Wells Evening Society

2014/15 Programme

Thurs 2nd October 2014
Mary Alexander
John Singer Sargent

Mary Alexander trained as an art historian. Her background combines an unusual blend of academic and communication skills including lecturing and writing on various aspects of the history of art and design. She now lives in Norfolk and lectures widely in the UK and overseas.

Whether in London, New York or Boston Edwardian society flocked to John Singer Sargent to provide prestigious portraits conferring glamour and social status. We will hear of the astonishing range and versatility of his work and of his deep psychological insight and humorous observation. The lecture will explore Sargent's dazzling society portraits, ranging from presidents, oil magnates and patrons of the arts to aspirational new plutocrats seeking social recognition.

Thurs 6th November 2014
Ronald Hutton
Britain's Pagan Heritage 

Professor Ronald Hutton is an English historian who specializes in the study of early modern Britain, British folklore and pre-Christian religion. He is a professor in the subject at the University of Bristol, has published fourteen books and appeared on British television and radio. He has held a fellowship at Magdalen College, Oxford and is a Commissioner of English Heritage.

Britain has a huge legacy of pre-Christian ritual and belief, from pre-history right through to the Viking period. This talk asks how the mass of evidence is to be interpreted, and by whom.  We will learn from particular examination of the 2000 year old body found preserved in a peat bog and known as Lindow man and from the most famous prehistoric monument of all, Stonehenge.

Thurs 4th December 2014
Liz Lane
New music to commemorate the First World War - Two musical commissions from inception to performance

Dr Liz Lane is a commissioned composer and past resident of Wells. Her music, which has been described as “quite stunning” and “spell-binding”, is widely played throughout the UK and abroad. Liz was awarded a PhD in Composition from Cardiff University in March 2010 where she was an Associate Lecturer for nine years.  In May 2013 she was appointed Senior Lecturer in Composition and Performance (part-time) at the University of the West of England; she is also an Associate Lecturer for the Open University.

 Liz’s lecture will discuss two recent musical compositions, both of which are focussed on First World War commemorations.  The first, Hall of Memory, was commissioned for performance at the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, Ypres, Belgium in 2013; the second, a work for brass band and narrator, using the poems of Bristol born WW1 poet Isaac Rosenberg, is work in progress and will be performed in Bristol later in 2014 at a special centenary event.  In this illustrated talk, she discusses the composition journey, including receiving and accepting the commissions, collaborating with performers and concert curators, and involvement in rehearsals and performances.  With the support of photos and audio, Liz will recount some of the creative processes involved, along with historical and aesthetic background to the finished works.

Thurs 8th January 2015
Geoff Rich
Bath – Conservation Challenges and Solutions

Conservation architect Geoff Rich is a Partner and Studio Leader with Feilden Clegg Bradley Studio, based in Bath. Over the last ten years he has worked on a wide range of projects within the city centre, from strategic master plans to designs for some of the city’s most iconic historic buildings.

Designated as a World Heritage City in 1987, the city of Bath is renowned as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  Over the past 10 years Bath based conservation architect Geoff Rich has worked on a wide range of projects within the city centre. These include uniquely famous historic buildings, such as Bath Abbey, the Roman Baths, and the Theatre Royal.  In a richly illustrated talk Geoff will discuss some of the challenges of working within Bath and how specific design solutions have been found.

Thurs 5th February 2015
David Edwards
Surviving the Volcano at Monserrat

David Edwards lives in Scotland. He trained as a geologist and has travelled to many parts of the world as an expedition advisor and science leader. He has run environmental sustainability courses for Glasgow University and the Open University, worked on ocean research ships, and in 2012 was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

“Volcano threatens to erupt” was the newspaper headline as David arrived for a biodiversity survey in the Caribbean paradise of Montserrat. He will tell us how he witnessed the eruption that marked the beginning of the evacuations and the disruption of this idyllic island. Meanwhile David was trying to catch snakes with his bare hands… and the snakes were winning. We will hear what it’s like to monitor wildlife while a volcano rages.

Thurs 5th March 2015
Peter Warwick FRGS
The Golden Age of the Royal Navy

Economist, historian, author and recognised authority on Nelson, Peter chairs three organisations: The 1805 Club, conserving the monuments and memorials of the Georgian sailing navy; The New Waterloo Dispatch, the flagship event of Waterloo 200, which celebrates the idea that is Europe, and Thames Alive, which organised the manpowered squadron for The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant in July 2012.

The period 1740-1815 witnessed the rise of British naval supremacy which laid the foundations for Britain’s nineteenth century global Empire. Through exciting and carefully chosen contemporary paintings, illustrations and caricatures the lecture will reveal both the stories and how artists interpreted the great sea battles of the age.

Thurs 2nd April 2015
Dr Allan Phillipson
Painting the Fallen Woman: Dickens and the Pre-Raphaelites

Dr Allan Phillipson currently teaches cultural studies throughout the South-West, both independently and for the Workers’ Educational Association. He gives day-schools on art and social history and he has published articles on Victorian social history, New Zealand literature and film and detective fiction

After Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield in 1850 there was an outpouring of art and articles about the fallen woman. Around the same time Dickens set up a home for fallen women with the help of the great Victorian philanthropist, Angela Burdett-Coutts. What prompted this surge of interest, and what forms did it take? This talk will focus on the work of Dickens and his illustrators, as well as artists such as John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt, and D.G. Rossetti.