Durham Cathedral Institute

Launched in 2022, the Institute hosts public discussion and debate on the principal political, economic, social, ethical and spiritual issues of our times, with and for the people of the North East.

What is the Durham Cathedral Institute?

The Institute hosts events on the floor of the cathedral, where national and international experts discuss and debate the most pressing issues of our times, answering questions from members of the public. Ranging from politics and ethics to social and spiritual issues, topics for each debate are chosen with particular significance for the people and communities of the North East.

Institute events are open to everyone and include a substantial section of Q&A.

Building upon centuries of learning

Durham has always been a place of intellectual enquiry - up to and beyond the decisive role of Bishop William van Mildert in founding Durham University in 1832. The Institute builds upon centuries of learning, deep and generous listening, and collective discernment.

We are keen to hear from residents, school groups, business leaders, students, and anyone with a stake in the future flourishing of justice and the common good in the North East region.

Upcoming events in 2024

Past Institute Events

Democracy: what future? A discussion with Nick Robinson and Ed Balls

Friday 1 December, 7.30pm

In 2024, the UK is likely to see a general election and there will be a US presidential election, which could feature Donald Trump as the Republican candidate. As we face a tumultuous period in national and global politics, Durham Cathedral hosted a discussion with Nick Robinson, one of the country’s leading journalists, and Ed Balls, a former cabinet minister and economist turned commentator.

The key question addressed in this debate included: what does the future hold for democracy? The discussion touched upon why this cannot be taken for granted: polling shows that support for our system of government is at an historically low ebb, including among young people. In the UK, Brexit uncertainty, Covid-19 and ‘partygate’, and five prime ministers in seven years (including the shortest-serving in history) have all impacted public confidence.

In the US, 2021 witnessed the storming of the Capitol Building in Washington, the seat of democratic government, whilst global politics has been marked by the rise of the ‘political strongman’, including Vladimir Putin of Russia, and increasingly autocratic and aggressive regimes.

This is a critical moment for democracy, in the UK and across the world with the debate covering key issues on this topic.


Nick Robinson is a journalist and presenter on BBC's Today programme. Since 2005, Nick is the BBC's political editor, and during this time he has covered two general election campaigns, the formation of the first coalition in 75 years, along with the referendum for Scottish independence. Nick joined the BBC in 1986 and has worked on This Week, Next Week, Newsround, Crimewatch and Panorama. He has written two books, Live from Downing Street and Election Notebook.

Ed Balls is a broadcaster, writer and economist. He is a regular presenter on ITV's Good Morning Britain and co-hosts the Political Currency podcast, with former Chancellor, George Osborne. Ed is a former Member of Parliament, and was UK Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2011 to 2015, along with serving in the UK Cabinet as Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families from 2007 to 2011. He was the UK Minister for Financial Services between 2006 and 2007, and was the Chief Economic Advisor to the UK Treasury in from 1994 to 2004.