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Join the Manchester Lit and Phil

16th February, 2022

Join the Society today!  Members get free event tickets and priority booking

There are many reasons why people decide to become members of the Lit and Phil - some want to support the delivery of our event programme; others want to opt for a more cost-effective way of regularly attending our events.

Non-members are very welcome to attend any events that are part of our main lecture programme.  Tickets cost £5.00 to attend online or £8.00 to attend in person (plus booking fees).

If you like what we do and want to attend more regularly, do consider becoming a member.

Members get free* event tickets and priority booking, and individual membership is only £10.00 per month.


2021-22 Membership Fees

Member: £10.00 per month
Joint Member (two people): £16.00 per month
Digital Member: £5.00 per month
Student Member: £2.00 per month

(*Digital members get free tickets to online events only).

Find out more about membership of the Manchester Lit and Phil

Q&A - Professor Gary Younge

Ahead of his talk at the Manchester Conference Centre on 24th February,  Professor Gary Younge took the time to answer some of our questions.  In this short interview,  Gary touches on his influences,  the COVID-19 pandemic,  and what he would do if he was Prime Minister for a day...

To find out more about the upcoming event with Gary, click here.


Q: Hello, Gary.

We’re really excited for your talk with us on the 24th February.

Could you please share the inspiration behind your talk: ‘“I danced here on other peoples’ dreams”’?

A: The primary inspiration is my mother who would dance me around the house on her feet as a child to Bob and Marcia’s “Young Gifted and Black”.

But it is also the numerous people, most of whom I don’t know, who fought for the rights that I have even when there was little immediate prospect of those rights being granted and even though they themselves would never have the chance to enjoy them.


Q: If you were Prime Minister for the day — how would you set about building the more ‘diverse, inclusive, and respectful’ society that you refer to in the event description?

A: In a day it would not be possible to do anything substantial to undo the things that took centuries to get us to where we are.  So it would have to be something largely symbolic.

I would release all the people in prison for minor drugs charges, invite all those who use foodbanks to Number 10 or Chequers for a garden party, and pay for mayors up and down the country to do the same, and I’d offer an official apology to every country we have bombed or oppressed in contravention of international law.


Q: Has the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything new, or has it just re-enforced inequalities within society?

A: Both.

It has laid bare the inequalities and shown us how they work and whom they affect.  What is new is that we have never seen it quite so clearly before.


Q: In October 2021, we were joined by Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu.  Elizabeth is a very inspiring woman, and spoke with great passion about the influence of Mary Seacole on her own career.

Who is the biggest inspiration in your career?  In fact, is there someone in particular who instantly springs to mind as soon as you read that question? 

A: In an immediate sense my mother. Raising three boys on her own while being thoroughly engaged in her community and instinctively drawing connections between race, class, religion and other identities.

Beyond her it would be C.L.R. James, the Trinidadian-born activist, intellectual and writer who wrote beautifully and maintained a sharp, incisive critical analysis throughout his life.


Q: You’ve been Professor of Sociology at the University of Manchester since 2020.

Have you had chance to explore the city? How does it compare to London — both in its history, and today? Does Manchester inspire you in a different way than to London?

A: I started at the university a week after lockdown, so I have not explored the city half as much as I would have liked to. I’m not from London but lived there for 10 years before going to the US for 12 years. When I returned it had become prohibitively expensive and inhospitable, particularly for the young and those on low incomes.

Manchester inspires me as a city where it is still, for now, possible, to be young and enjoy a halfway decent life and still be creative and not have to work all hours


Q: What do you have planned for the future? Is there anything that we should be looking out for?

A: I studied French and Russian, then fell in love with an American and spent most of my journalistic career in America and/or writing about America. I am now shifting my research interests back to Europe, and more particularly the black experience in Europe, and will be writing more about that in the years to come...


Thank you to Gary for taking the time to answer our questions.

'"I danced here on other peoples' dreams"' takes place at 6:30pm, Thursday 24th February 2022, at the Manchester Conference Centre and online. More information about the event — including how to book tickets — can be found here.

Gary has published a number of books, exploring themes such as identity politics and civil unrest in the USA. You can access his bibliography below:

Gary's Bibliography

Who Are We? How Identity Politics Took Over The World (2021)

Another Day in the Death of AmericaA Chronicle of  Ten Short Lives (2016)

The Speech: The Story Behind Dr Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream (2013)

Who Are We And Should It Matter In The 21st Century? (2011)

Stranger in a Strange Land: Encounters in the Disunited States (2006)

No Place Like Home: A Black Briton's Journey Through The American South (2002)

Interview with Dr Daria Kuss

1st February, 2022

Q&A - Dr Daria Kuss

Prior to her talk at the RNCM on Monday 7th February, Dr Daria Kuss kindly took the time to answer our questions about her pioneering research in the field of social media addiction. A full event synopsis, as well as a short biography of Dr Daria Kuss, can be found by clicking here.


Q: Hello, Daria!

Could you please briefly outline the research that has gone into your talk? How did your interest in our relationship to social media begin?

A: Research into social media use is in its infancy, especially when considering research regarding potentially problematic use.

I am interested in this area because social media use has become the status quo. There appears to be a general expectation that we’re online and reachable anytime anywhere, and smartphone use has made technology ubiquitous.


Q: You have been researching the psychological impact of social media for 15 years – social media has changed over that time, but how has your research developed in tandem to the evolving digital landscape?

A: Researching human behaviours in an ever changing social media landscape is fascinating because it allows me to have my finger on the pulse of time. My research has evolved in these years, where new social media platforms have emerged that offer new services, and ways to view and interact with the world.


Q: Could you briefly outline some of your research methods? Social media use is ubiquitous; but how do you collate and evaluate ­­data?

A: The research methods that I use vary and depend on the research questions I am asking. I have made use of psychometric research, ethnographic studies, interviews and focus groups, experimental research, neuroimaging, clinical studies, as well as randomised controlled trials.


Q: Do you feel as though addiction to social media isn’t taken as seriously as it should be? If not, how should we engage with the issue?

A: Addiction is a psychopathology, a diagnosable mental disorder. Social media addiction is not recognised in any of the diagnostic manuals as a diagnosable mental disorder. However, we know from our research that a small minority of excessive social media users experience addiction-related symptoms, including salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict and relapse.


Q: What is the most surprising discovery that your research has uncovered?

A: I am lucky in that I am engaged in fascinating work in the field of cyberpsychology, which helps me better understand our engagement with and motivations for using technology. One of the surprising findings was the extent to which some individuals engage with technology, the amount of time they spend on it, and the strong attachment they have developed to their gadgets.


Q: What do you have planned for the future? Is there anything that we should keep our eyes peeled for?

A: I am currently engaged in a large number of national and international projects, assessing different facets of technology use. I recommend checking out my Twitter and NTU pages, where you can find my research.

Websites: |

Twitter: @Dr_Kuss

 Have a look at my books here:

 "The Oxford Handbook of Cyberpsychology" (2019):

 "Internet addiction - Advances in psychotherapy" (2019) here:

 Check out our projects on Internet use funded by the European Commission:

 The I-AID project: | The OnOff4Youngsters project:

 The inScreenMODE project: | The GameOFF project:


Thank you to Dr Kuss for taking the time to answer our questions!

'Social Media Addiction' takes place at 7pm, Monday 7th February 2022, at the RNCM.  You can attend either in person or online.  More information about the event including how to book tickets can be found here.

Our longest-serving member reaches her 100th birthday!


We would like to warmly congratulate Marjorie Ainsworth on her 100th birthday, which she celebrated on 7 January 2022.  She had a lovely day, complete with a card from the Queen, a splendid lunch, and even put on a party herself for her neighbours!  Other celebrations took place that week, and she still has Zoom sessions with her family on a weekly basis.  She is also still President of the Manchester and Salford Film Society, of which she has been a member for over 80 years.

Marjorie joined the Manchester Lit & Phil in 1955, and she was attending lectures until not long before the pandemic – lifelong-learning is definitely a must for us all, going by Marjorie’s example! We wish her continuing good health and happiness.


Susan Hilton, Immediate Past President


The next 'Lit and Phil Theatre Group' event explores the National Theatre’s production of Euripides' Medea starring Helen McCrory.

For those new to the Theatre Group — or those who haven’t been for a while — the format is that a couple of days prior to watching the film at home you have the opportunity to join a presentation about the production. A bit like buying a theatre programme.

Tony Jackson will talk briefly about the historical context, when and where the play was performed, the Athenian Festivals and the use of masks. Manju Bhavnani will look at a feminist slant on the play and the ways audiences might have reacted in the past. The aim of this pre-theatre talk is to give you some ideas of things to consider as you watch the play.

The play is available for you to rent from the National Theatre at Home for £7.99

A couple of days later a post-production discussion to exchange views about what the play meant to each of us.

1. Pre-event presentation 19.00 Thursday, February 10th
2. Watch the play at a time to suit yourself between February 11th and February 14th 
3. Post-event discussion on Monday, February 14 at 19.00

The pre-event presentation will last between 30 - 45 minutes

The post-event discussion will last up to 60 minutes.

The event will be hosted on Zoom please email and we will send you a link to join.

Medea review – clenched and forceful | Theatre | The Guardian

Medea - National Theatre at Home (


Joanna Lavelle


Main Image: Kilyan Sockalingum on Unsplash



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.