Latest news

Keep up-to-date with the latest news from the Lit & Phil and its affiliates here. We are also on social media so be sure to follow us using the links at the bottom of the page.


I hope that you and your families are well and coping in the best way possible at this time.  It is wonderful news for those who have been shielding that you can venture outdoors from 1 June.  It must have been extremely frustrating to stay in your home for so many weeks, especially with such good weather. Let us hope that the easing of the lockdown continues smoothly and sensibly.

It was wonderful to see the Lit & Phil’s very first live online event on 20 May with Dr Kirstie Whitaker being interviewed by Tea Milanovic, a very competent student from Withington Girls’ School, and introduced by Melissa Lord.  There was a lot of preparation in the background for this event and experience gained by all, which will serve the Society well as the season progresses – do look out for news about these as and when we can plan them.  Also, you will very shortly be able to view the recording of Dr Whitaker’s event via the Lit & Phil website.

We very much hope to be able to resume live events when safe to do so, and this will be our overwhelming strategy for the future.  We must be realistic in the meantime, and plan for alternative ways of pursuing the mission of the Lit & Phil while we all adapting to such unprecedented times.  Personally, I really miss the social interaction of face-to-face meetings. Seeing friends and family on a small screen is wonderful, but in no way a substitute for the real thing.  However, all our Council, Section and other meetings are taking place very regularly (online of course!), and we have formed a short-term planning group to specifically deal with the current situation.  We are also contacting all speakers planned for the Michaelmas term programme, to discuss alternative ways of enjoying their presentations, should we be unable to use our usual venues.

If you are accessing interesting online sites, please do recommend them.  Also, please send any suggestions and comments you may have regarding future programming to our office – our staff Rachel and Aude are working from home and do have full access to email and phone messages.  I thank them again for their hard work, technical skills, and their innovative ideas.


Best wishes,

Dr Susan Hilton, President

Lockdown continues, and I firstly want to wish all members and their families best wishes from the Lit & Phil, with the hope that you are keeping safe and well, however limited you are as regards your ability to get away from your home.  There is so much help available to those who must self-isolate, and if you are, then do not hesitate to tap into your local community.  I know that I have discovered some amazing new contacts during these troubled times, especially from some neighbours with whom I have hardly ever spoken.  The atmosphere on Thursday evenings when we all go out and clap for the NHS has been very heart-warming too.

Here at the Lit & Phil, please be aware that there are many activities going on.  Our professional staff, Rachel and Aude, are working from home, and remain very busy with organising the eLit&Phil programme, the Forum, and the online events currently being planned (please look out for further details).  We are also contacting all of our booked speakers for this term and the next, to see if they may be able to deliver their talks in this way.  We are trialling methods of doing this as easily and effectively as we can, so do read all the communications we send to you.  We are also putting together a robust strategy for the different scenarios as we gradually come out of lockdown, however long that may take.  The needs of those members who are not online, and for those who have technical difficulties accessing online events are also being addressed – so, please stay with us!

The importance of social interaction is acutely felt, of course, by all of us.  Personally, I have really missed meeting up with so many people at the regular Lit & Phil events.  And the ‘virtual hugs’ with my family, and especially our little grandson, are not quite the same as the real thing!  However, there are so many ways of keeping in touch – the good old phone call, the opportunities via a mobile phone, and the computer/tablet have been excellent, and there has been a steep learning curve in the Hilton household with the latter, which I am sure has been replicated amongst many of you.  Do stay in touch via email and by phone and continue to send us any ideas you may have about current and future Lit & Phil activities. 


Best wishes,

Dr Susan Hilton, President


Message from the President

20th April, 2020


Greetings to all our members, and all others who are taking a look at what the Manchester Lit & Phil are getting up to during the lockdown!  Sadly we have had to postpone or cancel all our meetings and events for this summer term, but we still aim to provide some intellectual stimulation during this period, and I strongly commend our new e-programme series, compiled by members along with our very imaginative and creative staff Rachel and Aude (both of whom are working from home for now).  Be reassured that much is happening behind the scenes, and many of us have managed to come to terms with ‘virtual’ meetings – not quite the same as seeing each other in person, but just as effective for discussions, and decisions.

I also hope that you are all keeping safe and well, despite the significant limitations on our daily lives.  If you are able, do get out for your hour’s exercise, at whatever pace suits you.  For those who have to stay at home for health and age reasons, then there is so much extra online.  Please visit the online forum for a list of some of the resources you can now access, such as online ‘virtual’ exhibitions, music, along with your mental and physical health - for instance

Do feel free to make additional suggestions to add to the list on the forum.  Of course, many of us will be picking up the books we were always aiming to read but did not have so much spare time!

As far as the future events go, after this summer, we are actively planning a full series of our lectures but will be reviewing the situation week by week.  We are also trying to organise some lectures/discussions for this term, which can be accessed online and shall let you know as and when we make progress with these.


Best wishes

Dr Susan Hilton, President


Dear Member,


We are now in an unprecedented period of our history, with the Covid-19 pandemic affecting every one of us.  I hope you are all heeding the government advice about the ‘lockdown’ and only going out of the home for the essentials of food, medicine and exercise, with the appropriate social/physical distancing.  On my daily walks I am discovering details of our area in Chorlton and Whalley Range which I had never noticed before, and also appreciating the parks and green spaces which we have in our part of Manchester.

Meanwhile here at the Lit & Phil our wonderful administrative staff have been working from home all week and doing an amazing job.  Do look out for the details of the e-Lit&Phil and join in, if you are able, with the forum discussions.  We are very sad to let you know that we have had to postpone all our summer term lectures and events, but it is the same for everyone, and it must be extremely hard for the venues, the conference, hospitality and the entertainment industries.  Many organisations such as ours will be having to make many changes, and also keep afloat financially during this period.

However, we are hoping that life will return to some form of normality by the summer and as yet, we hope to deliver the full programme of events planned for the 2020-21 season, with most of these already confirmed or in an advanced state of planning.  We shall keep in regular touch with you all and do keep looking at the website.  Be reassured also that I have written to the few of our members who are not online or on email, to keep them in the picture.  We are starting to get used to online meetings, and different ways of getting together in a ‘remote’ way, and I have no doubt the skills we are learning will be of great benefit in the future.

Keep safe, stay at home, keep your mind and body as active as possible, and keep communicating with each other, with your families, and with us!


Best wishes,

Dr Susan Hilton, President, The Manchester Literary & Philosophical Society


Summer 2020 Lectures

31st March, 2020

Our Summer season was due to start on Monday 20th April but as we have all been advised to restrict social contact for the forseeable future all of our planned Summer lectures have been postponed.


With the lectures being cancelled until further notice, and most of us now self-isolating in our homes, we have created an online forum to bring our members together to try something new and to keep the discussion for lively minds flowing!

A few things you’ll quickly discover that make this 'version' of The Manchester Lit & Phil different:

  • It’s Ours. As we build the online community together, we have some great features for creating exclusive content, deeper conversations, richer polls, and online events. Plus, by building our online community off social media, you can have a more efficient and valuable experience with us and each other.

  • There are More Ways for You to Meet Each Other. There are more ways for you to meet other members, who care about the same topics and have a passion for learning.

  • We Can Bring Together Content and Community. This means fresh ideas and new practices and skills that you can take into your daily life.

What You Should Expect From Us

We’re aiming to make your experience on the online forum as worthwhile and interesting as possible, and want you to get five key things it:

  • Get exclusive content and conversations you can’t find anywhere else.  We will regularly publish an e-programme, each with a different theme, and we will aim to approach it from a variety of angles and media. You will have the chance to discuss and interrogate the themes with fellow members and make suggestions for further learning.  And all the activities we will list in the e-programme are free!

  • Meet other members who share your interests, who do the same things, or who care about the same topics.

  • Swap stories, experiences, and ideas (not necessarily advice) around our shared mission.

  • Find a little inspiration, thought-provoking conversations, and expert perspectives each and every day.


Join us online today!


As Angus requested, the executors have arranged for cremation.  Due to risks from Covid-19 and the restrictions on gatherings and on travel it will be a private, closed event.  They have suggested that, when we are once again free to meet, a commemmoration and celebration should be held.

We will keep you informed.


Dr Angus McDougall

19th March, 2020


It is with sorrow that we inform you of the death of Dr Angus McDougall in the MRI on Saturday 14 March 2020. Angus joined the Lit & Phil in 2010, became a member of Council in 2014 and was currently chair of the Young People’s Section Committee. Diagnosed with painful, incurable but treatable cancer in early 2017, superb treatment from the NHS through the Christie Hospital and his GP allowed him three more years of active life. He used this time with vigour and enjoyment until his final weeks in the MRI.


He was born in West Bridgford in October 1934, just south of Nottingham, within sound if not sight of the Midland Railway line to Melton Mowbray; was a Sir Thomas White entrance scholar at Nottingham High School and in 1953 entered Balliol College, Oxford to read chemistry. His D.Phil. there was under the guidance of the renowned physical chemist, Mr Ronnie Bell, FRS and after its completion in 1959 he held a Fulbright Travel Award enabling further study under the equally renowned Frank Long at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA. On his return he took up an Assistant Lectureship at the Manchester College of Science and Technology, then the Faculty of Technology of the Victoria University of Manchester, later becoming UMIST. He retired from UMIST in 2000 as a Senior Lecturer and Dean of Undergraduate Studies.  He continued research on electrochemical cells and in 1977 published a monograph on Fuel Cells but excelled in the other areas required of university lecturers, namely teaching and administration.


In addition to the normal range of undergraduate teaching, for which he was awarded a UMIST prize for excellence, he organised a Peer Assisted Study Session scheme to evaluate and help improve teaching by other chemistry department staff; was a leading figure in many staff training courses run by the Staff Development Unit of the University and became a member of the Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education – an uncommon choice in research-driven academia.


His talents in committee and administrative work resulted in places on many University committees including the University Senate and its Standing Committee and at the highest levels in UMIST. In the chemistry department he was the Assistant Director of Laboratories from 1976 -1990 – an important link to the undergraduate students – after which he served UMIST for 4 years as Associate Dean and then 6 years as Dean of Undergraduate Studies. Outside the department he was involved with student halls and residences, firstly as a tutor at Dalton Hall and then as Senior Advisor at Cornbrook House. He was a lifelong member of the Dalton-Ellis Hall Committee and the St Anselm Hall SCR.


Given his concern for, and involvement with, students, it was not surprising that as an 80 year old he agreed to join and later chair the YP section committee of the Lit & Phil. During his time the committee continued its successful organisation of 3 lectures each year; changed the format to improve attendance and started a programme of improved contacts with the potential audience. He also made many contributions during his regular attendance at meetings of Council.


There were many outside interests including membership of the Manchester Statistical Society, of CAMRA, with the purchase of every copy of the Good Beer Guide, of the Halle Concert Society, the Labour Party and the University of Manchester Wine Club. For the last mentioned he arranged many unusual and challenging tastings. But his greatest interests were railways and travel and he was a member of 10 railway societies facilitating this interest. For one of the more significant of these, the Branch Line Society, he was chairman for 20 years from 1969.  He records that he visited 51 countries including Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand and his only regret was that there were not more. Some of these were in organised trips to ride the spectacular, the unusual or the restricted sections of foreign railways. The exploration, investigation and photographic recording of railways, their buildings and signalling was a lifetime passion, perhaps initiated by the West Bridgford sounds. His railway legacy includes two books[1], many articles for railway society magazines and over 30 000 fully indexed photographs of railway track, station buildings, curiosities and, most significantly, a complete record of signal boxes within the UK.


My personal remembrance of Angus, whom I knew since 1963, is a principled man, concerned for others, always excellent company, courteous and appreciative of the slightest kindness. Throughout his time, he made many friends and retained them for life – from primary and secondary school, from the years at Balliol, from all his time in Manchester and from his wide range of activities – a truly remarkable number have enjoyed his friendship. Our lives have been enhanced by his presence and he will long be remembered.



Brian Tyler

[1]  A Guide to Closed Railways in Britain 1948-1975 (plus amendments) (with N J Hill)

An Enthusiasts Guide to the Railways of Western Europe (several editions)



The Covid-19 issues are changing daily, so following on from our message to you on the 16th March, we report that the RNCM has closed its doors to both students and public as of Sunday 15th March and until at least 13th April, causing the inevitable postponement/cancellation of our events held there.  As regards the Young Persons’ meeting due to take place at the MCC on 30th March, we are pleased to say that we are in discussion with the speaker, Dr Kirstie Whitaker, about delivering her lecture online – we shall update you as soon as possible about this.

Our office at Church House is also physically closed, and our staff are working from home.  However, they have remote access to the telephone voicemail, and all the relevant information needed to run the Society.  It is paramount that we protect our employees Rachel and Aude from unnecessary exposure to the virus, particularly when on crowded rush hour public transport.

We shall give regular updates about events, and as we have only just had the summer brochure printed, we shall be sending a copy to members next week, with more information in the covering letter.  The early events may not take place, but it will be of interest to see our plans, and we shall wherever possible run these in the future.

Please watch the media for daily updates on how to look after yourselves regarding limitations on movement and guidelines regarding hygiene and ‘social distancing’.


Best wishes

Dr Susan Hilton

President, Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society


As of yesterday evening, the Royal Northern College of Music closed its doors on all public events (and students were to be taught online as and when possible) in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Therefore, any planned Lit & Phil events in the immediate future will have to be postponed, starting from this evening’s lecture (all intended attendees will be notified today). It is logical to also postpone any events at the MCC along with any other extramural activities.

We shall be informing members of other ways and means of accessing interesting and educational activities via online facilities/television/radio as and when we find them, so that brains can be kept sharp – especially if you fall into the category of people who will probably be asked to stay at home, and if not on email, then there is always the telephone by which to inform. Please watch out for further news from us and be reassured that we hope all our upcoming speakers will be able to come at a later date, when things return to some sort of normality.

  • If you are feeling unwell with a cough, fever or other symptoms of a cold, stay at home and stay indoors for at least 7 days until well.
  • Take extra care washing your hands, especially if you have contact with communal door handles, etc. Use hand sanitisers if you are unable to access handwashing facilities.
  • Do not greet people with handshakes, use another way.
  • Please read your emails regularly.
  • Contact the office by email ( or phone (0161 833 4187), though be aware that our staff may be working from home some or all of the time.
  • Consult Public Health England at for up-to-date advice.


Please stay safe and well and be reassured that normal service will be resumed as soon as possible, and that the Lit & Phil 2020-21 season planning will be going ahead in the usual manner.

Best wishes

Dr Susan Hilton, President