Past news

Archived news items from the website are listed below.

If you have a query about any old newsletters from the society, please contact the office and they can consult the Society's archives.


Geoffrey Jessup

22nd August, 2018

We are sad to report to Members that Dr Geoffrey Jessup, who had been with the Society since 2003, passed away on 14 August. We have been contacted by Geoffrey's family who would like us to pass on details of his memorial service so that as many of his friends at the Lit & Phil can attend as possible. A service of thanksgiving for his life will be held on 29 August at 2 p.m. at Gatley URC, Elm Rd, Gatley SK8 4LY.

Geoffrey's family have asked that there be no flowers brought, but that if anyone wishes to make a donation in his memory, you may choose between the following three charities: MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières); St Ann's Hospice, Heald Green; and Barnabus Manchester.

His daughter has also indicated that if anyone attending from the Lit & Phil wishes to share memories of Geoffrey in the service, they would be welcome to, just as they would if they wish to share them over a cup of tea in the church halls after the service.

2018-19 Season Preview

26th July, 2018

Please make a diary note of upcoming events from the 2018-19 Season preview.

* Please note that lecture titles are subject to change and update before the final programme information is released later in the summer. Always check the Lit & Phil website for the latest details of lectures.



This year's programme was a good mixture of applications of science and technology to practical problems, one on the 'history' of science, and others with a medical bias.



The first lecture, on 16 October 2017, was given by Professor Robert Young, FRS, FREng who added the subtitle “When Science Meets Politics” to his original title 'Engineering with Graphene'. His talk illustrated the interplay between scientific discoveries, their application, and the desire of politicians to be seen to be “picking winners” in technology. Professor Young also described The National Graphene Institute, a collaborative graphene research facility of the University of Manchester, with £65m UK Government and EU funding, which was announced in 2011, with the remit of applying the material in engineering and technology. He expected key applications would be found in electronics and printed circuits, energy storage, biomedical devices, membranes and barriers, and composites and coatings, on which the speaker’s own research focussed. Incorporation of graphene can make plastic/epoxy electrically conducting, allowing composite materials to be used in aircraft components (lightning strikes), and electrical de-icing systems.

The next talk ‘Insect Control – ideas from the unexpected’ on 1 November 2017 was by Ian Whelan, who started his own company to promote Hedrin, the first silicone-based product against lice. This was based on an idea by a Guildford housewife, a physical insecticide acting against head lice, especially in children. It essentially leaves the insect in a shroud of the involatile silicone, and the lice suffocate, and dehydrate, or – if they need to lose water – burst. Previous insecticides had been based on killing the insect, and these proved to be persistent environmental pollutants. 

Whelan demonstrated that someone with an inquisitive mind and training in the 'university of life' can make a significant contribution in some of the intractable problems encountered in everyday life. He explained how he has been awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship to establish collaborations with various Greek scientists to explore the ethnobotany of the region, especially for insect control materials.

© David Hunter, 2017

On 4 December 2017 Mr Alan Segrott, the Bridge Project Engineer for the Mersey Gateway right up to the completion and opening of the crossing in October 2017, gave a timely lecture on this new crossing of the River Mersey.

The Mersey Gateway bridge is based on the cable stay design and has become necessary to relieve congestion on the existing Millennium suspension bridge over the Mersey at Runcorn; to promote local economic development, and provide a landmark that fits the environment. The project embraced a 1 km long cable-stayed bridge with approximately 8 km of new and upgraded highways. Mr Segrott made excellent use of photography, CGI, and time-lapsed video to show how the work progressed. The use of modularisation throughout the construction meant that the pouring of concrete could progress rapidly, as the moulds were moved along the project. 

On 12 February 2018 the subject returned to the life sciences with Professor Kevin Ryan, FRSE presenting a lecture entitled 'Cell Death in life - good and bad!'. The best-understood form of cell death is apoptosis which is usually a benign programmed event in which the dead cell is engulfed and digested by others. In addition to apoptosis, cells can die by two other mechanisms: autophagy, and necr(opt)osis. In contrast, autophagy (Greek, “self-eating”) allows for the orderly degradation and recycling of cell components. In disease, autophagy is an adaptive response to stress, which promotes survival, whereas in other cases it appears to promote cell death and morbidity. Work in the speaker’s own laboratory identified the genes turned on by the cell-death-inducing protein p53.

In normal animal tissue cells grow where and when they should, individual cells receiving both positive growth signals leading to proliferation and survival, and negative growth signals leading to differentiation or death. The balance is lost in cancerous tissue, in which negative signals suppressed, leaving a balance of positive signals. Targeting anti-cancer drugs to cell death works: the p53 family of proteins are strong promoters of apoptosis, and as the title of the lecture suggested cell death can be both good and bad - the challenge is to use it in the most beneficial way.

Professor Kenneth Letherman began his talk 'The Life and Work of James Clerk Maxwell', on 5 March 2018, by pointing out that although James Clerk Maxwell is a hero to many physicists he was not more widely recognised and celebrated until recently. During his short lifetime from 1831 to 1879 he made significant contributions to many fields including electromagnetism, molecular theory of gases, optics, astronomy, bridge structures, dimensional analysis and the principles of steam engine governors.

Professor Letherman took the audience through Maxwell's academic life and its successes, culminating in 1871 when Maxwell was appointed the first holder of an endowed chair in Experimental Physics in the University of Cambridge. This endowment culminated in the world famous Cavendish Laboratories. Maxwell died in November 1879, aged only 48 - the world lost a true scientific polymath.

The final talk of the year on 3 May 2018 was given by Professor Sir Stephen O’Rahilly FRS entitled ‘Why do we get fat and why does it make us ill?’. If energy intake in food exceeds that consumed by metabolic processes and physical exertion then it has to be stored. In practice this is achieved by laying down fat or adipose tissue: a particularly efficient form of storage. Prof. O’Rahilly preferred to talk of adiposity rather than obesity, because the latter carries potentially pejorative overtones. Adiposity is increasing in developed and many second world countries at an alarming rate and clearly this has to have an environmental and cultural basis.

Having discussed the causes of excess adiposity, O'Rahilly then pointed out that being overweight has adverse mechanical consequences contributing to osteoarthritis of the hips and knees, gastro-oesophageal acid reflux and sleep apnoea. It is also associated with a variety of common cancers, and at the metabolic level increased weight is associated with insulin resistance, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, atherogenic cardiovascular disease and fatty liver.

At the simplest level to avoid obesity and its consequences we need to avoid positive energy balance and weight gain. Restricting energy intake however is not easy particularly for those who have the misfortune to have inherited a major single gene mutation, (e.g. leptin deficient children), or alternatively, and more commonly, several genetic polymorphisms which predispose to increased appetite. While specific treatment is available for leptin deficiency no specific treatments are yet available for most genetic defects. Some drugs used in the treatment of diabetes do promote significant weight loss but most have not stood the test of time because of adverse effects. He concluded that for the time-being we are largely reliant on lifestyle measures supported by public health programmes to induce cultural change.

Art is social: ‘the visible meaning of a good picture’

Janet Wolff

The Society’s AGM was followed, in the usual fashion, by a lecture given by a distinguished member of the Society, this year by Janet Wolff, Professor Emerita of Cultural Sociology at the University of Manchester and author of many books on the sociology of art. The talk was this year organised jointly by Council and the Arts Section.

Wolff took as her starting point the debates generated by John Berger’s interpretation of Thomas Gainsborough’s painting, Mr And Mrs Andrews.  Berger had asked why the painting had been commissioned, and suggested motives other than aesthetic ones: ‘They are landowners and their proprietary attitude towards what surrounds them is visible in their stance and their expressions’. This provocative statement, in Berger’s landmark 1972 BBC series, ‘Ways of Seeing’, turned out to be a formative and influential intervention in art history and art criticism. In an erudite and superbly illustrated account, Wolff explored how the history of modern western art has conventionally been seen as a sequence of styles and movements: Realism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Cubism, Futurism, Expressionism and Abstract Art; likewise as a chronology of great artists, each of them achieving a kind of revolution in art. She showed how, in recent years, this linear account of ‘great movements’ and ‘great artists’ has been supplemented – and questioned – by sociologists and social historians of art, who have argued that it is not possible to understand aesthetic developments without paying attention to social factors: contracts and commissions, museums and galleries, dealers and critics, and so on. This led her to consider the difference a social history of art has made to the story of art in the modern period, and what the implications might be for perennial questions of beauty, value and aesthetic taste. The thought-provoking nature of the talk was amply underlined by the range of questions it generated from an attentive audience.

Dickens and Magic

Ian Keable

A magical evening was next on the Arts Section agenda. Few people know that Charles Dickens was also a talented amateur conjurer, fascinated by spiritualism and ghosts. But hey presto! lecturer Ian Keable lifted the lid on the author’s magical talent, using his own sleight-of-hand to reveal and re-create Dickens’s favourite tricks.   Ian, who graduated from Oxford in PPE, qualified as a Chartered Accountant, then went on to become a professional magician. He is a member of the Inner Magic Circle with a Gold Star. He has also received the Magic Circle Comedy Magic Award.    

Dickens’s had a love of uncovering the tricks and tools of conjurers, spiritualists and Victorian“psychics”. Ian opened up the secret world of Charles Dickens for us – mesmerising the audience with his own magical skills, as he recounted Dickens’ years performing his own highly amusing and entertaining shows. In this humorous and mystifying event, even those members of the audience on the front row, just feet away from Ian, remained baffled. It was a magical evening of entertainment in every sense of the word.

Victorian Cemeteries

Mike Higginbottom

A talk about cemeteries might seem to verge on the ghoulish but Mike Higginbottom’s enthusiasm and extensive knowledge of his subject of Victorian Cemeteries made his lecture far removed from the macabre. Within the space of 45 minutes, he explored the growth of the cemeteries and exposed how the social pecking order continued even after death. Extravagant monuments jostle for space with the quirky and the plain. The graves of the famous, and the infamous become part of the tourist trail.  Oscar Wilde’s tomb in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris is a case in point.  No doubt the occupant of the Egyptian style tomb designed by Jacob Epstein would approve that it is now covered with lipstick kisses.  It was a talk that could have gone on for much longer and perhaps there may be a chance in the future to hear about another Victorian obsession in Mike’s talk Temples of Sanitation.

Why the Anglo-Saxons Matter: King Alfred and the Making of England

Michael Wood

Film-maker and historian Michael Wood hardly needed introducing to our audience. A familiar face on the BBC, and born and brought up in Manchester, he is passionate about the Anglo-Saxons and their role in shaping British history to the present day. Michael, who is currently Professor of Public History at the University of Manchester focused on what he believes is one of the most exciting and formative periods in British history – the Viking Age –  when three generations of the family of Alfred the Great created the early English state. Before attending Manchester Grammar School, Michael was a pupil at Benchill Primary School and had an out of the blue surprise when he was reunited with one of his teachers from that school, who had come to see his lecture. It was many years since he had seen her, and he was clearly delighted and moved to see her again. This lecture attracted a very large and appreciative audience, many of whom enjoyed the chance to engage with Michael in the Question and Answer session.

Image reproduced courtesy of Preston Historical Society

Lit & Phil Museums: the role of Learned Societies in the creation of Museums in Britain, especially the North West

Anthony Burton

We tend to take our local museums for granted, but how and why they were formed, and against what odds, makes for a fascinating history. The role that learned institutions – such as the ‘Lit and Phil’ societies – played in that history is little known, and that was the topic addressed by Anthony Burton. Eminently qualified to lead his audience on this journey, Burton, who spent most of his working life as a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and was himself its historian, described and contextualised the creation of Lit-and-Phil museums with both authority and lightness of touch. Manchester Lit and Phil, though one of the earliest in the world, did not start a museum, though other learned institutions in Manchester did. Focussing especially on Lit-and-Phil museums in Liverpool, Preston, Kendal, Derby and Chester, Burton described their foundation and how they manage to survive in the present, mostly under local government auspices. Characteristically, alongside some often-noteworthy libraries, their collections of exhibits would normally include natural history, geology, archaeology, and ethnography – subjects categorised as ‘philosophy’ (meaning science) – and sometimes art as well. This range of material did expose them to some mockery, as ‘heterogeneous and absurd jumbles’, but the intellectual ambition that inspired them was admirable, as Burton convincingly showed in what was a supremely well-researched and well-illustrated lecture.

70th Anniversary of the "Baby" – Celebrations and Lectures

21 June 2018 was the 70th anniversary of the creation of the "Baby" computer. The Lit & Phil marked the occasion with an evening of lectures by Dame Mary Archer DBE and Dr James Sumner delivered to a packed-out audience at the Museum of Science and Industry.

The event was the Lit & Phil's 2018 Manchester Lecture, a prestigious annual lecture, the subject matter of which reflects the achievements, concerns and opportunities of modern Manchester and its immediate region. While not a modern achievement for Manchester, the Baby was certainly an achievement that not only impacted modern Manchester but the modern world. Among the Manchester Lecture's special guests was 90-year-old Professor David “Dai” Edwards – then a young scientist who was part of the pioneering team behind the world’s first stored-program computer. Professor Edwards worked on Baby as it was expanded into the Manchester Mark 1, which led the way to the world’s first commercially available general-purpose computer.


Dr Diana Leitch (President) welcoming everyone to the Manchester Lecture 2018


The large audience was welcomed by the President, Dr Diana Leitch MBE, who awarded Honorary Membership of the Lit and Phil to Dame Mary Archer and Professor Dai Edwards and presented Dr James Sumner with a copy of John Dalton's papers before Dame Mary and James started their respective lectures.



Dame Mary Archer commenced the lectures with a look at the Museum Group's computer collection before moving on to Dr James Sumner's talk about the history of computing in Manchester, including a mention of the women who played an important role in Manchester's early computing developments. One such woman was the mother of Tim Berners-Lee (the inventor of the World Wide Web), Mary Lee Woods, an English mathematician and computer programmer who worked in a team that developed programs in the School of Computer Science, University of Manchester Mark 1, Ferranti Mark 1 and Mark 1 Star computers. 





Pictures from the evening

Images marked with a copyright watermark have been kindly provided to us by Tim Banks and the BABY Computer Volunteers. All other photos without a watermark have been taken by Society Member Dr David Leitch.

Council and Arts Section member Joanna Lavelle and new member, John Glenn, on the reception desk

The BABY Computer volunteers and Dai Edwards in front of the replica machine

Professor Dai Edwards in front of the Baby replica at MSI

Group left to right, in front of the Baby replica –Sally McDonald (Director of MSI), Professor Dai Edwards, George Baker (Lit and Phil Member and Computer Volunteer), Dr Diana Leitch (President Manchester Lit and Phil), Dame Mary Archer, DBE (Chair of Board of Trustees of Science Museum Group) 

One of the BABY Computer volunteers speaks to Stuart Flinders from BBC North West Tonight

"Happy 70th Birthday Baby!"

Dr Diana Leitch (President) presenting Dame Mary Archer DBE with a certificate of Honorary Membership of the Lit and Phil

Dr Diana Leitch (President) presenting Professor Dai Edwards with a certificate of Honorary Membership of the Lit and Phil

Dame Mary Archer giving her talk entitled 'From Babbage to the "Baby": the Science Museum Group's Computer Collection'

Dame Mary Archer giving her talk entitled 'From Babbage to the "Baby": the Science Museum Group's Computer Collection'

Khalil Rafiq, a biographer of Professor Tom Kilburn,  reads greetings from the Kilburn family

Dr James Sumner giving his talk entitled  'Bringing up Baby: establishing and promoting computers in Manchester'

Dr James Sumner giving his talk entitled  'Bringing up Baby: establishing and promoting computers in Manchester'

The packed-out audience in the Revolution MCR space at MSI

Diana Leitch (President) presents Dr James Sumner with a copy of John Dalton's papers


More photos are available over on the MSI blog here.


Top photo of Dai Edwards from the Museum of Science and Industry
The past year contained an eclectic series of lectures beginning in October with Dr David Bellingham who spoke on Legal and Ethical Title: selling off art from English country house collections. He used Chatsworth House in Derbyshire and Syon House in Middlesex as case studies to excellent effect. This was followed in November by a lecture on Aviation and the Environment, a subject about which members knew very little, but which was brought to life with excellent illustrations by an enthusiastic lecturer, Professor John Fielding.
Syon House Aphrodite at Sotheby's Sale Preview
In December Dr Michael Cannon spoke on overcoming the problems of bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics under the title Antibiotics: the Calm before the Storm. He described the emergence of ‘superbugs’ that could potentially have catastrophic consequences. January saw a visit by Professor Julian Pine on Tuning In and Talking: how parents can influence their children's language development. The lecture began by discussing research which shows that parents who talk about what is in their children's current focus of attention tend to have children who go on to develop large vocabularies. It then described an intervention study which showed how ‘tuning in and talking’ can be used to boost language learning in children from low socio-economic status.
In March, Georgina Ferry spoke under the title Diamonds to DNA: the women who revealed the hidden structures of nature where she looked at the circumstances of three women, Kathleen Lonsdale, Dorothy Hodgkin (a member of the Manchester Lit & Phil) and Rosalind Franklin. She discussed how they were able to succeed in science at a time when few women had professional careers of any kind.
Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin with her children Toby, Elizabeth and Luke in 1946 on the day her Fellowship of the Royal Society was announced. Copyright: Newsquest Oxfordshire
The final lecture of the year was given in April by Professor Stephen Graham who explored the idea that today’s towns and cities can no longer be read as a two-dimensional map but must be understood as a series of vertical strata. In Vertical Cities: from basement to rooftop he explained how to rethink the city at every level – how the geography of inequality, politics and identity is determined in terms of above and below.


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.



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
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. 

2017-18 Season Preview

20th June, 2017

The 2016-17 Season finished on 19 June with the Manchester Lecture on Manchester Airport and the Lit & Phil Section Committees are working hard at putting the finishing touches to next year's programme. Here is a preview of what you can expect from the 2017-18 Season:

Session 1

The new Season will commence, as usual, with the AGM and lecture by a Lit & Phil member. Come September, it will be member Janet Wolff's turn to give a lecture on 'Art is Social:  ‘the visible meaning of a good picture’ after the Lit & Phil's Annual General Meeting on Wednesday 27 September.

Other Session 1 lectures will include:




Wednesday 27 September

Janet Wolff 

Art is Social: 'the visible meaning of a good picture’

Wednesday 4 October

Dr David Bellingham 

Legal and Ethical Title. The Selling Off of Art from Historical English Country House Collections

Tuesday 10 October

Ian Keable 

Charles Dickens – Conjurer

Monday 16 October 

Robert Young

Engineering with Graphene

Wednesday 1 November 

Ian Whelan

Development of new insect control technologies to overcome resistance to existing methods

Tuesday 7 November 

Mike Higginbottom  

Victorian Cemeteries

Tuesday 14 November 

Professor Manjit Dosanjh  

From Physics to Medical Applications

Tuesday 21 November

Professor John Fielding 

Aviation and the Environment

Tuesday 28 November  

Professor Michael Wood   

Why the Anglo-Saxons Matter: King Alfred and the Making of England

Monday 4 December 

Alan Segrott

Mersey Gateway

Wednesday 13 December 

Dr Michael Cannon

Antibiotics: the calm before the storm

Session 2




Thursday 25 January 2018

Professor Julian Pine

Children's Language: how can it be influenced by parents?

Thursday 30 January 2018

Anthony Burton

Lit and Phil Museums: the role of learned societies in the creation of museums in Britain

Tuesday 6 February 2018

Michael Bailey

Railway Engineering - Yesterday and Today

Monday 12 February 2018

Professor Kevin Ryan

Cell Death

Thursday 1 March 2018

Derek McCulloch & Café Mozart

In the Beginning Was the Word – Singing the poet's song in a foreign land

Monday 5 March 2018

Professor Kenneth Letherman

James Clerk Maxwell

Thursday 15 March 2018

Georgina Ferry

Science from a Female Perspective

Session 3




Wednesday 11 April 2018

Professor Stephen Graham

Vertical Cities: from basement to rooftop

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Dr Robert Poole


Thursday 3 May

Professor Steve O'Rahilly

Genetic Obesity: why do we get fat and how does it make us ill?


* Please note that lecture titles are subject to change and update before the final programme information is released in the summer. Always check the Lit & Phil website for the latest details of lectures.

From June 2017 the Lit & Phil office hours will be reduced. The office will now be open on the following days:

Monday–Thursday, 9 am–5 pm

Please note that any phone calls made to the office on Friday will only be picked up on the following Monday, or if there is a Bank Holiday, the following Tuesday. If you are planning a trip to the office or the library and archives, please give plenty of notice to the office staff by phone or email.


Although the Lit & Phil 2016/17 Season is approaching the end, we will still be informing members of our recommendations for events and exhibitions to visit across the city this summer before our lectures recommence in September. Here the Lit & Phil staff, Julie and Kathryn, write about their recommendation for the Shirley Baker photography exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery.

For the past few years, museums and cultural institutions across Manchester have collaborated to create a mélange of arts and culture at unique events across the city for one evening only, called ‘Manchester After Hours’. The events feature different venues and organisations working together to mix their respective art forms, from music to painting, photography to poetry, and fashion to history. Examples include last year’s ride on the steam train at MOSI which was accompanied by local Manchester music artists performing at different stops on the ‘journey’ while the conductor regaled the passengers with anecdotes from Manchester’s industrial past. This year included collaborations between literature organisers Bad Language and the Elizabeth Gaskell House to present an event of story-telling and performance; MOSI teamed up with the audio-visual artists from Islington Mill’s Engine House collective to creative installations projected onto the Avro Shackleton aircraft in the museum’s Air and Space Hall; and John Ryland’s library hosted two female audio artists whose work echoes and pays tribute to the pioneer of electronic music–Delia Derbyshire.

'Shirley Baker: Women and Children; and Loitering Men'


This year the Lit & Phil staff, Julie and Kathryn, attended a ‘first look’ event at the Manchester Art Gallery which was showcasing the work of photographer Shirley Baker (1932–2014). Baker was born in Wilmslow and despite not being well known her most prominent work is her post-war street photography depicting working class communities in Greater Manchester. This exhibition includes previously unseen colour photographs by Baker alongside black and white images and specifically focuses on her depictions of the urban clearance programmes of inner city Manchester and Salford in the 20 years between 1961 and 1981.

The opening night of the exhibition as part of Manchester After Hours was very popular with arts enthusiasts, locals and tourists alike. Aside from the usual considered discussions by small groups of visitors on the technique, style and composition of the pieces, there were equally many visitors joyfully reminiscing from the scenes depicted in the photos – war-torn buildings, outside lavatories, children’s dirt-smudged faces, questionable fashion choices and popular playthings. There was a sense that this exhibition was not just about viewing artwork but also partaking in the collective experience of many visitor’s own childhoods and memories.

The exhibition is also accompanied by additional events such as a free showing of the film ‘Love on the Dole’ set in 1940s Salford and based on the novel by Walter Greenwood. The film is showing on Thursday 15 June, 6.30 pm–8.30 pm; tickets are free but booking is essential.

‘Shirley Baker: Women and Children; and Loitering Men’ is free to visit and is on show at Manchester Art Gallery until Monday 28 August. Whether you lived through the era or not, Baker’s photography will certainly bring to life around you the people and places of post-war Manchester and Salford at this exhibition.

Photograph copyright

All photographs are © Shirley Baker


Local sculptor, printmaker and environmental artist, Cecile Elstein, returns to the Didsbury Arts Festival on1 and 2 July with a talk and Q & A based around the festival's 'Roots' theme. The talk is titled 'Roots, Refugees and Re(d)integration' and as well as an open discussion after the talk, the event will also provide the opportunity to view Cecile's artwork.

Cecile has been a member of the Lit & Phil since 1994 and has contributed to the Society both as a member of the Arts committee and as a speaker, giving an address to the Society on 18 January 2005 titled 'A Mindscape in a Landscape' – change as a moment of abundant potential.

Cecile Elstein – Benefice, 1980


'Roots, Refugees and Re(d)integration', 2 July 2017

3 pm – Wine and juice

             4 pm – Artist’s Introduction to open discussion 

6 pm – Close


This will be a very popular event so early booking is advised. There is also a very limited number of places so booking is essential. For more information please click here for the event on 1 July and here for the event on 2 July. Tickets can be reserved by clicking here.

You can view more of Cecile's artwork at


Top image information

Sculpture by Cecile Elstein, Dream, 1975