A GROUP of Purton villagers have come up with a novel new pub activity - intellectual conversation.

Bar-room philosophers have been invited to make their way to the Angel pub on Thursday, May 22, for the first meeting of the Academic Inn.

The project is the brainchild of campaigning cleric the Rev John Papworth.

Mr Papworth, 81, has previously hit the newspaper headlines for his anti-war stance, for refusing to fill out his census form and for suggesting that shoplifting was a valid way of redistributing wealth.

His latest project is intended to strike a blow against what he sees as the poor quality of today's national news media.

He said: "Our concern is that the main news channels are so devoid of the kind information people need to make an informed judgement."

The Academic Inn is a concept which started in London 40 years ago.

It takes as its guiding principle a quote from the great 18th century ale-house debater Samuel Johnson who said: "A tavern chair is the throne of human felicity."

There are now about half a dozen Academic Inns dotted around the world and Mr Papworth, who helped found the movement, is keen to see it spread further.

He said: "An idea takes three stages: the first is utter ridicule, the second is there might be something in it and the third is when academics start arguing about who started it.

"Small is powerful is my motto."

The meetings take the form of an open debate involving a speaker who presents a paper on a certain subject.

Speaker at the inaugural meeting of the Purton Academic Inn will be former Conservative MP Sir Richard Boddy.

His paper is entitled Democracy in Danger.

Mr Papworth said: "The format of the evening is that we have a meal and the speaker does not make a speech but simply presents his paper which has already been circulated, and people have read beforehand.

"We want it to be a conversation among the people there, not just people sitting and listening."

Asked what the aim of his discussion group was, Mr Papworth said simply: "Enlightenment and happiness."

To obtain a copy of the paper to be presented at the first meeting of Purton Academic Inn write to 8 Widham, Purton, Wiltshire SN5 4EW.

A cheque for £3 should be enclosed, made out to Purton Academic Inn.