14 Dec – Desert Island Books – Jill Sharp

And for our final talk this year we are very pleased to have  Jill Sharp to do our annual “Desert Island Books”

She writes , Is the novel dead, as Will Self has asserted? Does it matter? Why do we read and why do readers disagree – often vehemently – about the same book? What’s the point of literary prizes and festivals?

Jill introduces six books that have recently made a huge impression on her and opens the debate about why reading matters.

Jill has an MA in Modern English Studies from Queen Mary University of London and was an OU tutor for many years.

PS  click here for our Spring 2019 Programme of talks – 


7 Dec – The END of Human Rights? – Daniel Merlo

Daniel is a Human Rights Lawyer who has worked both in the UK and South America. On Friday,  he will explore the progress of Human rights over the past decades, at recent events  and look to the future.

Daniel writes:  

“The rise of populism and nationalism has given voice to those who believe that the human rights project has come to an end.  These doomsdayers point to the continued crimes against humanity taking place in Syria, Yemen, and Myanmar, the withdrawal of states from human rights courts and treaties, and the sanctioning of a wider use of lethal force by police.  Daniel Merlo will provide an inside view, drawing from his experience working at the UN, in human rights NGOs, and for national governments, that challenges this narrative and explores the many faces of human rights.”


30 Nov – The Gender Pay Gap – What is to be Done?’ – Marina Strinkovsky and Paul Archer DEBATE!

Friday on 30 November 2018, Marina Strinkovsky and Paul Archer will be debating ‘The Gender Pay Gap – What is to be Done?’
Marina is a feminist and campaigner for women’s rights – her blog is at http://notazerosumgame.blogspot.com/
Paul is an employment lawyer and campaigns for employment law reform.
Marina and Paul do not always agree about politics – come along to hear the debate and let us know what you think about this central issue of gender politics.


You can follow  Marina on Twitter here –

Fri 23 Nov – The Science of Frankenstein – Vernon Griffiths

Vernon writes 

2018 was the 200th anniversary of the first publication of “Frankenstein – or the Modern Prometheus”.

In “The Science of Frankenstein”  I plan a brief summary of developments in science and anatomy in the 18th and early 19th century which formed the background to Mary Shelley’s novel and to consider some of the issues the novel raises which remain pertinent today.


Friday 16 Nov – Technological Solutions to Climate Change – Kevin Lister

In climate change, the world faces an existential crisis. The recent IPCC report gives only a  66% chance of avoiding a 1.5degC temperature rise if we can get to a zero carbon economy by 2040. However, a 1.5degC temperature rise, coupled with a population that is predicted to rise above 10 billion, is unlikely to be survivable.  The global community is left with little option but to start an immediate and aggressive Solar Radiation Management programme with the aim of reducing the global average temperature to below 0.5 degC of the preindustrial baseline and to do so with in conjunction with draconian cuts in CO2 emissions.

This talk is based on Kevin Lister’s submission to the UN Talanoa Dialogue, which was the process instigated following the Paris COP to “increase  ambition on climate change.” The submission was compiled in conjunction with leading climate change scientists around the world and it has influenced other initiatives such as The Club of Rome’s call for a declaration of a climate emergency.

The talk will explore how a Solar Radiation Management programme can be achieved, the timescales that it must work towards and the wider political issues that must be addressed.

Kevin Lister is an associate researcher with the Climate Institute, Washington DC”

Kevin Lister is the central co-ordinator of the Climate Restoration Foundation. He has a degree in Aeronautics, a Masters in Business Administration and a Masters in Maths. Kevin has held senior management positions in a variety of industries and delivered major capital projects in the energy and transportation industries. He now teaches maths. 

more details at https://www.climate-restoration-foundation.com/who-we-are


Fri 9th Nov – Does Illness Have Meaning? – Judith Stares

Evidence demonstrates that ill-health can have a purpose, and sometimes symptoms can be easier to manage than the existential problems they mask. Is it possible that in our search for ‘wellness’ we are approaching the subject in entirely the wrong way?

This talk will give examples of illness or disease in our own and other cultures, raising particular questions concerning the mind/body relationship. It will suggest that perhaps a new vocabulary is needed to describe dis-ease and its effects on a person’s well-being

Judith is a freelance journalist and editor of a national news agency. After a career which included time as a foreign correspondent in various world trouble-spots, from the Falklands War to Tiananmen Square, she began to specialize in health and medicine, investigating illness and treatments in other cultures, including China, Russia and the USA. Philosophy has been a life-long preoccupation, encouraged by extra-mural courses at Oxford and membership of several philosophical discussion groups. Exploring the power of the mind has informed much of her thoughts and writings.

Fri Nov 2nd – Mental Health – Geraint Day and Gerry Hannon

The human brain is but an organ of the body. Subject to malaise like any other part of the anatomy it is also uniquely the seat of our consciousness, of our thoughts. Mental health and mental ill health depend not only on organic influences like that on any other body part but also on the very functioning of those thought processes.

Healthcare services exist to intervene to help treat mental ill health. There are also attempts to maintain good mental health and wellbeing. But what constitutes good mental health? Or for that matter mental ill health?

Just as with physical health there are external and environmental influences.

We shall touch on a few aspects of these topics. And we shall attempt to use at least some brain activity to do so.