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Keep up-to-date with the latest news from the Lit & Phil and its affiliates here. We are also on social media so be sure to follow us using the links at the bottom of the page.

2018

 

The new law on Data Protection (General Data Protection Policy – GDPR) comes into effect on 25 May 2018, which replaces the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC and is designed “to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe, to protect and empower all EU citizens’ data privacy and to reshape the way organizations across the region approach data privacy”. 

 

As a member of the Lit & Phil, we need to send you information about upcoming events and important details about your subscription and payments. This means that by doing so, we are fulfilling our obligation to you as a member of the Society and do not require positive consent to contact you within the scope of your membership (see contractual reasons for data processing in our full policy document). Communication will generally be by email, post, or phone, and will always be related to Lit & Phil information. Your details will never be passed to a third party.

 

Even though we do not need to you opt-in at present due the nature of our data processing, the introduction of GDPR provides us with the opportunity to make you aware of our privacy policy and to give you the chance to update your details so that we can make sure any data we hold is accurate. You can access our Data Privacy Notice and the more detailed Data Protection & Retention Policy the Lit & Phil website under ‘Resources’. You will also be able to review the personal data we hold for you and update it, if necessary, on your website account user area where you will also find a record of your interactions with the society (bookings, transactions and emails). We will be in touch with members when the full updating features go live.

 
We are happy to announce that the Manchester Lecture will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday 21 June 2018 at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry (MSI). This year it is in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the creation of the world's first stored-program computer on 21 June 1948 at the University of Manchester. The computer is known as 'The Baby' and a replica of it is located at MSI.

The Lecture, to be delivered by Dr James Sumner from the Centre for the History of Science Technology and Medicine at the University of Manchester, is entitled 'Bringing up Baby: establishing and promoting computers in Manchester'. There will be an introduction by Dame Mary Archer DBE, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Science Museum Group which includes MSI. Additionally, The Museum of Science and Industry Computing Volunteers will be running the replica machine in the afternoon between 2 and 4 p.m. and also between 6 and 7 p.m. Additionally, Professor Jim Miles from the University of Manchester and some of his students will be demonstrating modern day computing in the afternoon.

Members will have the option to book for supper which will be served between 6 and 7 p.m. at MSI. We are currently awaiting the final details and as soon as everything is completed, the booking will go live so be sure to check your emails and the website for updates.

 

2017

Arts Section Theatre Group

20th December, 2017

The Arts Section are proposing a new theatre-going group for Lit & Phil members who would like to attend performances together with a pre-performance talk and discussion accompanied by refreshments at the Lit & Phil meeting space. At this stage, there are plans for a pilot event so we are asking members to let us know by email or phone whether they would be interested in attending the pilot event before we procure group tickets.

The first event will take place around a performance of The Cherry Orchard at the Royal Exchange Theatre on 26 April 2018, with the pre-performance meet-up starting at 12.45 p.m. and the performance at 2.30 p.m.

The response has been great so far and we will be assessing the attendance numbers for the first Theatre Group outing in early January so we can reserve the right amount of tickets and will contact interested parties shortly thereafter to confirm payment information.

Even if you cannot attend the first performance but would like to attend other group outings, please do register your interest with the office.

For more information about the idea behind the group and how it will work, please see a letter from the Chair of the Arts Section, Patricia McWilliam-Fowler, that members should have received via email. If you are interested in attending the first event, please let the office know as soon as possible.

Office Closure over Christmas

12th December, 2017

 

The Lit & Phil office will be closed over the Christmas and New Year period, starting at 5 p.m. on Thursday 21 December 2017 and reopening at 9 a.m. on Thursday 4 January 2018.

Members can still book for lectures on the website over the festive period, but please be aware that any email or phone queries will only be answered upon reopening.

We would like to take this opportunity to wish all members of the Lit & Phil an enjoyable Christmas and a peaceful New Year. We look forward to seeing you when lectures start again at the end of January 2018.

 

We would like to invite members new and old to our Christmas drop-ins at the society’s offices on Deansgate. These will be a chance for members to socialise with each other, meet members of Council and the Lit & Phil staff, as well as see our newly refurbished meeting space. There will be wine, soft drinks and mince pies plus savoury nibbles available.

There will be two drop-in opportunities during the daytime so that it is possible to combine our festive meet-up with any shopping or visits to the Christmas markets at a time when the commute into Manchester may be easier than for our evening events. The two dates and times are:
 

Monday 11 December between 14.00 and 16.00
Thursday 14 December between 11.00 and 13.00

 

 

If you have not yet paid a visit to our offices, the address is:

5th Floor, Church House
90 Deansgate
Manchester
M3 2GP
 

The entrance to the building is located between the Bella Italia restaurant, on the corner of St Mary's Street, and a Toni & Guy hairdressers. There is an elevator to the 5th Floor and the buzzer for the Lit & Phil is situated to the right as you exit the lift.

We hope you will be able to join us for a drink, a mince pie and a chat. Please let the office know which day you intend to come so that we can prepare accordingly, just click here to send an email.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

 

Lit & Phil Member Survey

15th November, 2017

The Lit & Phil Council would like hear from members regarding the annual programme and event arrangements. We want to be sure that we are offering a broad and flexible range of meetings, so that we can encourage members to attend as many events as possible and also attract new members. We have already had over 40 replies to the survey so far, so we would like to thank those who have already completed it. If you haven't then you may be interested in the sorts of ideas other members have been putting forward such as:

  • Different venues
  • Earlier (and later) timings

  • Longer (and shorter) lectures

  • More time for questions

  • Food – buffet; two-course meal, as currently; pre-lecture food

  • More extramural visits

  • Easier booking and checking-in

The list could go on! And we would like it to with your help. The society currently has over 400 members and we would really like to hear from as many as possible on how you would like our Society to develop so please do complete the survey if you have not done so already.

You can now fill in the questions online at this link [please note that you must logged in to the website as the page is only available to members of the society], or download and fill in the Word document sent to you via email, or complete a paper copy with your tea and coffee before forthcoming lectures. The deadline for the second round is Monday 11 December 2017.

We want you take this opportunity to influence any changes we will make after the survey results are analysed. We will, of course, be producing a report to all members on what the survey reveals and the actions we will take as a result.

We look forward to hearing from you!

 

The new 2017/18 season is fast approaching, but before we reveal the new Programme we are taking a look back on the past year's events to see what gave us food for thought in 2016 and 2017.

2016/17 Social Philosophy Lectures

The first lecture arranged by the Social Philosophy committee was given in September by Professor Will Kaufman who has the chair in American Literature and Culture at the University of Central Lancashire and is recognised as the world's leading authority on Woody Guthrie. He spoke with great clarity under the title The Dirty Thirties: Woody Guthrie, the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression illustrating one of the most turbulent times in American history by singing the songs of Woody Guthrie while accompanying himself on guitar. 

 

In November Richard Morris, Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at the University of Huddersfield and biographer of both Guy Gibson and Leonard Cheshire, addressed members on Manchester, Air Power and the Great War. He provided a most interesting account of the distinctive part Manchester played in the development of the Royal Air Force, compared the city with other early centres of aeronautical engineering and discussed the key factors that shaped the city's contribution to the emergence of air power.

February brought Mrs Angela Shackleton Bebb, great-niece of Sir Ernest Shackleton, who spoke about Shackleton, Endurance and the Remarkable Voyage of the James Caird. She told her audience of her ancestor's family life, the individual characters of some members of the expedition and of the remarkable seamanship which enabled Shackleton to navigate the ship's boat, the James Caird, across hundreds of miles of ocean to save his men. Mrs Bebb brought with her a number of original artefacts, pictures and notebooks, and told her story with wit and charm.  

A change of direction in April brought Michael Powell, the Librarian of Chetham's Library, who talked under the title In the Labyrinth: John Dee in Manchester. This was very well received with just the right balance of concentration on John Dee's years in Manchester while not omitting more general information on his earlier life in the court of Queen Elizabeth.

Early May saw Professor Julian Thomas and Halls of the Dead: Discoveries from an Archaeological Dig which is on-going at Dorstone Hill in Herefordshire. Professor Thomas spoke eloquently and in detail about this University of Manchester dig. He explained its place within Neolithic Europe as well as the significance of 'halls of the living' being transformed into 'halls of the dead'. 

Late May saw a last-minute change of lecturer when Dr Elizabeth Yardley was unable to make her planned visit but we were delighted to welcome instead her colleague Emma Kelly who talked about A Tale of Two Districts': Criminological Ethnography Then and Now.  Looking at the history of criminology as an academic enterprise the talk showed how criminological research is undertaken moving from Chicago to England and then Dublin. She described her own doctoral work in an immersed sociological study where she worked with youth gangs in the Republic of Ireland.

 

The new 2017/18 season is fast approaching, but before we reveal the new Programme we are taking a look back on the past year's events to see what gave us food for thought in 2016 and 2017.

2016/17 Science & Technology Lectures

The lecture series started early (8th September) to take advantage of the agronomist Jonathan Gressel’s presence in the UK for an editorial board meeting. Professor Gressel, of the Weizmann Institute in Israel, spoke to Hammering Two New Nails in Malthus’ Coffin with Genetic Engineering. He explained how modern crops were the result of millennia of selective breeding, and now lacked the genes that could be manipulated for desirable qualities: consequently, major strain improvement could come only from the transfer of genes from other organisms (“horizontal transfer”). He gave a number of examples where strains were improved for nutrition and pest resistance. He pointed out that the molecular changes involved in conventional plant breeding (e.g. with irradiation of seeds) were bigger than the targeted changes to produce transgenics, and that horizontal transfer took place in Nature anyway.

Professor Stephen Scott (18th October), the discoverer (as a PhD student) of periodic reactions in the gas phase comparable to the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction in solution, spoke about 35 Years of Chaos – Have we learned anything important? He concentrated on his own gas-phase work and reminded us how powerful paper-and-pencil methods had become just before high-powered desktop computing became generally available.

Professor Joanna Haigh, CBE FRS (Imperial College), talked on Climate Change on 1st December. She gave a masterly treatment of the basic physics involved in the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide and other gases, and an objective account of anthropogenic changes. There was a clear comparison of the measured emission spectrum of the earth with the theoretical curve for a black body at 21oC. The measured spectrum had a large “bite” around 670 cm-1 corresponding to the bending vibration of CO2, and smaller bites corresponding to methane. Emission did not fall to zero at 670 cm-1, refuting climate sceptic arguments that the earth’s atmosphere is already black at this wavelength, and will not respond to additional CO2. Despite the intrinsic difficulty of the subject, Professor Haigh held her audience until the end of her lecture, after which there was a protracted, interested and cordial question session.

Dr. Eamonn Kerins (Jodrell Bank) displayed some of the most beautiful slides of the year. In his talk on 13th February about An Astrophysicists Guide to Curtain Twitching – the hunt for exoplanets and our interstellar neighbours he described the four methods used, all of which depended on very precise measurements of a star’s luminosity. The most powerful method (gravitational lensing, involving the simultaneous observation of 108 pairs of stars, required major advances in IT before it became practical.  The work could only be carried out at the Southern Observatory in the Andes, where there was no light pollution and the air was very dry. It turns out that many exoplanets can be detected, some orbiting two stars rather than one:  there are even planets not attached to a particular star. The idea that the Earth is a uniquely fitted for the evolution of Life is wrong.  Enrico Fermi’s question about extra-terrestrial conscious life – “Where are they?” now requires an answer, since Fermi estimated that it would take only a few million years for an advanced civilisation to traverse the Milky Way.  After the talk, Dr Kerins had to be rescued from a crowd of enthusiastic members and guests who seemed able to ask unlimited numbers of friendly questions.

Mr. Robert Harris, the acoustic designer of Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall, talked on 30th March on The Art and Science of Concert Hall and Opera House Design. Surprisingly, the dominant phenomenon in the experience of sound in a concert setting is reflection, rather than diffraction (middle C has a wavelength of ~1.3 m).  Consequently it is possible to build a model of a concert hall with reflective surfaces and use light to see how sound gets to the listener; the listener’s orientation is also, of course, important.  It is also now possible for the dimensions and surface reflectivity of a hall to be fed into modelling program: sound modified by this program, when played back in an acoustically-dead, cork-lined room reproduced the sound heard in the modelled hall. The acoustics of the Leipzig Gewandthaus, destroyed in WWII, were confirmed to be nearly perfect for orchestral music in this way. The various uses to which a hall was put imposed conflicting requirements: to get clarity and intelligibility of speech you needed a dead acoustic, but to get the “immersion in sound” effect from an orchestra reverberance is needed. These conflicting requirements were summarised in the aphorism “an art is a science with more than seven variables”, and removable acoustic panels were one solution to complex demands. The speaker then went on to describe how the “shoebox” shape was best for opera,  the “vineyard” shape for orchestral music, but the vogue for seating audiences behind the orchestra gave them a poor acoustic experience. 

Professor Harry Brumer (University of British Columbia) was the speaker on 27th April, with a profusely illustrated talk on Getting by with a Little Help from my Friends: the key role of symbiotic human gut microbes in health. The human genome contains relatively few genes encoding carbohydrate-degrading enzymes: those that we do possess are largely concerned with degrading starch. Many of the complex structural polysaccharides in fruits and vegetables do in fact contribute to nutrition, thanks to symbiotic microbes in the lower gut. These microbes are anaerobes, and are consequently difficult to culture, which is why they have only recently been recognised.  The general importance of a healthy microbial ecosystem in the gut has long been recognised, but exaggerated claims, even for increased serotonin (hence the title), have not until now been supported by mechanisms. The chemical structures of plant polysaccharides can be very diverse and complex, and it is thought that gut bacteria are very highly specialised. The speaker described his work, as part of a consortium, on a single locus in Bacteroides ovatus. The locus, XyGUL, was essential for hydrolysing a particular xyloglucan found in Solanaceae (tomatoes, peppers, etc), and coded for eight glycohydrolases, including a membrane-bound enzyme facing extracellularly, which made the initial cut in the macromolecule, and a couple of transport/binding proteins. The individual sugars are disproportionated to short-chain fatty acids by the microbes, and then absorbed by the host. Xyloglucan can contribute 10% of calories.

DNA and the Settlement of Europe was the title of the talk given by Professor Martin Richards (University of Huddersfield) on May 16. Archaeogenetics is the application of molecular genetics to the study of the human past, and has had three phases. The first used classical markers such as blood groups, and gave the first indications of a poor correlation between language and genetic origin, when the Icelanders were shown to have blood group frequencies typical of the NW British Isles, rather than Norway. The second used modern DNA techniques with non-recombining markers in living populations, the Y chromosome in the male line and mitochondrial DNA in the female. The mitochondria are the energy powerhouses of the cell, and whereas an egg will contain hundreds, a spermatozoon contains only a handful: any that do get incorporated into the fertilised egg are recognised and destroyed. For the last decade the automation of DNA sequencing, which had made it possible to re sequence human genomes in a few days, and the development of techniques for extracting ancient DNA, have made it possible to sequence archaeological specimens. mtDNA sequences had shown that all non-African humans derived  from a single African lineage L3, 70,000 years ago (the “mitochondrial Eve” from who all humans derived was 200,000 years ago). L3 first moved out of Africa to the Gulf coast and Mesopotamia, where it remained for 15,000 years before sending descendants into South Asia, Near East and Europe, and back into Egypt. The L3 line interbred with Neanderthals before the split between South/East and West Eurasians. Genome-wide analysis suggests there were indigenous Europeans before the Neolithic migrations, and that the Saami (Lapps) and Basques are significantly derived from them.  When Y chromosomes are examined, a group appears north of the Black Sea which migrates north and west, and then south and east, and has been correlated with male-dominated Indo-Europeans.

 

 

The new 2017/18 season is fast approaching, but before we reveal the new Programme we are taking a look back on the past year's events to see what gave us food for thought in 2016 and 2017.

2016/17 Arts Lectures

For the first lecture, Architecture is Political, in October, Professor Albena Yaneva explored the intriguing links between architecture and politics. Professor Yaneva explained that her research crossed many boundaries including science studies and political philosophy. Her talk showed how politics has an influence on so many parts of our lives – from mundane objects such as the safety belt in our cars to the arrangement of a classroom; the height of a bridge or iconic skyscrapers, and she illustrated her talk with case studies including the new Birmingham New Street Train Station and the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.

Early Maps of ‘Real’ Lancashire, and Their Makers was the fascinating lecture in November given by Dr Ian Saunders, who has collected and researched antique maps since 1984, and recently helped to discover an unknown 1604 map in a Manchester Library. He traced the story of English county mapmaking and of the people involved, over many centuries, starting with Christopher Saxton in the 1570s; then looking at 18th century improvements as modern methods of mapmaking were being established and taking the audience through a myriad cartographic changes to what he called a perfection “of sorts” in the Victorian era, when the Ordnance Survey began to map the area in the 1840s.

When Edouard Manet’s painting Olympia was first exhibited in 1865 at the Paris Salon, he found himself once again at the centre of controversy.  His choice of a prostitute for his subject outraged public and critics alike.  But in his lecture 1865: European Painting in Transition to Modernism, in November, art historian Dr Colin Bailey highlighted the significance of Olympia as a pivotal work in the history of art, and how Manet was a key player in the decade that gave the world Impressionism, for he exerted great influence in Paris on other young painters such as Monet, Renoir, Cezanne and Pissarro.   These developments in France had an influence on British painters and the evolving Pre-Raphaelite school.  Dr Bailey’s illustrations included Ford Madox Brown’s oil painting Work, which was later to feature in his murals in Manchester Town Hall.

The Lecture with Recital given by Simon Rees and Luke Starkey in February, provided a feast of fascinating information, delightful music and beautiful paintings, and was greatly enjoyed by the audience.   Simon Rees, writer, lecturer on music and art, traced the history of the lute from the roving horsemen of the Asian Steppes who created portable instruments with materials to hand, and its further development along the Silk Road and into Europe.   The beautiful sound and shape of lutes inspired Western composers and artists through the 14th to 18th centuries.  Paintings were shown, such as Caravaggio's portrait of a lutenist, many of which enabled modern lute-makers to re-create authentic period instruments. Professional lutenist Luke Starkey explained the complex history of stringing and the unique written form of compositions, understandable even today only by lute players.   He then played examples of compositions from each period of the paintings.

The Recording Britain lecture in March by Gill Saunders , from the Victoria and Albert Museum, was an account of the country in the early years of the Second World War as portrayed by artists of the time. Partly a morale-booster, this unique documentary project aimed to capture Britain at a time when lives, landscapes and precious buildings were under threat as change stalked the land.   Many of the works sought to freeze the country in time – with nostalgic images where some artists chose to exclude the modern world’s equipment such as electricity pylons and telegraph poles and wires, preferring instead to show a more traditional picture of bucolic country charm – though some presented a somewhat gloomy picture of Manchester, and other towns such as Rochdale and Oldham.

 

The last Arts event of the 2016/17 Season in May was a departure from the usual lecture pattern – a “Question Time” style discussion panel to debate: Powerhouse or Poorhouse: What is the future for the Arts in Manchester?  

The event was chaired by Felicity Goodey CBE and the Panel comprised  Wyllie Longmore, Nick Merriman, Dave Moutrey,  David Thacker and Eleanor Underhill.  You can learn more about them from their profiles below. 

This lively debate was held at the newly opened Stoller Hall, at Chetham’s School of Music, with special guest Sir Norman Stoller, who funded the Hall, amongst members of the audience. The event was preceded by an excellent short performance by students from Chetham’s, and afterwards a buffet supper enabled members of the audience to mingle with the guest members of the panel, to continue the discussion.

The idea for the discussion was triggered by the Northern Powerhouse proposal as well as an article by a distinguished Art critic who wondered if Manchester really needed any more culture, and indeed the panel not only gave impassioned arguments in favour of supporting more arts ventures in Manchester and the wider region–including other cities such as Liverpool and Newcastle–but also suggestions as to how this should take shape. The stimulating debate looked at issues such as Arts funding being very London-centric – and how Manchester and the other northern regions might stem this flow;  how to redress the consequences of Arts education in schools being run down; and how to reach out to engage some in the community who often feel that the Arts is a charmed circle that excludes them.

There were certainly points of disagreement and challenge within the panel but they were united in their belief to continue the work to keep the Arts accessible to all regardless of personal circumstances; to encourage further engagement in the community; and to support arts at the grassroots level as well as the better-funded or higher culture organisations. We hope that all those that attended the debate took these important points away with them to consider their future endeavours, whether as visitors, performers or organisers.

Photos from the event can be viewed here: Event Photos.


Panel Profiles



Chair – Felicity Goodey CBE

Felicity Goodey shaped and led the project which has relocated a major part of the BBC from London to Salford and the North of England.  She headed the team which won a fiercely contested bid for the BBC and on the back of it created ‘mediacity’, the biggest purpose built digital media centre in the UK. She led the team which designed, built and ran The Lowry, an international theatre and arts complex which has helped attract £1.5 billion private investment to Greater Manchester and contributes more than £ 29 million to the local economy annually. She set up and chaired the UKs largest urban regeneration company, Central Salford, which secured a further  £2.5 billion of private sector investment in 5 years. She was a founder director of the Northwest Development Agency, chairing the Tourism team which helped turn the region into a £ 14.5 billion tourism destination; founded and chaired the successful Cultural Consortium for the Northwest and was awarded a CBE for services to regeneration and the arts.

Her career began with the BBC. Experience as a senior correspondent specialising in industry and politics, together with a business career in media and education services, provided the foundations for developing and leading major public/private projects.  She currently chairs the Buxton Festival described by the Metropolitan Opera of New York as ‘One of Europe’s great little unmissable European Opera Festivals’; and by the Observer as ‘' A happy marriage of music , opera and books’!



Wyllie Longmore

Wyllie Longmore was born in Jamaica and has been resident in England since 1961.  He trained at the Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama as an actor and a teacher and both these disciplines have informed his working life.

As an actor he has worked in Theatre in Education, in rep across the country and at the Royal National Theatre. He also has considerable experience in radio and television and as a director.

As a teacher he has worked in school, with youth and community groups, in drama schools and in the Department of Drama at Manchester University. He was the first Head of Acting at The Arden School of Theatre, a post he held from 1991 - 2002.

He has been an External Examiner at Salford and Thames Valley Universities; an advisor for the Arts Council and a member of ACE Regional Council Northwest from 2008 - 2012. He was Chair of Contact from 1997 - 2007 and has served on the boards of the Royal Exchange Theatre and the Greater Manchester Arts Centre (HOME).  He currently chairs PANDA (Performing Arts Network and Development Agency) in Manchester.



Dr Nick Merriman

Nick Merriman was appointed as Director of the Manchester Museum in March 2006. Since then he has focused its mission on promoting understanding between cultures and working towards a sustainable world and has overseen the refurbishment of most of the Museum’s permanent galleries. This, together with a major programme of public engagement, has led to a doubling of the Museum’s visitor numbers to 450,000 a year.

Prior to moving to Manchester, Nick Merriman was Director of Museums & Collections, and Reader in Museum Studies, at University College London, for 8 years. During this time, he developed new courses in museum and heritage studies, and created a new university-wide museum service. From 2004-6 he was a part time Fellow on the Clore Leadership Programme, undertaking a bespoke scheme of training and development in cultural leadership.

Nick began his career at the Museum of London in 1986, as Curator of Prehistory and subsequently Head of the Department of Early London History and Collections. While there, he led a pioneering project called ‘The Peopling of London’ which told the story of the capital’s cultural diversity from ancient times to the present. He studied archaeology at Cambridge University, and his PhD, on widening participation in museums, was published as ‘Beyond The Glass Case’. He has published widely on museum studies topics, was Chair of the International Council of Museums (UK) from 2001-2004, President of the Council for British Archaeology from 2005-2008, Chair of the University Museums Group from 2009-2013, Convenor of the Museums Association’s Ethics Committee 2008-2014 and is currently Chair of the Collections Trust.



Dave Moutrey

Dave Moutrey is Chief Executive and Director of HOME,

formed from the merger of Cornerhouse and Library Theatre Company in 2012 and he led the project to create the new purpose built venue that opened a year ago in May 2015.

HOME includes 5 cinema screens, education spaces, digital production and broadcast facilities, a 500 seat theatre, 150 seat flexible theatre, 500m2 gallery space, café bar, restaurant, offices and other ancillary spaces consistent with a production centre. It is a ‘making place’, providing new opportunities for artists and audiences to create work in a different way together, as well as a social and cultural hub.

Throughout his career, Dave has been involved in the leadership, management and marketing of arts organisations. He played a leading role in establishing the Cinema Arts Network, a national network of cross artform venues; spent eight years as Chief Executive of Arts About Manchester (now the Audience Agency); worked for two years as Marketing Director for City of Drama; and managed Abraham Moss Theatre for six years. Dave is also a qualified drama teacher and was until recently a practicing artist and theatre producer, with experience of over 30 community productions with Greater Manchester-based groups.

Dave is a Fellow for the Royal Society of Arts, a member of the Chartered Management Institute and a member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.



David Thacker

David Thacker was Artistic Director of the Octagon Theatre Bolton from 2009 until 2015 when he stepped down to take up the post of Professor of Theatre at the University of Bolton, taking on the new role of Associate Artistic Director at the Octagon. 

David has been an extraordinarily prolific director during his time at the Octagon directing thirty one productions as Artistic Director and three since as Associate Artistic Director.

During this time the Octagon has enhanced its regional and national reputation for the quality of its work. At this year's Manchester Theatre Awards his productions (including 'An Enemy of the People' and 'A View from the Bridge') received six awards including, all the major acting awards (Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Ensemble) and Best Production (An Enemy of the People). This is the first time that any director has achieved this in the history of the Manchester Theatre Awards and their predecessor, The Manchester Evening News Awards. David Thacker also received a personal achievement award for his outstanding achievements as Artistic Director.

David's first major role in British theatre was as Artistic Director of the Duke's Playhouse, Lancaster - at the time the youngest Artistic Director in the country. His success there led him to be appointed as Director of the Young Vic. During that time he was well known for his accessible and contemporary productions of Shakespeare and developed his well-documented close relationship with Arthur Miller, directing eleven of his plays in fifteen productions at the Young Vic, the National Theatre, the Octagon Theatre Bolton, in the USA, Israel and for the BBC.

From the Young Vic he moved to the RSC as Director-in-Residence where he directed nine productions including 'Pericles' for which he was awarded two Olivier Awards.

He then moved into television drama directing over 30 television films for the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and WGBH Boston in the USA, including his critically acclaimed film of 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' and 'Faith' set in the 1985/5 Miners' Strike.



Eleanor Underhill

Eleanor Underhill works for the National Trust as the General Manager of Quarry Bank near Wilmslow, the site of one of the first cotton mills in the country, now run as a heritage site and visitor attraction. She’s worked for the National Trust for seven years.  Before this Eleanor worked in the local newspaper business, initially in advertising and operational roles, and latterly as the Managing Director of the Cheshire Guardian Series; but the demise of the local newspaper industry led her to seek a career change. Eleanor initially studied History at York University and is now relishing her involvement in a site of such historic importance, at an exciting time in its development, with a major £10m Heritage Lottery Funded project currently being delivered on site.