09 Jan 2017: Goodbye to director Justine Brian

We have big news: Justine Brian, director of the Debating Matters Competition, leaves the Institute of Ideas this week to become director of Civitas Schools

Congratulations to Justine on securing such a fantastic job.  We of course are incredibly sad to be losing her as Justine has been a backbone of Debating Matters for so many years.  Having held almost every single role in Debating Matters, Justine is one of the longest serving team members of the Institute of Ideas and will be greatly missed.

She joined back in 2006 and has seen the competition grow from just 32 schools into 288.

Justine in 2007 with former colleagues Tony Gilland and Helen Birtwistle *Note from Justine: seriously, guys, could you have found a worse photo?!*

Justine’s passion for the competition has always been undeniable. After ten years’ worth of Qualifying Rounds, Regional Finals and National Finals, she has developed Debating Matters’ relationships with schools and teachers, but also with the hundreds of students that have competed throughout the years.

In recent years, she has led the competition as its director, overseeing many successes, including Debating Matters’ expansion nationally and internationally, plus projects ranging from Debating Matters Beyond Bars, and our recent special projects with BPAS and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.  It was not all success of course: she was not able to convince the Institute of Ideas to have an office pet (although did come close to hosting colleague Adam Rawcliffe’s pet snake, Alan).

As one of the more sophisticated members of the team, Justine has had a positive influence over her younger colleagues. Affectionately named ‘mum’ by certain colleagues and competition alumni, Justine has always been a team player, even if it means being dragged to the pub much later than she wanted to (mid-week) or hitting the dancefloor in questionable Birmingham clubs. Her sophistication doesn’t end there. Her time on the road with Debating Matters has developed her knowledge of the best food places in every city, town and village in the UK. A self-declared ‘foodie’, the team will miss Justine’s valuable expertise, particularly of Pact Coffee, Indian curry paste and jalebis. The team will even miss her throwing shade at certain individuals’ addiction to Vietnamese Pho – known to Justine as “that expensive Thai place”.

Despite her lack of ability to send decipherable emails or texts, Justine is known to be a phone addict. She leaves the Institute of Ideas as the Selfie Queen:

Justine said of her time with Debating Matters:

“It has been my pleasure to work alongside my wonderful colleagues to produce what I genuinely believe to be the best and the most demanding school’s debating competition. More than just another competition, Debating Matters was about the importance of ideas and their role in shaping the society we live in, and the one we might want to see. I have made friends of teachers, been rewarded as pupils become alumni, and met some amazing people who judge for us. I will of course miss of all that, but know the competition will continue to thrive in the future.”

Institute of Ideas director Claire Fox says:

“Debating Matters could never have become such a well-regarded, national competition without Justine’s enormous dedication and hard work over the years.  She has dedicated herself to creating an educational project that has made a positive difference to lives of thousands of young people, passionately believing that debating really does matter.  For more than a decade, Justine has worked at ensuring that Debating Matters thrived. She has not only inspired her work colleagues, but has created a network of close relationships with teachers and schools who she has nurtured, many debating for the first time under her encouragement and tutelage.  We are delighted that Justine will continue working in the education sphere and wish her all the best at Civitas; we hope we will continue to work together in various capacities moving forward”.

Justine will continue to be involved in the Institute of Ideas’ work and her kind, warm-hearted nature will be sorely missed by her colleagues. We wish her all the best for the future. Good luck Justine!


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