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Oh deer, oh deer, sleigh it isn't so — that's a wrap on an un-fir-gettable 2021!

A big thank you to all of you who have attended our events in 2021; whether online, or in-person. 

But wait—there’s much myrrh to come...

If you haven't yet had a look at some of the tree-mendous events we have planned for 2022, then you can browse our Spring 2022 programme here. Yule be sorry if you miss out!

We hope that you enjoy the festive period.

See you in 2022!

Rachel, Aude, and Will from the Lit & Phil Office


*We''ll be closed from 5pm on Wednesday 22nd December for the festive period, and will re-open on Tuesday 4th January 2022*

Members can now book for all of our Spring term events - so why not join today?


Members enjoy priority booking and can book tickets to any of our Spring term events from today, Wednesday 8th December.  Public booking opens on Wednesday 15th December.

Members get free* tickets and priority booking (*Digital members get free tickets to online events only).  We're now charging non-members to attend our events (currently £5.00 for online events and £8.00 for in-venue tickets, plus a booking fee) so now is a great time to join.



Member - £10.00 p/m

Joint Member (two people) - £16.00 p/m

Digital Member - £5.00 p/m

Student Member - £2.00 p/m

If you want to find out more about what is included in each membership type please see our website:

Q&A - Professor Eleanor Stride OBE

Professor Eleanor Stride is an award-winning scientist, who recently gave a talk on 'Engineering Bubbles for Targeted Drug Delivery'.


Q: Your CV is littered with qualifications and awards — a Philip Leverhulme Prize, The Royal Society Interface Award, an Engineering Medal at the Parliamentary Science, Engineering & Technology for Britain awards — but which part of your success are you the proudest of?

A: For me it’s the work that we’ve been doing that we’re now translating into the clinic – specifically for the treatment of pancreatic cancer and chronic infection.  The first time we saw a beneficial effect in human volunteer was incredibly exciting!


Q: How long have we been studying the use of microbubbles in cancer treatment? Have we realised the potential of this technology yet — or have we only scratched the surface?

A: We’ve definitely only scratched the surface!  The first paper published on using ultrasound to enhance drug delivery was published in 1981 and it’s only in the last 5 years that this method has started being tested clinically. 

There’s still a huge amount that we need to understand better in terms of fundamental science and that’s vital to make sure we’re using bubbles as safely and effectively as possible. The range of potential applications though is absolutely huge, encompassing neurological diseases, stroke and bacterial infections.


Q: What are the advantages of using microbubbles for targeted drug delivery? Conversely, does the process have any drawbacks? 

A: Microbubbles enable us to be much more precise in how we control when and where a drug is delivered because we can destroy them using focused ultrasound at a target site in the body. This greatly reduces the risk of side effects. We can image them non-invasively to check that they’re in the right place and the movement of the bubbles when we hit them with ultrasound helps to increase the depth to which the drug penetrates, which means we can use much lower doses. There is also increasing evidence that bubbles may stimulate the immune system which could be extremely important in a range of different applications.

The drawbacks of microbubbles are that they are quite fragile so we don’t have very long to complete the treatment. Also, because we have to use ultrasound, the procedure is more complicated than standard chemotherapy and that makes it more expensive.  


Q: Earlier this year we spoke to Professor Helen Gleeson from the University of Leeds about gender diversity in science. Helen said that there is still work to be done to encourage greater diversity within physics.  In 2016, you were recognised as one of the Top 50 Women in Engineering. Is the engineering industry now more diverse — or, like with Helen’s experience — is there still work to be done? If so, what should be done to increase accessibility for women who want to work in engineering?

A: There have definitely been improvements in some areas, certainly the number of female students applying to do Engineering, but it’s far from 50:50 and we still have significant problems both in terms of attracting new engineers and losing them after they complete their first degree or even a PhD.

I think there are several things that need to happen. The first is looking at how science is taught in schools and making sure we do a better job of explaining what engineering actually is.

A lot of people still think it’s something do with engines and “for boys.” There are lots of really fantastic initiatives out there, but we need to keep up the momentum. The problem of retaining talented engineers really worries me. A lot of my students (male and female) look at the work/life balance, salary and working conditions offered by jobs in Engineering and turn away. I find that really surprising given the incredible job satisfaction that Engineering has to offer and the very high pressures that e.g. lawyers or bankers have to work under; but there’s clearly a big problem and we need to fix it.

Engineers are going to become more and more important as we tackle global issues such as climate change and we need to make it something that talented young people want to do.


Q: What do you have planned for the future? What are you currently researching?

A: We’re very much hoping to run several clinical trials in the next couple of years. We’ve been badly set back by COVID but hopefully we’ll back on track soon. We’ve also recently started a major new program on developing new antimicrobial therapies.


Many thanks to Professor Eleanor Stride for taking the time to answer these questions and, of course, for her fantastic lecture!  A recording of her talk is available to members (only) to watch only.  If you're not yet a member, why not join today for access to the recordings of selected lectures from our Autumn 2021 term.

We have some truly fantastic speakers lined up in the Spring term, and we can't wait to tell you more about what's coming up!


The first event takes place on 10th January 2022.

If you're not yet a member, join our mailing list for exclusive updates.



Q&A - Professor Michael Wood

We're always grateful to speakers who are able to spend some time with us before an event to answer some questions put to them by Will Stonier, our Events and Development Administrator.

We'd like to share a couple of those Q&A sessions with you over the next week.

First up: Professor Michael Wood, who recently gave a talk on 'The Beginnings of Shakespeare - New Finds and Fresh Thoughts'.


Q: Where did your interest in Shakespeare begin? Was there a particular line, play, or sonnet that hooked you? 


A: At Manchester Grammar School: the school dramatic society was very active and we did the Tempest in my first year aged 11: I played assorted goddesses dogs and demons!  I was completely hooked: around the same time we saw the Olivier films – especially Hamlet with Jean Simmons. 


The ghost scene with William Walton’s music was just mind-blowing. To someone brought up in Wythenshawe, it was the gripping stories and the other-worldly power of the language. I’ll always be grateful to our wonderful and inspiring teachers Bert Parnaby and Brian Phythian, who directed us in plays, took us on trips to Stratford to see Shakespeare, and generally were the spirit guides to our younger selves. 



Q: What do you believe was the single biggest influence on a young Shakespeare? How does it manifest itself in his work? 


A: That’s a long story and there’s no one answer: that’s what I’ll be talking about on Wednesday!  


First: Family: As with anyone family is really important: his mother and father, his father’s rise to become mayor of Stratford only to be ruined financially;  


Second: Religion - he’s born at a crucial point in the Protestant Reformation. In the twenty years, or so before he was born there had been four official changes of religion: His parents obviously were born and brought up Catholic: he was born on the cusp of the new world and had a foot in both. The way forward wasn’t really resolved till the 1590s: so his generation are part of the change; the target generation. 


The third is politics, national and local: Warwickshire was a battleground for the struggle between the old Catholic community of the shire and the new Elizabethan powers that be, especially Elizabeth’s favourite, the  Protestant enforcer Robert Dudley: this struggle touched William’s family.  


Fourth is school: through which he discovered poetry: he had probably decided he wanted to be a poet before he left Stratford at some point in the 1580s.



Q: How has our understanding of Shakespeare changed over the past few decades?  Have older models of literary analysis — New Criticism, Textual, maybe even Biographical — been eclipsed? How do you personally prefer to contextualize his work? 


A: Older models have not been superseded I think they’ve all given something to the mix which these days is very rich indeed: some terrific biographies have come out this last twenty years.   


And the documentary discoveries continue:  I’ll be mentioning twenty new documents concerning his father’s various crises: they are not published in full yet but a summary came out in a new book this year. In terms of personal preference, I’m a historian so my approach is historical.  He’s made by his times and cannot be understood except through history - and that of course includes the twenty years or so before he was born. He’s a late Elizabethan. 



Q: As the English literary canon is constantly morphing, what case would you put forward that Shakespeare should continue to be taught throughout educational institutions? 


A: A big question! 


It is after all an extraordinary thing that where say the Book of Common Prayer and the Bible have been modernised, his plays remain as 16th-century texts in the forefront of public culture.  Things are gradually being cut back now, even in university English courses (eg. Old and Middle English, Langland and Chaucer, etc.) but he’s so important to our literary culture that I think he will stay at the centre of it for some time yet: his ‘difficulty' (language, ideas etc) after all is part of what makes him fascinating to study.  


And in today’s world of Me Too, BLM, LGBT, his texts are still capable of endless reinvention, although they are 16th-17th texts: I saw a production of Measure for Measure at the Donmar the week Brett Kavanaugh was being vetted for the Supreme Court and the scene with Angelo and Isabella said it all in the space of a few minutes. 



Q: Are you currently working on any exciting projects? What have you got planned for 2022? 


A: I’ve been working in China since 2013  where we have made a dozen films (though my last Shakespeare contributions were more recent: a chapter on his mother for Shakespeare’s Circle (Cambridge 2015) and an introduction to  Finding Shakespeare’s New Place (2016) 


Our last film was on the Chinese poet most compared with Shakespeare - Du Fu (China’s Greatest Poet, BBC 2020 with Sir Ian McKellen doing the readings) and I am currently (among other literary projects) writing a little travelogue with lovely photos and maps, following Du Fu’s life journey (especially the last fifteen years when he was constantly on the move with his family as a refugee in time of war). 


The journey describes a great arc from the Yellow River Plain up to Xi’an and  Qinzhou, over the mountains south to Chengdu, and then all the way down the Yangze through the Gorges to Changsha and Pingjiang where he died. A labour of love I guess you could call it. Needless to say, distant as he is in time and place, there will be comparisons with Shakespeare! 


Everything for me comes back to Shakespeare!


Many thanks to Professor Michael Wood for taking the time to answer these questions and, of course, for his fantastic lecture!  A recording of his talk will soon be available to watch online.  If you're not yet a member, why not join today for access to the recordings of selected lectures from our Autumn 2021 term.

Online Theatre Group

22nd November, 2021

The Lit & Phil Theatre Group is back, with Arthur Miller's The Crucible!


After a long delay, we have the pleasure of inviting you to take part in the next Manchester Lit & Phil Theatre Club venture. 

This is The Old Vic’s production of The Crucible by Arthur Miller with Richard Armitage in the role of John Procter. (You may recall seeing him in Uncle Vanya!)

You can read about the production here:

We will have a pre-theatre presentation by Tony Jackson on Thursday 25th November at 6.30 pm. The presentation and questions will last for about 40 minutes.

The production is available to rent from a digital theatre. The rent costs £7.99 for 48 hours.

You can rent the production here:

The post-play discussion will be on Monday, November 29 at 7.00 pm.

Please email if you would like to attend.

Please note that both the pre-theatre presentation and post-production chats will be taking place on Zoom.  We will send the links to you.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Best wishes,

Joanna and John Glenn (Members)

Ps. If you can’t make both the pre and post-production events, do take part anyway!



Main Image: Kilyan Sockalingum on Unsplash


Peter Whitaker’s funeral will be at Altrincham Crematorium at 3.15 p.m. on Friday 5th November.

Numbers are restricted because of Covid-19 precautions so attendance will be by invitation only. The President of the Lit & Phil has been invited to represent the Society.

It is intended that the funeral service will be streamed.

There will be a reception after the funeral at the Bowden Rooms, Altrincham. Members would be welcome.


Peter Whitaker

22nd October, 2021


We are sorry to have to announce the untimely death of our friend and colleague Peter Whitaker.


Peter had been an active member of our Society for twenty-two years. He and his wife, Sheila, have been regular attendees at our meetings and popular partners at post-event meals. Their warmth, intelligence and understanding perfectly reflected the social and educational balance that has characterised the Lit & Phil since its foundation.


Peter was a member, and latterly the Chair, of our Young People’s Section, organising imaginative lecture programmes and enthusiastically promoting the Society to a younger audience. It was under his leadership that young people were recruited to the Committee, bringing new energy and exuberance to the online events that helped carry us through the pandemic lockdown.


His business experience and skillset made him the obvious candidate to represent the Sections on our fledgling Strategic Planning Group. His analytical approach and problem solving were key factors in helping the Group set strategic targets for the Society, marking our path ahead through clearly defined objectives.


Clearly Peter was a man of many serious attributes: questioning, clear thinking, methodical and persistent, but my personal recollections will always be dominated by the kindness he showed me and the fun that we shared. He never quite admitted his role in nominating me for President and I never quite forgave him. But we didn’t need to.


He quickly leapt to my rescue when I was appointed – immediately in contact with a long list of suggestions, hints and requests. And that set off a summer of communication, wives at our sides, laughing together, enjoying the sunshine in each other’s gardens with a cool glass of wine to keep us focused. Together we sketched out plans, not quite for world domination, but for breathing new life into the organisation that we had both learned to love.


Sadly we shall now have to deliver those plans without his support.  We’ll do that well enough, but I shall miss him.


We all will.


Ian Cameron - President


Apply during September 2021 and enjoy 30 days of free membership


From September 2021, we will be offering four types of membership: Member; Joint Member; Student Member; and Digital (only) Member.

Any NEW members applying during September 2021 will now be offered 30 days of free membership!

The application process is really straightforward and you’ll have the opportunity to start enjoying your membership benefits right away.  So, what are you waiting for?  Apply today!


Join as a Member

Join as Joint Members (two people)

Join as a Student Member

Join as a Digital Member


*Please note that former members are not eligible for discounted subscription fees.  If you wish to reactivate a lapsed membership please contact the Office by email or on 07312 090503.

Looking back at 2020 - 2021

21st July, 2021


Manchester to Mars…

During the last programme year, we have not only travelled across Manchester—from Deansgate to our new home in Ancoats—but we have planet hopped in search of Dark Energy, travelled across the Arctic, and taken a trip down the Manchester Ship Canal.

We have travelled back in time to the Stuart period, to a Manchester divided by the Civil War. We visited Lucian Blaga’s Romania, and George Orwell’s Catalonia.

We also rewound the clock to 1781, as we told the stories of some of our most iconic members to coincide with the 240th birthday of the Manchester Lit & Phil!

Our events have explored a myriad of themes. From questions of health and living well in older age, as populations continue to get increasingly older, with Professor George Leeson. To the fin de siècle decadence of the 5th Marquis of Anglesey with Professor Vivien Gardner.

Unlikely connections were analysed, too. Professor Chris Griffiths analysed the relationship between art history and dermatology, and Paul Vallely compared the philanthropic perspectives of Aristotle, to those of modern hyper-wealthy public figures.

We also busted myths, as world-leading experts joined us to set the record straight on subjects they’re passionate about. ‘Cold weather makes arthritis worse!’ ‘It’s not that simple’, replied Professor Will Dixon. ‘Maths isn’t fun!’ ‘Not if you think about numbers like this!’, said Dr James Grime.

From Professors to Painters…

Though we looked to the past, we also looked to the future. In June, we were joined by Professor Helen Gleeson to explore the possibilities of liquid crystal elastomers, and how the possible applications can make technology only before seen in science fiction a future reality. And, for the annual Percival Lecture, Professor Karl Dayson analysed the tensions that higher education will have to navigate in the near future…

Over the last programme year, the Manchester Lit & Phil didn’t just offer a platform for academics and Professors, but we also hosted creatives, artists and musicians. The painter Brian Healey led us on a 16th Century thriller, uncovering the secrets behind Hans Holbein’s painting ‘The Ambassadors’. Tour guide and storyteller Mike Higginbottom joined the dots between architectural and social history, and sound artist Caro C traced her artistic lineage to Delia Derbyshire.

…We helped to continue the debate

What have we learnt? Considering the majority of us have been consigned to our homes over the past year—libraries have been shut, universities have been closed, and travel restrictions have been tight—last programme year left no stone unturned. From STEAM events to historical trysts and tales, the last programme year offered something for everyone.

Do you have a specific highlight from last year? Is there a particular speaker or event that really inspired you? Please feel free to share your views with the office, or post on the Member’s Forum.