Archive for March, 2024

How can we best help those in need during and after a Humanitarian Crisis?

Posted on: March 19th, 2024 by mlpEditor

What does it take to save lives in war, disaster, and disease?

Tony Redmond has over 30 years’ experience of responding to wars, disease outbreaks, and sudden onset disasters all around the world. In this recording of his highly engaging talk, he details the lessons learned, the improvements that have been made in the international response, and how we can continue to ensure the assistance provided is both effective and focused on those most in need.

He describes the type of medical assistance that is needed across the various types of humanitarian emergencies and how international support can best complement, and not compete with, the work of others and that of the affected country itself.

Delivering medical assistance during humanitarian crises, especially during conflicts, can be incredibly dangerous. Tony outlines how we can attempt to mitigate these risks, though never eliminate them. He describes his personal experiences of practicing medicine under fire.

A particular focus of the presentation is his work in Ukraine and that of his colleagues in UK-Med. He explains how the programs they are running there been shaped by their experience of delivering emergency medical aid to Sarajevo and Kosovo for the duration of the wars in the Balkans.

Helping those in need during a Humanitarian Crisis is not without personal cost. Tony discusses how we can look to reduce this amongst team members. He also gives an insight into the physical and mental challenges he has had to deal with – the legacy of over 30 years of committed work.

What are you drinking? A look at chemicals in the urban water cycle

Posted on: March 7th, 2024 by mlpEditor

When you turn on the tap to get a glass of water, do you think about where that water has come from? Or rather, where it’s been and what treatment processes it has had to go through?

It’s true that chemicals can extend, improve and enrich our health, wellbeing and life experiences. But the rate at which new chemicals are being generated is resulting in widespread contamination of water. Arguably, the impacts of chemicals in our environment represent the third greatest planetary crisis behind climate change and biodiversity loss. And yet they are inextricably linked to both.

Currently, more than 56% of the world’s human population lives in cities. And daily use, release and exposure to chemicals in our environment is an emerging concern.

In this recording of an online talk, Dr Leon Barron outlines how chemicals move in our urban water cycle. From the wastewater we generate, to river pollution, to contamination of our drinking water and their occurrence in both humans and biota. Advances in measurement technology has underpinned much of this, especially the use of mass spectrometry, to fingerprint chemical sources.

Leon describes the role of wastewater in understanding exposure to chemicals, with respect to continuous release of treated effluents to our rivers, lakes and seas. He also talks about using the analysis of wastewater generated in cities to understand consumption and exposure patterns to every-day-use chemicals – like pharmaceuticals, personal care products, pesticides, lifestyle chemicals and many others.

He assesses potential solutions to this issue, to ensure that we balance the environmental impacts of chemicals and their immense benefit to society.

If we’re going to survive and thrive in the future, there is no doubt that we will need to look after our water supply.

Message from our President – March 2024

Posted on: March 5th, 2024 by mlpEditor

March 2024


A reflection of where we are

As I write these updates, I often focus on the future, and how we can prepare and adapt the Lit & Phil to thrive in a changing world. That focus can often lead me to forget the good work that continues to go on and the progress we are already making.

I attended two online events in February, both of which reminded me why I was so keen to volunteer and help Manchester Lit & Phil: Dr Leon Barron, helping us understand the urban water cycle; and Mandy Baker, combining her passion for the planet and her photography to highlight the impact of plastic waste on our environment. Both events were balanced, fact-based, engaging and educational, with the subject matter being of broad interest.

In other areas, we have teams working on several exciting projects for 2024, and our recent partnership with The Wire, which has now published two articles, is increasing our website visits and the time people spend on the site – hopefully a precursor to an increase in event attendance. Our membership has also increased since the start of the year.

The Lit & Phil has so much to offer the population of Manchester. We still have a path of change ahead of us, but now we have celebrated our 243rd birthday I am confident that what we do from this point will allow us to hit the 250th anniversary in good health.


Moving forward

As I have mentioned previously, the next few months are focused on delivering our program but also defining the future direction of the society. Whilst I do not expect everyone in the Society to agree with what will be proposed, I do want to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard, every member is informed and that a majority of our members back the changes.

Starting next week, we will issue a members-only newsletter to make everyone aware of the challenges we face and the options open to us. To allow dialogue, we will also be arranging virtual “drop-in sessions”, based on each topic to allow an open sharing of views and ideas.


A Lit & Phil by Manchester, for Manchester

You will have seen the call for new volunteers that was sent last week. This is the first of several requests we will be making for additional help. The roles mentioned in the last post are areas that need urgent attention.  The campaign was sent out to our entire mailing list as we want to widen our pool of active volunteers and hear from as many different voices as possible.

The value of cognitive diversity in driving new and innovative solutions has long been recognised. Due to our relatively small pool of active volunteers, several people currently have to fill multiple roles, which is a huge commitment on their part.

A ‘broader church’ approach will allow us to reduce the burden on individuals and will open opportunities for new ways of thinking.


First step on the journey

In mid-March, there will be a Trustee workshop to review and refresh our Mission, Vision and Strategic priorities. The outcome of this meeting will be communicated in the new members’ newsletter, and all members will have the chance to contribute towards the steps in the journey.

Whilst it’s true we have a long way to go to forge a Lit & Phil that truly serves Manchester, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s vital that we establish a solid foundation and shared ambition.

Please help us prepare for the future, please let us hear your voice and have your support.


Peter Wright 


Interview with Dr Cynthia Johnston

Posted on: March 4th, 2024 by mlpEditor

Q: The Medieval period is perceived by some as ‘the Dark Ages’, a period of economic, intellectual and cultural decline. Based on your research, would you say this is a misconception?

A: Yes, I would say that is a rather old-fashioned view, but I think it survives despite the evidence. The term ‘Dark Ages’ has a resonance of romanticism about it, as a period which was difficult to document due to the collapse of the communication networks established by the Roman Empire. We know now that trade routes and communication across cultures continued to flourish across the period. The influence of the Islamic world pervades the art and architecture of the late medieval period. We can see this influence in ceramics, textiles, architecture, medieval book illumination and especially in the ‘carpet’ stained glass windows of the great cathedrals.


Q: What is it about this period in history that has captivated you so much as to want to study and teach it?

A: It was the sound of the language of Middle English which captivated me as an MA student at New York University in the early 1980s.

“While I found Chaucer’s language very accessible via its close connection with the English that we speak today, it was the dialect of the Gawain poet from the North-West Midlands, that I found most beautiful and appealing.”


Q: You are a lecturer on the History of the Book MA at the University of London – could you give us an insight into what one might expect from your course? And which book do you most enjoy referencing in your lectures? (if you can choose one, that is)

A: The MA/MRes in the History of the Book in the Institute of English Studies is the oldest programme of its kind in the world. It studies the making, manufacturing, distribution and reading of books, and thus offers a unique way of understanding different literary, cultural, social, intellectual, and technological processes in history. The subject extends to include newspapers, magazines, chapbooks, ephemera, digital text, and all kinds of printed or written media. It also includes the manuscript book in all its forms from the pre-classical, classical, and medieval periods.

“It is VERY difficult to choose a favourite book as a teaching object but I would say that has to be the medieval psalter. These types of books show us so much about their owners, and often give us information about individual lives: marriages, births and deaths.”


Q: Many of our members and followers will be avid book collectors and enthusiasts. With the advancements in technology made over the last thirty years or so, should we be worried or excited about the future of books and the way we consume information?

A: That is a huge question, but I am very optimistic about the survival of the codex. In 2011, I chaired a conference entitled ‘The Future Perfect of the Book’ with my colleague Wim Van Mierlo. Many of the conference attendees were concerned that the rise of the digital book would spell the end of the book in physical form, and that book shops would become things of the past. That culture has proved robust.

“It doesn’t seem that we are ready to part company with the physical book anytime soon. Research on the cognitive differences between reading text online and reading print from a physical book seems to suggest that these are two distinct cognitive experiences that can happily co-exist.”


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

Cynthia Johnston will be giving her talk – Getting Medieval with Stranger Things – at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation on the 7th March 2024.

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