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New Online Theatre Group

11th March, 2021


New Online Theatre Group


Here's a message from Arts Committee and Council Member, Joanna Lavelle - 


Dear all,

One of the popular activities we enjoyed when we were able to meet together in person was the opportunity to see a play together and discuss the issues raised during the play.  We have had a suggestion from member Manju Ghosh that we set something similar in our new virtual world.  So what is proposed below is a trial to see how much interest there is in such an idea.  If it proves to be popular we can extend this to include the National Theatre productions (Uncle Vanya is CURRENTLY available FREE on BBC iPlayer) and/or we could include films.


The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde



The Octagon, Bolton, has announced a new and modern production of The Picture of Dorian Grey based on the novel by Oscar Wilde.  The book caused great controversy at the time it was written.  Wilde wrote that, There is no such thing as an immoral book.  Books are well written or badly written that is all”.  Despite Wilde’s confident assertions the book scandalised Victorian England and was used as evidence against him when he was tried and convicted in 1895 on charges related to homosexuality. (ref

This production has a “stellar” cast including: Stephen Fry; Joanna Lumley and Russell Tovey. Tickets cost £12.00.


How to join the Manchester Lit and Phil Online Theatre Group

  1.  Book your ticket directly with the Octagon.  Watch the play between Saturday 20th March and Monday 22nd March. 
  2. Reserve a place in the Lit and Phil AfterWords discussion group on Tuesday 23rd March at 3.00 pm.  To book a place send an email to


If you have questions please contact Joanna or John on (not the Manchester Lit and Phil office).


We hope to see you there,
Joanna Lavelle on behalf of the Arts Theatre Group


Main Image: Kilyan Sockalingum on Unsplash


The Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society asks UCLan researchers to uncover transatlantic slave trade connections


The first and oldest literary and philosophical society in the world has enlisted the help of researchers from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) to explore its historical links with the transatlantic slave trade.

The Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society (Manchester Lit and Phil), which was established in 1781, has a long history of advancing education and knowledge in literature, science, arts and public affairs. Previous high-profile members include the ‘founder of modern chemistry’ John Dalton, engineer and philanthropist Joseph Whitworth and fine arts advocate Margaret Pilkington.       

Now the Society, which has just celebrated its 240th anniversary, is working with UCLan Professor Alan Rice, an expert in Black Atlantic culture, and his team to explore what links its earliest members may have had with the transatlantic slave trade and the influences this had on the Society at the time.

Between 10 and 12 million enslaved Africans were transported across the Atlantic Ocean from the 16th to the 19th century as part of the so-called triangular trade route that brought cotton, coffee and sugar to Europe.

The researchers will investigate more than 900 members from 1781 until around 1860; using the Society’s own archives, the Legacy of British Slave Ownership database developed by University College London and the online database of the transatlantic slave-trade as well as multiple other sources. They will examine who benefitted from the slave trade, including links with cotton plantations in the United States, as well as notable abolitionist members who stood against the slave trade.


Tony Jackson, Vice President of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, said:

“The transatlantic slave trade is part of the Society’s history and one we can’t ignore, even if what we learn may make us feel uncomfortable.

“The slave trade connections of our earliest members might have influenced the direction of the Society and certainly did impact Manchester as a whole, for example with the establishment of cotton processing factories, such as Quarry Bank Mill in Styal, which was built in 1784 by Society member Samuel Greg and employed many hundreds at its peak.

“Just as the modern Manchester Lit and Phil recognises the need to be more diverse and works hard to attract a wide range of speakers and members, it’s important to acknowledge the complex history of the Society.”


UCLan is home to the internationally renowned Institute for Black Atlantic Research (IBAR), which, led by its co-director Professor Rice, will conduct the six-month project.

Professor Rice said:

“The IBAR research team is very excited to work with such a prestigious and venerable organisation as Manchester Lit and Phil in such a vital project. The Black Lives Matter Movement highlighted the urgency of organisations being properly accountable for their past involvement in the highly profitable slave trade and historical silence on the issue. We are proud to be contributing to the important effort to uncover these hidden histories.”


The findings of the project will be published and shared in a public lecture to be given later in the year, with a possible exhibition also being considered.


Image: John Raphael Smith (1752-1812), The Slave Trade. Courtesy: The Whitworth, The University of Manchester


It is with great regret that since Christmas we have lost three of our long-serving members –

Mrs Barbara Rose-Innes – a member since 1966, along with her husband Professor Christopher Rose-Innes. She passed away in January, after being ill for several months, and both she and her husband were very regular attenders at Lit & Phil meetings. I have spoken to Christopher, expressed the Society’s sympathies. He hopes to continue to attend as and when it is safe to do so.

Mr Roger Rees OBE – a member since 1981. He also died in January, at the age of 91. He was the Chief Executive of Salford City Council, and had many interests, especially choral singing. I knew him personally for many years as a fellow member of Salford Choral Society. He was brought up in South Wales, attained a law degree at Cambridge and worked much of his life in local government. Our sympathies go to his nephew and his other relatives.

Mr Angus Yeaman – member since 1981 and also a past President of the Society (20021-2003). We were informed of his passing in late February, by his niece. I remember meeting him at lectures and he was a most interesting and charming man. I believe he was also in his 90’s, and our sympathies go to his family.


Susan Hilton




Kathleen Ollerenshaw - Mathematician and Committed Education Campaigner

Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw was an English mathematician and educator.  Ollerenshaw served as Lord Mayor of Manchester from 1975 to 1976, as well as an advisor to Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

Ollerenshaw’s love of mathematics was inspired by another woman, Miss Jenkin Jones, who was headmistress at Lady Barn House School during the time Ollerenshaw attended the school.  She would go on pursuing a dazzling academic and high-profile political career, and she was devoted to mathematics.  Ollerenshaw published one of the first solutions to the Rubik’s cube in the IMA Bulletin—now known as Mathematics Today.  Legend states that Ollerenshaw damaged the tendons in her pursuit of the finished cube and her left thumb required surgery!

Ollerenshaw was also a loyal supporter of the RNCM, with music critic Michael Kennedy citing her as a driving force behind the college. She was Chairman of the Joint Committee and Court at the College from 1972 to 1986.


‘Dame Kathleen was a remarkable woman who will forever be remembered as a pivotal figure in the history of the RNCM.  Her loyal support to both staff and students remains invaluable to this day.’

Professor Linda Merrick, RNCM Principal


Ollerenshaw died in 2014, at the age of 101 and her life was warmly commemorated by many educational organisations.  The Department of Mathematics at the University of Manchester currently curates a series of annual lectures in her honour.



Alan Turing - IEKYF RQMSI ADXUO KVKZC GUBJ (Founder of Computer Science)

Alan Turing was a computer scientist, codebreaker, mathematician, and member of the Manchester Lit & Phil, too.  Frequently referred to as ‘the father of modern computing’, Manchester became Turing’s home following his work as a cryptanalyst with the British Intelligence Service during the Second World War. His contributions at Bletchley Park lead to the breaking of the German Enigma machine.

Turning was prosecuted for gross indecency in 1952, as homosexuality was illegal in the UK. Two years later, in 1954, Turing was found dead, with an inquest concluding that his death was due to cyanide poisoning, and that Turing had committed suicide. Turing was eventually pardoned by The Queen in 2013.

In Sackville Park, Manchester, Turing’s life is commemorated by a sculpture, unveiled on 23 June 2001, on what would have been Turing’s 89th birthday. Etched on the bench is an artistic depiction of a one of Turing’s ciphers that he used to help crack the Enigma Machine. When deciphered, it reads ‘Founder of Computer Science’.

The Alan Turing Institute is the national research hub for data science and artificial intelligence, based at the British Library. The Institute cites Alan Turing’s pioneering work in theoretical and applied mathematics, engineering and computer as central tenets to contemporary data science. The University of Manchester joined the institute in 2018.


Discover more

  • The University of Manchester Library holds a file of correspondence and papers accumulated by Alan Turing in relation to his work in the University's Computing Machine Laboratory
  • You can visit a recreation of Alan Turing's office as it would have looked during World War II at Bletchley Park



Margaret Pilkington - Talented Artist and Generous Philanthropist

Born in Pendleton in 1891, Margaret Pilkington attended at Manchester College of Art between 1911 to 1913, before going to London to study painting. In 1914, Pilkington enrolled at the Central School of Arts and Crafts where she studied under Noel Rooke and Lucien Pissarro.

Returning to the North West in 1925, Pilkington began her life-long affiliation with the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester.

During her patronage of the Whitworth, Pilkington donated water-colours, drawings, and textiles. Due to her efforts, the gallery managed to survive the perilous interwar period. In 1958, when the University of Manchester co-opted the gallery, Pilkington became Honorary Director of the governing committee, a position she held until her death in 1974.

Pilkington became the first female president of the Manchester Lit & Phil, and founder of the Society’s Arts Section in 1968, the final year of her presidency. Pilkington’s obituary by the Manchester Lit & Phil notes ‘The Members of the Society have every reason to be grateful for her great love and understanding of art.’


Margaret Pilkington was a creative, innovative and generous woman. A talented artist and noted philanthropist, she believed that art should be accessible to all, which, combined with her strong social conscience and work with Manchester’s less fortunate communities, has made her a pioneer in more than one sphere of Manchester’s history.

As the first woman president of the Manchester Lit and Phil, we are delighted that she is included in their anniversary celebrations.

Angela Petyt-Whittaker, Lorraine Coughlan & Jessica Smith, University of Manchester Library.


Margaret's generosity can also be enjoyed to this day outside of the city of Manchester: She and her sister, Dorothy, provided 75% of the money to purchase Alderley Woods, donating over 200 acres to the National Trust in memory of their parents, and thus conserving the woods from being used for development. The woods are still maintained by a group of volunteers to this day.


Discover more

  • The Margaret Pilkington Papers comprise correspondence, lecture notes, detailed diaries, journals, personal sketch-books, woodblocks and material relating to the Red Rose Guild of Craftsmen. They offer a valuable source for information on the arts and crafts in the first half of the 20th century.

  • Additional records relating to Pilkington can be found in the Whitworth Gallery Archive.

  • From our archive: 'The Whitworth Art Gallery Past Present and Future' - Presidential address to the Manchester Lit & Phil by Margaret Pilkington, published 1966



Ernest Rutherford - World-Leading Innovator and Nobel Prize Winner

Ernest Rutherford came to Manchester from New Zealand, becoming the Langworthy Professor of Physics in 1907, and settling in the city until 1919. During his time in Manchester, Rutherford was a member of the Manchester Lit & Phil and served as Vice President from 1909 to 1912.

In the orbit of the Manchester Lit & Phil, Rutherford moved his research to the University of Manchester. His variations of the ‘gold foil experiment’ of Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden resulted in the discovery of the atomic nucleus from which Rutherford produced a model of the atom. For his pioneering efforts, Rutherford was awarded the Dalton medal in 1920.

At the University of Manchester, the Physics Laboratory was renamed The Rutherford Building in recognition of how the physicist transformed the University of Manchester’s nuclear physics department, allowing for future students to reap the benefits of Rutherford’s world-leading innovation.

It was also in the labs of the University of Manchester that Rutherford carried out his most influential—and daring!—experiment. Nitrogen gas was shattered against alpha particles and radiation was emitted. Rutherford deduced that this was the nucleus of a hydrogen atom. In short, this was the first splitting of the atom! For his efforts, Rutherford was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1908.


Discover more


Richard Pankhurst - Progressive Campaigner, Husband to Emmeline Pankhurst and Father to Sylvia Pankhurst

Born in 1836, Richard Pankhurst was a practising barrister, and founder of the Manchester Liberal Association. During his legal career, he was legal advisor to Lydia Becker, as well as the Manchester National Society for Women’s Suffrage. He joined the Manchester Lit & Phil in 1892.

Nicknamed the ‘Red Doctor’ due to his progressive views, Pankhurst was heavily involved with politics. He was outspoken, and famously declared the House of Lord’s as ‘a public abattoir butchering the liberties of the people’. Although outbursts such as this hindered his chances of ever making a serious run for parliamentary office, he won acolytes within the Independent Labour Party.

Pankhurst campaigned for women’s rights, and was a strong advocate for the campaign for women to become lawyers. In 1878, he married Emmeline Goulden—who would become Emmeline Pankhurst—and they established the Independent Labour Party and the Women’s Franchise League. The radical power couple kept company with the likes of William Morris, George Bernard Shaw, and Annie Besant. Both Richard and Emmeline were members of the Fabian Society. However, in 1900 two years after Richard’s death—Emmeline left the Fabian Society as they refused to oppose the Boer War.

Emmeline and Richard’s legacy can be felt across Manchester today. The Pankhurst Trust was formed in 2014 as a merger between The Pankhurst Trust and Manchester Women’s Aid, a specialist provider of domestic abuse services.


Discover more

  • The People's History Museum, Manchester, celebrate both Emmeline Pankhurst and Sylvia Pankhurst as PHM Radicals
  • Peterloo to the Pankhursts is a free online course created by the PHM in collaboration with Royal Holloway, University of London


James Prescott Joule - From brewing beer to the First Law of Thermodynamics

A student of John Dalton, James Joule is heralded as the father of thermodynamics. Joule’s initial theories were cast aside in 1843, and he was considered something of a madcap until 1872, when he was named the President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

The Salfordian’s breakthrough arose due to the confluence of Dalton’s tuition and Joule’s hobby of brewing beer. Joule’s experimentation culminated in the discovery that heat is a form of energy. Not bad for an amateur scientist.

Joule’s First Law defined the relationship between the amount of heat generated and the current that is passed through a conductor. Following this he began to take his experiments further.  Joule’s next discovery—that heat could be generated by a current—went against the accepted theory of the time, the caloric theory. Joule’s theories were considered too much of a reach for his peers, and when he presented his results to a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1843, Joule’s presentation was met by a stone cold silence.

In 1847, Joule presented his ideas once again to the British Association for the Advancement of Science. At the seminar, both Lord Kelvin and Michael Faraday—Joule’s rivals—were in attendance for what would be a formative event within physics. During the presentation, Joule illustrated what would become the First Law of Thermodynamics, cementing his legacy as a scientific visionary by silencing his early critics.

Today, there stands a statue of James Prescott Joule in the Manchester Town Hall, created by Sir Alfred Gilbert in 1893. The statue is in the entrance to the Town Hall, opposite Francis Chantrey’s sculpture of Joule’s mentor John Dalton.  His former home, where he lived and worked, can be found at The Crescent in Salford.


James Joule is revered as one of the greatest scientists in the history of physics. As someone who was a Salford resident, a student of fellow famous Manchester scientist, John Dalton, and spent the majority of his working life in and around Greater Manchester, his story is one the Science and Industry Museum is proud to tell, and we’re delighted that he is being celebrated as a pioneer by the Manchester Lit and Phil.

Joule's experiments led him to a new understanding of energy conversion in 1845, and this research led to the development of the first law of thermodynamics which is fundamental to our understanding of the world. He is remembered as one of the founders of modern physics, and from 1948 the ‘Joule’ became a standard international unit of energy measurement. It is fantastic that his work is being highlighted by the Manchester Lit and Phil, who I’m sure are very proud to name him as a former president.

Sarah Baines, Curator of Engineering at the Science and Industry Museum


Discover more

  • 'James Joule: From Establishment Irritant to Honoured Scientist' - article on the Science and Industry Museum's website
  • A number of Joule’s apparatus are now part of the Science Museum Group’s collection. This travelling microscope was used by Joule for experiments about energy. He had to make incredibly precise, tiny measurements to prove his new theories about how heat works and this microscope made by Abraham & Dancer in 1843 helped him do that.  You can see some of Joule’s apparatus on display at the Science and Industry Museum when their doors reopen later this year.




William Gaskell - Unitarian Minister and pioneer in the education of the working class

If you want to escape the hubbub of Oxford Road, you might want to visit Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, located a stone’s throw from the Manchester Royal Infirmary. Elizabeth lived here with her husband, William, between 1850-1865. William Gaskell, born in 1905, was a member of the Manchester Lit & Phil, as well as being an ardent pioneer for the education of the working classes.

Gaskell was the minister of the Cross Street Chapel in Manchester for over fifty years. During his half-century in the role, he trained men without previous academic background for the Unitarian ministry. Alongside his wife, he also worked with poverty relief societies and the sanitation commission.

To this day, the Cross Street Chapel continues the legacy of William Gaskell. The chapel works with Shelter to campaign and promote safe housing for the homeless. The chapel is also a member of the Challenging Hate Forum, a group of religious bodies that gather monthly to combat hate crime. They also offer support for refugees, too, and host City of Sanctuary every other month, a safe environment for people fleeing persecution.


“William Gaskell was such an influential Mancunian during his lifetime, influencing social and cultural developments, giving working people the chance to learn and gain access to the world of literature, philosophy and science. We are thrilled that he’s being celebrated as part of the Manchester Lit and Phi’s 240th anniversary. I’m not sure if he would have enjoyed the attention but the team at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House are delighted to see his achievements acknowledged.”

Sally Jastrzebski-Lloyd, House Manager, Elizabeth Gaskell's House


Discover more

  • The John Rylands Library holds some papers relating to the Gaskell Family