Please use the links below to view our previous meeting programmes.
Founder and head of Britain’s largest human rights practice, Doughty Street Chambers, Geoffrey Robertson has played an influential role in legal and political development. He has been the courtroom defender of ‘Oz’ and ‘Gay News’ and the “National Theatre”, of Julian Assange and Salman Rushdie, of Mike Tyson and the Sex Pistols. He has been a prosecutor of General Pinochet and Hastings Banda, and currently of the British Museum over its refusal to return the Elgin Marbles. He is credited with saving hundreds of men on death rows around the world, and with inspiring the global justice movement with his book “Crimes Against Humanity”. He was first President of the UN War Crimes Court in Sierra Leone, and a member of its Justice Council. In this show he takes the audience from the depths of the Old Bailey to his times on death row, from his battles with Stalinism alongside Vaclev Havel to his experiences in the Ecuadorian embassy with Julian Assange, and to his experiences with Linda Lovelace and the Sex Pistols. He explains his ideas – which may not be David Cameron’s – for a British Bill of Rights. Join him for an evening-long mental cappuccino, frothed by one of our best barristers.
Helen Poole has been working in museums and heritage sites in Sussex since 1991, so has a wide knowledge of the area and a fascination with themes from the Romans through to the Napoleonic Wars. She also lectures on Mediterranean cruises, which provides the opportunity to extend the love of archaeology and history that she studied at university. The interest in Charles II’s escape after the battle of Worcester developed from her time at Marlipins Museum in Shoreham-by-Sea, the town of the king’s last contact with England for a while, completing an exciting six weeks on the run with help latterly from Sussex Royalists.
An illustrated talk through the islands of the South Pacific and beyond…In 1987 Jasper Shackleton visited remote Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific as a staff member aboard the four masted barque ‘Sea Cloud’. Pitcairn, measuring just one by two miles, is home to the descendants of the mutineers from HMS Bounty. The mutiny took place on 28th April 1789 near the island of Tofua in The Friendly Islands (Tonga). Bligh was cast adrift in a 23’ open boat along with 18 others. Bligh then made one of the most remarkable boat journeys to Timor (Indonesia) a distance of 3,600 nautical miles. With the bicentenary of the mutiny only two years away Jasper Shackleton decided to build a replica of Bounty’s launch and to follow Bligh’s route to Timor as a tribute to this man’s outstanding seamanship and navigational skills. On 28th April 1989 Shackleton’s launch ‘SV Elizabeth Bligh’, named after Bligh’s wife and which he built with his own hands, was off to Tofua and the open boat journey began…
Guy Burgess is the most important, complex and interesting of The Cambridge Spies – immortalised in plays such as Alan Bennett’s ‘An Englishman Abroad’ and Julian Mitchell’s 'Another Country’ - yet there has never been a proper biography of him - until now. In Stalin’s Englishman, Andrew Lownie presents a completely new picture of Guy Burgess. Drawing on thirty years of research in archives around the world (including recently released files on Burgess from the National Archives), close connections with the Intelligence Community in Britain and the US, hitherto secret files and interviews with over a hundred people who knew Burgess, most of whom have never spoken before.
William Wells, when still a schoolboy, won a scholarship in his native New Zealand to travel to England where he underwent his nautical training. A Master Mariner and former Ship’s Captain, he ended his career as the Senior River Pilot in the Port of London. He spent two years in Nigeria during the Biafran civil war, then with his family in the Middle East for ten years followed by a further four years in Freeport, Bahamas. He speaks regularly to many different organisations throughout the UK and Europe, on cruise ships as an Enrichment Lecturer and/or Destination Speaker, as well as BBC Radio and TV. He was chosen by the Cunard Line to be their principal guest speaker aboard the final cruise of the world famous QE2 and as a follow-up on the maiden voyage of her successor the new Queen Elizabeth. It is a pleasure to welcome William back to the Ashridge.
When Dorit Oliver was just four years old she sang and danced in front of the future king of Yugoslavia. By six years old she was in hiding from the German soldiers who were rounding up and transporting her fellow Jews to concentration camps around Europe. Years of terror follow, with narrow escapes from capture and bombing raids plus betrayals by those she thought were her friends until, at last, she and her mother are rescued from the cellar in which they are hiding. Singing helps her survive those dark days. But the holocaust is only part of Dorit’s amazing story. After the war, stateless and without papers, she joins a touring dance troupe in order to be permitted to travel. She studies by day and sings and dances in seedy clubs by night until a talent scout spots her and then her story really begins.Tense, moving and inspirational, Dorit’s remarkable story moves through fear and horror, to freedom and joy and shows how the bravery and fortitude of one little Jewish girl helped her survive the Holocaust and become a star. Dorit and her husband Frank have lived in Eastbourne for a number of years.
Gavin will take you on an illustrated tour of the sky that will educate, entertain and enthral. He will show you how to distinguish the different cloud formations, from the common Cumulus to the rare and fleeting Kelvin-Helmholtz cloud. He will argue that, far from being things to complain about, clouds are the most evocative and poetic aspect of nature, and that cloudspotting is the perfect antidote to the stresses of modern life. Gavin Pretor-Pinney is founder of The Cloud Appreciation Society and author of the bestselling Cloudspotter's Guide and Cloud Collector's Handbook. His third book, The Wavewatcher's Companion, won the 2011 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books. The Cloud Appreciation Society now numbers over 40,000 members in 94 countries. Gavin has presented television documentaries for the BBC and Channel 4, and is a Visiting Fellow at the Meteorology Department of Reading University. He co-founded the Idler, a magazine that argues for the importance of downtime in creative thinking.
To face a trial for murder must be a terrifying prospect, all the more so when you know that you are innocent of the charge. How much more horrific must it be then, when you know that should you be found guilty, the sentence must be that you will lose your life at the end of a rope? The law states that if there is a reasonable doubt, then it is the jury's duty to acquit. John asks was there not a reasonable doubt in some of the cases he will be telling us about? Put yourself onto those juries and decide whether you would have still been prepared to stand in court and announce that dreaded word: 'Guilty!'
John has written 23 books, hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles and has appeared on radio and television, most recently with Michael Portillo. He has lectured widely to schools, local history groups and on cruise lines.
Vince Cable served as Business Secretary in the Coalition Government from 2010 to 2015 and as an MP for Twickenham from 1997 until the last election. In After the Storm, Vince takes a look at the post-crash global economy. He warns that the emphasis on consumption rather than investment, the continuing reliance on house price inflation as the driver of growth, the decline in productivity and innovation, mean fundamental problems are not being addressed. He is also the first minister to lift the lid on the coalition.
Geoff was born in Bath and has written many articles for various arts magazines. In 2006 his book Intimate Memories: The History Of The Intimate Theatre, Palmers Green was published by The Badger Press and received excellent reviews. Since 2009 Geoff has been editor of the British Music Hall Society’s official magazine The Call Boy. This is Geoff’s second appearance at the Ashridge Circle. In December 2013 he gave a presentation called Funny Girls covering British comediennes of the variety stage. This time he will be presenting British Popular Singers Of The 1950s: a look at the British music scene of that decade (Joan Regan, Dickie Valentine, Ruby Murray, Ronnie Hilton, etc.) focusing particularly on the careers of Frankie Vaughan and, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of her death, Alma Cogan.
Roger was brought up in Australia, where he began his broadcasting career as a radio and television reporter/newsreader for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. In 1968, Roger started work with BBC Radio Four as a reporter on The World at One, and went on to present both The World at One and the PM Programme. In 1973 he created Checkpoint, the investigative radio programme that he produced and presented for 12 years. He is widely credited with originating a whole new genre of broadcasting. Roger joined ITV in 1985 and the ground-breaking Cook Report was born. For 16 series, Roger travelled tens of thousands of miles a year in pursuit of major criminals, con-men and corrupt officials. For the whole of its long run, the series was by far the most popular current affairs programme on British television with audiences often approaching ten million. Amongst its many firsts, The Cook Report exposed the likes of child pornography, Northern Ireland protection rackets, baby trading in Brazil, the illicit ivory trade, illegal immigration, war criminals in Bosnia, those behind 9/11 and other terrorist plots and the Russian black market in weapons-grade plutonium. In all, there were more than 120 editions – a number of which were followed by successful police prosecutions or major changes in the law. In the pursuit of justice and in the course of making those programmes, he was injured numerous times and made physical and journalistic fearlessness his trademark.
Chris Jordan is the Artistic Director of Eastbourne theatres. He trained as an actor at the Webber Douglas Academy in London before spending 10 years working in theatres up and down the country appearing in everything from Shakespeare to Shaw and musicals to minstrel galleries. He moved to Eastbourne 16 years ago to manage our theatres. As well as programming over 250 shows a year, he has also been responsible for the creation of over 40 productions ‘in-house’ many of which have subsequently toured to other venues around the UK with even the odd West-End transfer. He has also written and directed the last 15 Devonshire Park theatre pantomimes. His illustrated talk takes us through the ups and downs of a jobbing actor, the highs and lows of a pantomime creator and the ins and outs of running 3 diverse theatres in Eastbourne. How do you attempt to fill 3500 theatre seats a night? Which is more challenging, juggling flaming fire torches or flaming theatre producers?!
Who is Mr. Jellybean??