months. We only heard the news the day after his funeral (which was on 15 April) but I have spoken at length with his sister Margaret, who reported that it had been a very dignified service, which celebrated his long and full life.

David joined the Lit & Phil in 1989 and was a very regular attender, always asking at least one question at talks! He had a successful career as a lawyer in Manchester, and a wide range of interests. He served as President from 2009-2011.

Covid, then increasing frailty prevented him attending much over the last few years, but he maintained a lively interest in the Lit & Phil events. He will be much missed.


Dr Susan Hilton

22 April 2024

Humanising Trust in the Age of AI

Posted on: April 23rd, 2024 by mlpEditor

To human beings, trust is very personal, often domain specific, and influenced by lived experiences. Traditionally, trust has been focused around human to human relationships based upon a person’s integrity, honesty, dependability and the belief that a person will not cause harm. But what about Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence? How can we assess that? This topic which will be discussed in Dr Emily Collins’ Manchester Lit & Phil talk on 2nd May 2024, framed around trustworthy and responsible robotics.

The development of global ethical Artificial Intelligence (AI) principles and guidelines, followed by the explosion of generative AI in the public domain in 2021, has led to a scramble to legislate AI based around core ethical principles. The EU AI Act – the first comprehensive legalisation based on a risk-based approach – was formally adopted in March 2024.

At the heart of the UK’s pro-regulation approach, five cross-sectoral principles based on Safety, security and robustness; Appropriate transparency and explainability; Fairness; Accountability and governance; and Contestability and redress, were adopted. Currently, these principles are down to individual regulators to interpret – but what will this practically mean for a human within society, the wider public and marginalised communities in terms of their rights?

Human trust is at the heart of responsible and ethical AI in society. In March 2024, The UK Government published its guidance on AI Assurance which emphasises the importance of trust, defining the context of justified trust as “where a person or group trust the use of an AI system based on reliable evidence”. The guidance provides a toolkit for organisations for measuring, evaluating, and communicating AI Assurance supported by some practical guidance. Some progress in this area is certainly being made.

However, to the person on the street who may have little awareness of the use of AI in their everyday lives and how it impacts them, understanding the risks and benefits of AI elements of a particular product or service prior to using it, may be overwhelming, and potentially lead to an increase in the digital divide in society.

So how do we ensure that humans have the confidence and trust in AI and that it is accessible to everyone?

The Peoples Panel in Artificial Intelligence was a project first funded by The Alan Turing Institute in 2022, and has since been adopted by Manchester City Council as part of Doing Digital Together. The original Peoples Panel was first established from community volunteers within Salford and Stockport through a series of community AI roadshows designed to reach and engage with traditionally marginalized communities and develop a common language and understanding around AI.

Community volunteers undertook two days of training, practically exploring ethical AI principles and learning techniques to consequence scanning how AI and data was used. They then scrutinised researchers and business in a series of live panels around new and emerging AI products. Confidence was shown to increase, and volunteers became advocates of debating and discussing AI in their own communities.

A second project, PEAS in PODS, trained up researchers as Public Engagement Ambassadors (PEAs) across three universities on public engagement and co-production. The PEAs are currently emersed in three co-produced AI related projects at Back on Track (Manchester), Inspire (Stockport) and The Tatton (Ordsall) led by the communities themselves. One such project is currently co-developing a Peoples Charter for AI – focused on what assurances people want from those organisations that adopt AI.

There is hope for the future: peoples voices – especially those that are hard to reach – are being heard.

And a bill on the regulation of artificial intelligence is currently making its way through the House of Lords. It is significant as it specifically mentions the role of meaningful public engagement and states “AI and its applications should…… meet the needs of those from lower socio-economic groups, older people and disabled people”.

As humans are unique, how we build trust in AI is also unique. But first, we need a mutual language of understanding about AI for everyone.

Message from our President – April 2024

Posted on: April 11th, 2024 by mlpEditor

April 2024


I hope this update finds you well and, for those who had the chance, well-rested after the Easter break. For those ending Ramadan, I wish you Eid Mubarak.

I will begin and end my message with a call to action:


Get inspired. Get involved.

My first invitation is to anyone wanting to help shape the future of Manchester Lit & Phil, increase its impact on our city and prepare it for the next 100 years.

If you are already a member, please engage with the review process starting this month. The Trustees want to hear your views as we develop a five-year plan.

If you are not a member, please consider joining. Our members are the engine that drives our purpose, generates ideas, and provides most of our volunteers. If membership is not for you, please continue actively engaging with our events and encourage others to attend.


What’s On

Our event programme continues to explore a variety of subjects. An event that caught my attention in our recent program was Developing the Meadow as an Urban Cultural Form with James Hitchmough. It was a topic of broad interest and well received, with a strong attendance. Most pleasingly, over a third of the people attending were visitors. I hope many of them will return in the future.

I am very much looking forward to several events: Our Percival Lecture, which is highlighted in the April newsletter, and our events on Espionage and Black Holes. I look forward to attending these and hope to see you there.


Sharing your feedback

In early April, we hosted our first drop-in online event for members. The focus was an overview of  Manchester Lit & Phil, the charity’s current challenges, and how we plan to move forward. This is the first of a series of sessions, with the next on how we can increase awareness of our organisation and events. Those unable to attend can be informed by reading the follow-up communication.


And to close, another call to action: you can help raise the profile of  Manchester Lit & Phil. For those of you using social media, any or all of the following will really make a difference:

  • Share events you are going to attend
  • Post reviews of events you have attended
  • Follow us on any of the platforms below


X (Twitter)




I hope to see you at an event in the near future,

Peter Wright 


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