21st July 2021, 3:15pm


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.