Cafés and Rebellion - A Walking Tour of Penny Universities in Memory of Bob Biderman

10 June 2018


Venue: The Royal Exchange, City of London, London EC3V 3LR

Organiser: Kevin Biderman

Kevin Biderman is an educator, film-maker and researcher. He has taught students aged eight to eighty in a number of informal and formal educational environments.

Was the cafe really a place of rebellion? Looking at the chain stores and bad labour practices that are entrenched in the market today it’s hard to imagine this could have been the case. Never mind the trendy artisan take on the coffeehouse. But there is historic evidence that there was a time when cafés ‘fired the flames of dissent’.

In the 17th and 18th century a certain type of café became known as a Penny University and provided a space for alternative education some of which was intensely rebellious. As we tour the historical sites in and around the City of London, I argue that the notion of the Penny University is of crucial importance in a world where education is becoming ever more commodified and learning more strictly controlled by the status quo. This tour is in memory of my father, Bob Biderman, who both wrote about and loved cafes and sadly died earlier this year. To see his take on cafes visit:

Meet on the seps of the Royal Exchange – bring a penny