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Online Theatre Group

22nd November, 2021

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


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

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

You can read about the production here:

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

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

You can rent the production here:

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

Please email if you would like to attend.

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

Look forward to seeing you there!

Best wishes,

Joanna and John Glenn (Members)

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



Main Image: Kilyan Sockalingum on Unsplash


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

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

It is intended that the funeral service will be streamed.

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


Peter Whitaker

22nd October, 2021


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


We all will.


Ian Cameron - President


Apply during September 2021 and enjoy 30 days of free membership


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

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

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


Join as a Member

Join as Joint Members (two people)

Join as a Student Member

Join as a Digital Member


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

Looking back at 2020 - 2021

21st July, 2021


Manchester to Mars…

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Professors to Painters…

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

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

…We helped to continue the debate

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

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


Call for new members of the Social Philosophy Committee


Interested in Social Sciences?  Do you have ideas about subjects you would like to hear about and about which you feel other members of the Lit & Phil would like to hear? If so, the Social Philosophy Committee would like to hear from you as it looks to welcome new members to join the Committee.

Meetings are friendly and invigorating; held presently on-line we hope to revert soon to meeting in person.

If you are interested please get in touch with the Office, with your contact details, and a staff member or one of the committee members will respond.


Peter Barnes - Chair, Social Philosophy Committee

Sheila Whitaker - In-coming Chair, Social Philosophy Committee




Our first event of the 2021-2022 season

Our 2021-22 season kicks off with a Cathedral Lecture by Professor Hannah Barker -


Life in a city of business, noise and strangers: work, family and faith in industrial revolution Manchester


A visit to Manchester two hundred years ago would have been an assault on the senses. It was not until the extensive street-widening schemes of the nineteenth century that most central thoroughfares were anything other than narrow and dark.  The buildings were tightly packed together and their upper levels often jutted out over the streets below. Those wishing to navigate their way around would have often found mud and waste underfoot where pavements had yet to appear.  The streets would have been bustling with a population hurrying about their business.  The air filled with both the shouts of market and itinerant sellers; and the types of odours one might expect to encounter in the days before municipal sanitation schemes and systematic curbs on air pollution...


Professor Hannah Barker is a historian of industrial revolution England, and the north of England in particular. Her past research has explored issues of gender and work in towns and has assessed the impact of industrialisation on women’s employment, and specifically the degree to which the advent of modern capitalism marginalised women workers. Her last book built upon this work and examined the concept of ‘family strategy’ in terms of small family businesses, as well as exploring the emotional life of families and their use of domestic space. She currently leads another research project, Faith in the Town project’ which explores ordinary people’s experiences of religion in urban areas in the North of England, between 1740 and 1830. She is Professor of British History at the University of Manchester and Director of the John Rylands Research Institute. She also Chairs Manchester Histories, a charity that works with people and communities across Greater Manchester and is Chair of Chetham’s Library committee.


This much-anticipated event is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 15th September at 7.00 pm, hopefully as our first 'live in-person' event of Autumn 2021, at Manchester Cathedral (we are all crossing our fingers!).

We are delighted to be collaborating with Manchester Cathedral in 2021, as they celebrate 600 years since the granting of a licence from King Henry V and Pope Martin V to establish a collegiate church in Manchester in 1421.  The college was established by royal charter, with a warden, eight fellows, four singing clerks and eight choristers.  The Cathedral is holding many special events, including a series of lectures in collaboration with the Manchester Lit and Phil, commemorating successive centuries.

Join our mailing list to keep up to date with our planned events for Autumn 2021 and beyond!



Message from Susan Hilton, President - I was very sad to hear of the recent death of Peter Donnelly, who has been, with his wife Ailsa, a member of the Lit & Phil since 2006. I have sent condolences on behalf of the Society, and here is the email received from Ailsa, which she wanted to share with other members -

It is with great sadness that I’m writing to tell you that Peter Donnelly died peacefully in Wythenshawe Hospital, surrounded by his family, on 15 June.

He was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer since 2017 but thanks to modern medicine continued all his activities and retained an excellent quality of life (he certainly never let it get in the way of anything he really wanted to do!).

The cancer stopped responding to treatment earlier this year and he deteriorated very rapidly. His death came much more quickly than anyone anticipated but although it has left us all in shock we are all agreed that it was absolutely right for Peter, who would have hated long slow physical and mental decline.

Ailsa Donnelly

You can access the death and funeral notice by clicking here.




Online Theatre Group


The next play for the L & P Theatre group is the National Theatre's 2016 production of Terrence Rattigan's play, The Deep Blue Sea starring the late, great Helen McCrory in the title role of Hester Collyer.

On Thursday July 1st at 4.00pm, Council members — Tony Jackson and Joanna Lavelle — will present an introduction to the play covering Rattigan's life, the historical and social context of the play and the key themes.

Theatre-goers should watch the performance at a time of their choosing over the next three days.

The AfterWords discussion will be on Monday July 5th at 4.00pm.  The performance is available to rent from the NT at home for £7.99, National Theatre at Home.

You can read Michael Billington's review in The Guardian by clicking here.


To register for the Lit and Phil discussions taking place before and after watching the performance, please send an email and you will be sent the Zoom information.


Main Image: Kilyan Sockalingum on Unsplash





We are saddened to report the passing of one of our members — Mrs Grace Irvine, from Didsbury.

Grace and her late husband — Professor Maxwell Irvine — were very well known and highly regarded both here and in the USA, through Professor Irvine's work as a theoretical physicist. 

A lecturer and Dean of Science at Manchester University, Professor Irvine had been Vice Chancellor of the Universities of Aberdeen, and then Birmingham.

Grace, an exceptional hostess, was involved with many local societies. Though Scottish-born, Manchester — and especially Didsbury, where she was a much-loved and valued member of the community — were close to her heart.


Patricia McWilliam-Fowler

Chair - Arts Section