Please use the links below to view our previous meeting programmes.
Everyone is familiar with the film The Bridge over the River Kwai, but what is the historical reality of the building of the bridge in 1942-3? Julie Summers unpicks this fascinating story, including the personality of Colonel Nicholson, played in an Oscar winning performance by Alec Guinness, and that of Lieutenant Colonel Philip Toosey, whose Oscar winning performances went unnoticed by the outside world although they were widely admired by the men in his prison camps. Did the prisoners actually whistle the Colonel Bogey tune? Did they help or hinder the Japanese when designing and building the bridge? How many bridges are there on the River Kwai? Julie reveals that the true story is far more dramatic, more exciting and indeed more tragic than the film.
The Great War of 1914 to 18 has gone into conventional modern history as terrifying and pointless. Films like "All Quiet on the Western Front" and plays like "Journeys End" tend to support that view. But Robin Gregory's book "Tim's War", which takes as its starting point his father-in-law's diaries from 1914-19, changes the perspective. For that reason it has been chosen Book of the Year by Keith Hindell, former BBC United Nations Correspondent. A qualified psychologist, Robin will follow-up the lives of survivors in the thirties and beyond.
A chance to hear about the wide-ranging experiences and interests of award-laden broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald. Twice voted Newscaster of the Year, he was for many years the face of ITN fronting its popular News at Ten bulletin and the flagship current affairs show Tonight. In an extraordinary career he has interviewed many of the world's leading figures in cluding Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. He also secured the only British TV interview with Saddam Hussein. More recently he has presented insightful travel programmes and investigated the soon to be terminated lives of prisoners on America's Death Row.
From childhood train-spotter to one of Britain's leading railway writers, Paul Atterbury's life has been involved with railways. This talk includes reminiscences from that life but also looks at the social and cultural impact of the railways, and the way they have changed our lives. Stations, journeys, posters, history and the trains themselves all feature in this talk. Paul Atterbury is a writer, lecturer and broadcaster specialising in the arts, architecture, design and social history of the 19th and 20th centuries. He has been a member of the BBC's Antiques Roadshow team of experts for twenty four years.
A chance to meet Dr Jonathan Miller – one of post-war Britain's most intriguing polymaths. Born into an intellectual milieu, between Bloomsbury and Harley Street, Miller has since forged a career as a leading actor, theatre – maker and self-taught opera director. He is a satirist, humourist, public intellectual and TV personality. Co-creator of the seminal comedy revue, Beyond the Fringe, his writing helped launch the careers of Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett. His talents and interests encompass many areas from neuropsychology to the arts, atheism, criticism and comedy.
Tim has been delighting audiences with his gentle, zany humour ever since he rocketed from the Cambridge Footlights into the West End stardom trading custard pies with John Cleese and one-liners with Bill Oddie in the hugely successful Cambridge Circus revue. That was just the start of a sparkling career that has included TV's The Goodies, BBC radio's I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again. Tim has appeared in countless stage productions and written several books. This evening's talk covers all these subjects and more in conversation with the broadcast journalist and former That's Life! co-presenter Chris Searle.
Namibia is one of the largest and most unpopulated countries in Africa and has within it an extraordinary range of habitats including thornveld, mountains, desert (the oldest in the world) and coastline. This diversity is home to a wealth of fascinating wildlife ranging from a host of endemic birds species to one of the most secure populations in the world of the endangered Black Rhino. This talk explores the fabulous wildlife of these various habitats and blends some of the most exciting aspects of natural history with stunning backdrops of Namibian scenery.
Alastair Bruce of Crionaich, OBE, a descendent of Robert the Bruce, is the National Event Commentator for Sky News and the BBC. He is a documentary maker with 'Days of Majesty', 'Nicholas and Alexandra' and 'Victoria and Albert' to his name. He is a Member of the Queen's Body Guard for Scotland (The Royal Company of Archers). As a writer and broadcaster his publications include 'Keepers of the Kingdom' a highly illustrated book of portraits showing holders of all the ancient and odd sounding titles of Britain, which was the first book project for which all the Royal Family agreed to be photographed - the stories of the book and its creation are fascinating. He has also written 'History of the British Coronation' and 'Days of Majesty', and he worked on the documentary about Tsar Nicholas II, presented by HRH Prince Michael of Kent, and also wrote a book about Syria. In this talk, Alastair will tell us about his role as Historical Advisor to such dramas as ITV's Downton Abbey and the film "The Kings Speech".
John Benjamin began his career in 1972 at Cameo Corner, the celebrated Bloomsbury jewellers, renowned for its un-rivalled stock of Ancient, Renaissance and eighteenth and nineteenth century jewellery. He joined Phillips Fine Art Auctioneers as a cataloguer and valuer, remaining for twenty-three years, ultimately becoming International Director of Jewellery. John is a Freeman of the Goldsmiths' Company and of the City of London and author of Starting to Collect Antique Jewellery as well as co-author with Paul Atterbury of Jewellery and Silver of HG Murphy. He is an established member of the team of experts on BBC TV's The Antiques Road Show.
Douglas Hurd is a leading British Conservative politician and author of novels and political biographies who served in the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major between 1979 and his retirement in 1995. In 1997 he entreated the House of Lords as Baron Hurd of Westwell. Lord Hurd will talk about that most celebrated and colourful of 19th-century politicians Benjamin Disraeli. A gifted parliamentarian, a superb orator, writer and wit, Disraeli became Prime Minister twice. He was hugely popular and yet he was a bankrupt Jewish school dropout and writer of trashy novels - an unlikely background for a Conservative superstar. Douglas Hurd and co-writer Edward Young biography strips away the myths surrounding Disraeli's life and career.
If you caught Alastair's talk in November 2013 then you will know what to expect! If you missed it then you are in for a treat! From an early age, Alastair Humphreys has had great ambitions and always strived to achieve them. Aged 8, he completed the 26 mile Yorkshire 3 Peaks challenge. At 13 he did the National 3 Peaks in 24 hours. At 14 he cycled off-road across England. The list of feats goes on through his late teens and early twenties. Whilst continuing his education at Oxford and Edinburgh Universities, he managed to schedule in some amazing trips around his studies. Although he has a passion for canoeing, yachting and long distance running (he ran the extremely tough Marathon des Sables, finishing as one of the ten fastest Brits despite breaking his foot during the race!) for four years he cycled round the world – a trip which was awe inspiring, educational, very tough and full of adventures. Tonight's talk will repeat some of his previous talk (there are only so many adventures one can have!) but will also bring us up to date with his latest exploits.
A return visit, after a 21 year gap, by Mr Roy Hudd. Come and joining Roy Hudd and his special guest his wife - Debbie for an evening of anecdotes, secret name dropping, fun and wonderful memories from a man whose career has spanned 55 years in TV, radio and Theatre.