Picture of book next to a notebook computer with text Welcome to Warrington Lit. and Phil.

Previous meetings

Some topics in our previous meetings have included:

Is sport more valuable than music in today's society.....? Nick Cox

Charlotte Bronte explained how the eye both sought the truth in mundane experiences and the visionary experience of dreams.....Professor Dinah Birch

Technology has revolutionised our access to news, knowledge and opinions, yet quality political journalism is in the doldrums.... Jim Hancock



Monday October 2 2017: - Experiments in Philosophy


 Mick Dean President Warrington Lit and Phil


 [This will be a brief introduction to the subject of Experimental Philosophy, a very recent and exciting development in the subject of philosophy.  The talk will cover some aspects of the thinking behind the subject and the methods employed.  Concentrating on ethics, morality and moral responsibility the meeting will include some audience participation.  No expertise required - it's all intuitive!]


 Monday November 6 2017: - Bog Bodies Dr Melanie Giles Manchester University 


 [The speaker will examine how these compelling Iron Age and early Roman relics enable us to encounter - face-to-face - people from our ancient past.  They and those who brought about their deaths evidently had beliefs and understandings about the world very different from ours, and the speaker will discuss new evidence and different ideas relating to one of the most local examples: Worsley Man.] 


  Monday December 4 2017: - Excavating Engels  Dr Mike Nevell Salford University


 [The speaker will use recently uncovered archaeological evidence about Manchester’s historical slums to see if it can throw useful light on what Victorian social commentators said about problems of over-crowding, immigration, poor construction, poor ventilation, disease and sanitation.]


  Monday February 5 2018 


 The Golden Age of Murder  Martin Edwards


 [The speaker is a locally-based lawyer who has earned distinction in every field of crime fiction.  He is currently Chairman of the Crime Writers’ Association and President of the Detection Club.  He will discuss the crime fiction of the golden age between the wars, not cosy escapist cliché as some claim, but a substantial body of literature, a transmutation of real criminal cases, of the stresses in the authors’ lives and an urge to come to terms with the senseless carnage of the trenches.]


 Monday March 5 2018: -


 Slow Boat Cargo


 Liz McIvor, the well-known historian of Britain’s canal development, will examine the ways cargoes were moved by land and water before the canal boom and the 18th Century “Amazon effect.”  She will explain the large-scale engineering projects in the industrial period for long distance haulage by waterways, and comment on the post-industrial use of this heritage.”


Monday 9th April


 Dr David Crompton   Industrialisation, Population Change and Public Health in Lancashire


 The fact that Great Britain was the world's pioneering industrial nation from around 1750 to   1850 is firmly established, but historians continue to dispute the pace, the extent and the       impact of the Revolution.   So, what can research tell us about the ways in which population  growth, urbanisation and the public health consequences affected our local forebears?




 PROGRAMME 2016-17

Monday October 3rd 2016

Venom World     Kevin Arbuckle Liverpool University 

[The speaker will illustrate the rich variety (what Darwin would call “forms most beautiful and most wonderful”) of venomous and poisonous animals found in nature, the developmental arms race between predators and prey and the evolutionary principles which underlie these conflicts.]

Monday November 7th 2016

The Face of Jesus Dr Bill Cooke 

[Dr Bill Cooke teaches philosophy and religious studies at Priestley College and is author of six books on aspects of intellectual history, and International Director of the Center for Inquiry's Transnational Program.  

Using images of art from the last two thousand years, Bill Cooke will show how our understanding of Jesus has never stood still. What was seen as an unchangeable and fundamental truth one century was a heresy or irrelevance the next. So where does that leave Jesus now? How does he look in 2016? Who was he? ]

Monday December 5th 2016

Depicting the Dead Professor Caroline Wilkinson Liverpool John Moores University  

[Professor Wilkinson is Director of the School of Art & Design and an expert on face reconstruction from skulls (e.g. Richard III, J.S. Bach, Rameses II and Mary, Queen of Scots).  She has a background in art and science and her research and creative work sits at the forefront of art-science fusion and includes forensic art, human anatomy, medical art, face recognition, forensic science, anthropology, 3D visualization, digital art and craniofacial identification.]

Monday February 6th 2017

Manchester Broadside Ballads Jennifer Reid Independent Scholar and Singer

[Jennifer Reid is a Lancashire folk enthusiast from Middleton, Manchester. Jennifer will perform broadside ballads from the collections housed in Manchester Central Library, Chetham's Library and the Working Class Movement Library and deliver a talk around the themes and historical content of the ballads. The ballads feature Lancashire dialect, working life during the Industrial Revolution and the bawdy nature of Victorian society.]

Monday March 6th 2017

Ruskin and the Daguerreotype Professor Stephen Wildman Lancaster University 

[The Ruskin Library at Lancaster University, of which Professor Wildman is Director, holds 125 daguerreotypes – the first permanent photographic process – out of the 300 which formed John Ruskin’s collection by 1858.  Ruskin’s interest in this new medium will be explained, illustrated in the range of subject matter which the images cover, chiefly architecture and landscape in France, Switzerland and Italy.]

Monday April 3rd 2017

What a Poet Sees Professor Michael Symmons Roberts Manchester Metropolitan University

Interviewed by the Reverend Canon Michael Burgess

[This distinguished prize-winning poet will discuss the art of poetry and his own writing, and will read from his work.  After graduating in philosophy and theology and training as a journalist he has worked as a radio producer, a documentary film maker and as Head of Development for BBC Religion and Ethics.  He left the BBC to teach at MMU, and to focus on writing, including lyrics and libretti for the composer James MacMillan.  He could be seen as a modern John Donne, producing poems which are sharply observed and concise, but rich in metaphysical meaning.]






Monday October 5th 2015


The President’s evening

Who won the vote for women?

Suffragettes? or Suffragists?


Monday November 2nd 2015


The Last Laugh of the Railway King

Geoff Scargill

[Mancunian Sir Edward Watkin MP, 1819-1901 created the Great Central Line into Marylebone Station, started digging a Channel Tunnel and found a coalfield in Kent, helped to create Canada and the Canadian Pacific Railway, founded the port of Grimsby.  A man of outstanding energy and many schemes, not all of them practical, he was in many respects ahead of his time.]


Monday December 7th 2015


Donating Mitochondria – the Issues

Professor John Harris, Manchester University

[John Harris is Lord Alliance Professor of Bioethics and Director of the Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation, also Director of the Wellcome Strategic Programme on The Human Body: its Scope, Limits and Future. 

Professor Harris will explore the question of whether there exist principled objections to germline modification in general and Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy (MRT) in particular.  MRT is the therapy which results in what the press have called “three parent families” because the resulting child has DNA from three different people in its genetic endowment.  The very idea of intervening in the germline of humans, to modify, if not human nature at least the genetic endowment of some humans, continues to encounter hostility that is unrelated to the expected benefit or to the safety and efficacy of such procedures.  To understand the pervasive hostility to the idea of germline modification we need first to look at the roots of this hostility in developments in the 1970’s.  Professor Harris will base his lecture on a paper “Germline Modification and The Burden of Human Existence,” which will be published in January 2016, so the Society will be getting a preview.]


Monday February 1st 2016


Sonic Wonderland

Professor Trevor Cox, Salford University

[What are the sonic wonders of the world? Trevor Cox, a

renowned professor who engineers classrooms and concert halls, has

made a career out of eradicating bizarre and unwanted sounds.  But

after an epiphany in the London sewers, Trevor now revels in exotic

noises – creaking glaciers, whispering galleries, stalactite organs,

musical roads, humming dunes, seals that sound like alien angels, and a

Mayan pyramid that chirps like a bird.  Join him and discover how sound

is made and altered by the environment, become a better listener in a

visual world, and open your ears to the glorious cacophony around you.]



Monday March 7th 2016


Victorian Literature and Science

Professor David Amigoni, University of Keele

[Ever since C.P. Snow's 1959 lecture about 'the two cultures' we have tended to see science and literature as two distinct camps, failing to communicate.  In the nineteenth century there was much less of a distinction: Charles Darwin, for instance, was aware that his grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, was a leading published poet as well as an eminent physician and scientific speculator; mixed familial legacies were as important as disciplinary exclusivity.  This lecture will focus on three families who led the field of Victorian, and post-Victorian, evolutionary science: the Darwins, the Huxleys and the Batesons : Professor Amigoni will explore the ways in which these families participated in a literary, as well as a scientific, intellectual inheritance; and with what consequences for culture.]


Monday April 4th 2016


The Paintings of Vermeer

Tim Stimson

[Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) is an enigma. During the Golden Age of Dutch art (1648-72), when the United Provinces’ phenomenal economic, political and cultural flowering was at its height and when many painters of the period depicted the bustling life of the republic, Vermeer chose, most often, to paint a single woman in a corner of a room.  Tim Stimson’s interpretation of Vermeer’s uniqueness is based upon insights into human psychology and asks the question: what was the source of the unique stillness in Vermeer’s paintings, the meditative quality that so many fraught modern viewers find restful, the silence, an odd term to use for the visual arts?]

PROGRAMME 2014-15.

Monday October 6th 2014


Graphene - Science in a Pencil Line


Dr Aravind Vijayaraghavan, University of Manchester


[Graphene (a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a “chicken wire”

structure) is among the thinnest and strongest materials. It conducts heat


and electricity well and can act as a transistor.  It is very dense, but


almost transparent. Scientists knew its theoretical properties for decades,


but nobody could make it until Nobel prizewinners Geim and Novoselov


succeeded in 2004.  Its extraordinary properties will make it a


revolutionary material.]




Monday November 3rd 2014


A Tentative History of Shyness


Professor Joe Moran, Liverpool John Moores University


[The speaker will present some early insights from his recent research on


shyness, what Charles Darwin called that ‘odd state of mind’. Drawing freely


on literature, art, biography, anthropology, psychoanalysis and other


fields, he will argue that shyness is an emotion with a rich and varied


cultural history.]




Monday December 1st 2014


Slave Trade Links in the North West


Alex Robinson, Merseyside Museums


[Slavery is a shadow presence in classic fiction, even in Jane Austen and


Charlotte Bronte.  The speaker will show how real the connection was for


North West families and firms in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.]




Monday February 2nd 2015


Landscape Art, a History


Adrian Sumner


[The history of landscape painting is like a map of our attitude to, and


relationship with, nature.  Naturally, our current preoccupations with


climate change, earth’s diminishing resources, and ecology in general, make


these concerns increasingly topical.  In this lecture, Adrian Sumner will


explore the arc of our love-affair with landscape, and the bitter aftermath


of love-gone-wrong, as well as charting the unknown territory of hope and






Monday March 2nd 2015


Literary Weather


Dr Alexandra Harris, University of Liverpool


[All countries have weather, but in the British islands it is particularly


variable.  We talk about it every day, and writers write about it.   The


speaker will ask how different kinds of weather have caught the imagination


of writers across the centuries, from Anglo-Saxon ice to Victorian fog and






Monday April 13th 2015




Samuel Bamford, the Radical


 Robert Poole, Guild Research Fellow, UCLan


(Samuel Bamford (1788-1872) of Middleton is best known as both organiser and chronicler of movement for parliamentary reform in Regency Manchester. He is best known for his autobiography, Passages in the Life of a Radical, with its gripping account of the Peterloo massacre and its insights into the radical underground. Its publication made him a minor literary celebrity in the 1840s, with Gladstone, the Carlyles and Gaskell among his admirers. The remarkable body of work which he left – poems, letters, journalism, diaries and photographs – makes him the best-documented working man of the nineteenth century. He was also controversial, falling out with former comrades and opposing Chartism, but at the same time he was one of the first to advocate female involvement in the reform movement. This illustrated talk will offer an all-round assessment of one of Lancashire’s most famous sons.) 





 October 7th 2013


November 4th 2013



Professor Dinah Birch Liverpool University

Professor Birch is a former Booker judge and serves as the University's Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange. She specialises in Victorian literature, and has published extensively on writers including Dickens, the Brontes and Tennyson. An enthusiast for the work of Ruskin, she has written two books on that artist and critic - Ruskin's Myths, and Ruskin on Turner.  Her lecture will compare the visual dimensions of the work of Tennyson and Ruskin.

December 2nd 2013



Professor Will Kaufman University of Central Lancashire

Professor Kaufman combines a comprehensive and rigorous historical presentation with his own skilled performance of the music which arose from those troubled times.



February 3rd 2014


Prof Susan J Kimber

Co-Director North West Embryonic Stem Cell Centre

University of Manchester

 Stem cells are fascinating cells, present in the body to execute repair and in the embryo where they give rise to all the different tissues and organs.  In this talk I will discuss the different types of stem cells, their properties and how they can be generated in the lab.  The current uses of stem cells will be discussed together with how these cells may be used in future medicine. We will look into some of the ethical questions that stem cells throw up and discuss misconceptions sometimes aired in the media.



March 3rd 2014


Professor Michael Spitzer Liverpool University

Professor Spitzer explains the powerful ways in which the speed, pitch sequence and rhythm of notes conveys ideas and feelings to us in classical, popular or any other music.



April 7th 2014



Dr Sonja Tiernan, Liverpool Hope University

Dr Tiernan is the biographer of this important Irish nationalist, suffragist, trade union organiser (in Manchester), a pioneering advocate for social justice and a prolific author who enjoyed a place within W B Yeats' literary circle.






Professor Rogan Taylor, Liverpool University

The speaker will argue that there is something unique about "association" football that has its origins in the social milieu that gave birth to it, and which translated it into the most popular ball game on earth.


Professor Phil Gould, Jadara Pharma Ltd.

The speaker will draw on his experience of working in the pharmaceutical industry and also of working for an organisation which is a major commissioner and collaborator with the industry.


Professor Raymond Tallis

The speaker is a former professor of geriatric medicine and a prolific author with a lifelong interest in philosophy. He is concerned to correct the over-simplifications of those who identify our minds and ourselves with our evolved brains.

4th February 2013 PICASSO AND MATISSE

Dr Michael Howard Manchester Metropolitan University

This talk centres on two of the famous artists of the twentieth century and charts their struggle to create an art suitable for the modern age. In the process some of the most beautiful, most powerful and most challenging art ever produced in Western Europe was created.


Dr Hilary Hinds, Lancaster University

Dr Hinds has a special interest in the history and literature of the 17th Century, in early Quakerism and the particular contribution of women.


Derek Meakin MA, M Ed, formerly Lecturer at Liverpool University

Derek Meakin studied Classics and Philosophy at Oxford, and has a long-standing interest in Political Philosophy. He will be asking whether the liberal society can survive in the face of its numerous contemporary critics.


 3rd October 2011


 James Gibson ARIBA, RTPI, IHBC

Architect Accredited in Building Conservation

This will not be just about the architecture. The speaker will show how the changes to church buildings illuminate the social, cultural and religious issues of the time.

 7th November 2011


Professor Roy Alexander, University of Chester and Ashton Hayes Going Carbon Neutral Project

Professor Alexander will describe the experience of a Cheshire village on its journey towards carbon neutrality, examining the motivations that led to its launch in 2005, its progress to date and its plans for the future.

 5th December 2011


 By tradition it is the President?s privilege to decide the topic and shape of the evening, whether it is a lecture or some other format. The tradition is also to keep the topic and format secret until the meeting. We look forward to Mrs Mary Rollings? contribution with keen expectation of an interesting evening

 6th February 2012


 Dr Adrian Jarvis, Liverpool University

Dr Jarvis is a historian with a particular interest in nineteenth century port engineering and management. He will discuss the men and the commercial and political forces shaping the ports in Victorian times.

 5th March 2012


 Dr Jerome de Groot, Manchester University

 Dr de Groot has a particular interest in the history and literature of the 17th Century. He will explore how this and other periods are reflected in historical fiction, and what moves writers and readers to try to reconstruct the past through the medium of the novel.

 2nd April 2012


Professor Diana Donald, Manchester Metropolitan University

Professor Donald will show Bewick's insights into nature and rural society at the time of the French Revolution, and of great changes in the countryside.

Lectures 2010-11:

Monday 4th October 2010 

From Seafaring to Saving Lives, a World-Wide History

Professor Phil Gould, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine


Monday 1st November 2010

Hardman?s Faces and Places

Sara Burdett, Project Curator, Mr Hardman?s House and Photographic Studio

The speaker set up the National Trust's small museum in this portrait and landscape photographer's house and studio in Rodney Street, Liverpool.


Monday 6th December 2010

Justice and the Young

Frances Done, Chair of the Government?s Youth Justice Board


Monday 7th February 2011  

Galileo and the Aliens ? a History

Dr Stephen Pumfrey, Lancaster University

The speaker will trace humanity's attitude to imagined extra terrestrials from 700 BC to the present day. 


 Monday 7th March  2011

The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Gaskell

Alan Shelston, of the John Rylands Library, formerly of Manchester University

As well as being a first rate novelist, Mrs Gaskell wrote lively and amusing letters. It will also feature Mrs Gaskell's connections with Warrington, where her huband was for a time the Unitarian minister.  


Monday 4th April 2011

Ford Madox Brown, Painter of Society

Rebecca Milner, Curator of Fine Art, Manchester City Gallery

The speaker will be responsible for the major exhibition of Madox Brown's work in Manchester in 2011. His notable works include the murals in the Manchester Town Hall. 

Lectures 2009-10:

Monday, 5th October 2009 at 7.30 p.m.
Saint Helena; small island, big history
New President's address by David Barlow, M.Phil.

Monday,  2nd November 2009 at 7.30 p.m.
Poetry, Passion and the Pre-Raphaelites
Michael Howard MA FRSA, Manchester Metropolitan University 
Monday 7th December 2009 at 7.30 p.m.
EMMA and ALICE ? understanding processes in physics and biology
Dr Susan Smith, Head of Accelerator Physics, Daresbury  Laboratory
Monday 1st February 2010  at 7.30 p.m.
The Future for Care
Dame Jo Williams DBE, Care Quality Commissioner, former chief of Mencap 
Monday March 1st 2010 at 7.30 p.m.
Annie Horniman, Theatre Pioneer
Professor Viv Gardner, Manchester University 
Monday 12th April 2010 AGM at 7.15 followed by speaker at 7.30 p.m.
Affordable Housing  
Mike Coates, former Housing Association Chief Executive

Lectures 2008 - 2009

Nick Cox, Principal Clarinet, Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
The Thinking Reed.

Peter Boyd, Collections Manager, Shrewsbury Museum
Charles Darwin, the Shrewsbury Connection.

Professor Frank O?Gorman, University of Manchester
George III, his personality and policies.

Jim Hancock, former Political Editor, BBC North West
Thirty years reporting politics.

Professor Charles Esdaile, University of Liverpool
Rewriting Napoleon.

Professor Dinah Birch, University of Liverpool
The eye of the gazer: what Charlotte Bronte sees?

Lectures 2007 ? 2008

Glyn Roberts, Presidential Address
It?s the economy, stupid.

Lord Ron Oxburgh, former Rector of Imperial College, London, past Chairman of Shell UK
Where on earth shall we find enough energy?

Professor Jeremy Tambling, University of Manchester
Poetry makes things happen; what happens in W H Auden?

John Doughty, University of Keele
The trial of Lancashire witches: ?Not guilty?.

Martin Wright, former Director, The Howard League for Penal Reform
Restoring respect for justice; victims, offenders and the community.

Dr Elspeth Graham, Liverpool John Moores University
Shakespeare: Cockpit in the North.


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