Archive for the ‘Read’ Category

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.

Guest writer Jasmine Baines shares her takeaways from Mandy Barker’s talk

Posted on: February 22nd, 2024 by mlpEditor

On 19th February 2024, artist Mandy Barker delivered a poignant online talk on her evocative photography of marine plastic debris.

Introducing herself, Barker explained that she began photographing mass accumulations of plastic to draw attention to something that has become commonplace: litter on our beaches. Barker talked us through her projects, spanning a career laden with global recognition.

A number of her works capture plastic on a black background, arranged to mimic the natural world it is invading – dolphin pods, jellyfish, even plankton – reflecting how plastic permeates, altering nature’s very building blocks. Nurdles, for example, absorb oceanic toxins and are then consumed by wildlife, thus polluting fish and birds. I was shocked by the incessant, all-encompassing nature of plastic dominance that Barker’s work foregrounds.

Barker’s work has a scientific grounding, and her presentation reflected this. After attending a talk by a scientist that detailed the plastic-laden stomach contents of a 30-day-old albatross chick, Barker was shocked that this was not common knowledge. Determined to assist, she has worked closely with scientists since.

In 2012 Barker joined a scientific expedition sailing from Japan to Hawaii. Trawling across the debris field, they tracked plastic waste and rafting organisms still circulating from the Japanese tsunami a year earlier. Her emotive images emit the urgency her lived experience has instilled within her to raise awareness of the dangers of marine plastic pollution.

Emulating the Edward Degas quote, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see”, Barker’s message was one of raising awareness – interestingly, she targets children, capturing Smartie lids, bath toys, and action figures of Shrek, Hello Kitty, and Mickey Mouse, speaking the globally transferable language of childhood.

A member of the audience echoed my thoughts when they queried if it would be more appropriate to target industrial leaders, responsible for causing, and surely correcting, the most damage. My mind wandered to the effects of instilling anxiety amongst children, potentially making them feel unjust responsibility. Barker responded simply that both audiences are crucial. And by educating children they will consume less, and place pressure on bodies wielding the power for large-scale change. As her work has been published in fifty countries, including within the school curriculum, Barker is certainly achieving her goal to educate and influence consumer choices.

When asked at the conclusion if the oceans can be cleaned, Barker explained we must first halt the stream of debris – “if a bath is overflowing, tackle the tap before you mop the spillage”. The awareness Barker raises is the first step – hopefully those in power are listening.

Interview with Professor Tony Redmond OBE

Posted on: February 15th, 2024 by mlpEditor

Q: What was the first humanitarian aid mission that you got involved in and what motivated you to take part in it?

A: The first humanitarian mission I got involved with was in 1988, following the Earthquake in Armenia. What motivated me was the size of the disaster (which is now estimated to have caused between 25,000 and 50,000 casualties) and the poignancy of it being part of the then Soviet Union with its President, Gorbachev, visiting New York at the time.

Hopes were so high that the Cold War might be thawing and then the terrible earthquake occurred. Remarkably, Gorbachev asked for international help so me and some colleagues from the volunteer prehospital care team we had established in Manchester felt compelled to offer our help, which was accepted.


Q: The armed conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza have been widely reported on in the Western media. What sort of work are you and UK-Med, of which you’re a founder, doing in these regions?

A: I founded UK-Med (a frontline humanitarian medical NGO) in 1988, originally as the South Manchester Accident Rescue Team (SMART), which acted in support of the rescue and ambulance services here. Since our first overseas aid mission to Armenia, we have responded to every major earthquake thereafter, disease outbreaks around the world, including Ebola in Sierra Leone and the DRC, and conflicts in Sarajevo, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Gaza (twice), Yemen, Myanmar, and Ukraine.

We have been running a range of programmes across Ukraine since a week after the war began. Currently, we are running programmes in reconstructive surgery, rehabilitation, mobile primary care clinics, mental health support, advanced trauma training, and mass casualty training.

In Gaza we have had a surgical team there for a few months and are treating war injuries, especially in children.


Q: There have been significant advancements in technology since you embarked on your career 30 years ago. What sort of improvements in international response efforts, if any, have you seen as a result?

A: There have been huge improvements over the last 30 years. For example, we have established international minimum standards for medical teams and an international registration system to ensure the right care, from the right teams, gets to the right people, at the right time.

The biggest technical improvement has probably been the mobile phone and, when these fail (not commonly now), lightweight handheld satellite phones. These mean you can consult with anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time. They also improve security. When I was first deployed, I was unreachable until I got back.

“From a medical perspective, the advent of portable handheld ultrasound machines means you can now perform lifesaving internal examinations at the bedside, in a tent. We now have a portable digital X-ray machine which we can use on patients. We can even use it in remote areas as it’s run off the generator that we use to power the field hospital.”

We can now also use handheld ‘point of care’ blood testing devices – a pinprick of blood can be analysed at the bedside using a small handheld device. It gives you an instant readout of most of what we used to need a full laboratory for. (I introduced these into the Manchester Nightingale hospital, of which I was Medical Director during the Covid-19 pandemic, as there was no onsite laboratory).


Q: Delivering medical assistance in such crises is incredibly dangerous. To give readers a further insight into the unique and extremely high-risk nature of humanitarian aid work, would you mind sharing details of some of the dangerous situations you have found yourself in.

A: The work is definitely dangerous. It takes its toll on those who do it and, especially, on those nearest and dearest to them. It’s certainly not for everyone.

“You will be scared – and I have been terrified many times – but you must be able to contain your fear and function. You equally can’t be cavalier, as doing so places both you and your team in danger, and if you or they die, you won’t help anyone. I still bear the physical and mental scars of this work.”

I was poisoned with heavy metals in Kosovo which hospitalised me and required many months of treatment. It left me with permanent neurological problems. I broke my back while working on a remote island in the South China Sea which has since left me with a shortened, curved spine, and ongoing symptoms.

I have found the constant threat of danger, that something could happen any minute, almost more stressful than when it does. I worked in Sarajevo for almost 4 years and the stress was terrible. There was constant shelling and sniper fire and I twice narrowly missed being shot by snipers, with the bullets going just over my head. Tank shells frequently exploded nearby, once just outside where I was sleeping. Colleagues died. I still have nightmares.

I was in Ukraine a year or so ago when 55 cruise missiles went over in the night. Most were shot down, but the debris killed people on the ground near to where I was staying. Having worked in the wars in Sarajevo and Kosovo I was prepared and found that I could draw on those experiences during these times.


Q: How do you remain optimistic, hopeful and motivated about your work and your desire to provide aid around the world, in such challenging conditions?

A: I have seen so many people do such good things. Giving of themselves so selflessly despite the awful risks, doing it simply to help someone in need. I have also received the most enormous kindness from those in greatest need. I have obviously also seen very bad people doing very bad things.

“I am not at all religious, but I know from experience that there are far more good people than bad people, and that goodness always prevails, no matter how long it takes.”


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

Tony Redmond will be giving his talk – How can we best help those in need during and after a Humanitarian Crisis?– at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation on the 12th March 2024.

Interview with Professor Jade Munslow Ong

Posted on: February 14th, 2024 by mlpEditor

Q: Modernism was a hugely significant art movement that produced ground-breaking, experimental works. How would you define it and what does it stand for?

A: Modernism is typically defined as an artistic, cultural, and philosophical movement that emerged around the turn of the twentieth century. It’s associated primarily with European and American creatives and thinkers who used experimental forms to represent, and respond to, a modern world shaped by empire, industrialisation and urbanisation.

This included new technologies and transport, wars, shifts in scientific and political thinking, the rise of the New Woman and women’s rights. One of the mantras of the movement is Ezra Pound’s slogan ‘Make It New’, which captures the idea that modernism breaks with tradition, revising and reworking older forms to create new and innovative art, music, literature and architecture.


Q: How did you come to be particularly interested in South African modernism?

A: I spent a lot of time in South Africa when I was growing up, so I developed an interest in its literatures, histories and cultures. I then studied postcolonial literature and theory at university and wrote my PhD thesis and first book on the first South African novelist, Olive Schreiner (1855-1920).

“My particular interest in the role played by South African writers in the development of literary modernism came about through my work on Schreiner’s fiction because she uses techniques and ideas that are now considered hallmarks of modernism. What’s so fascinating about this is that she’s doing so as early as the 1870s, and from the colonial peripheries. So, she’s writing from outside of the times and places that we traditionally associate with the modernist movement.”

Building on this earlier work, I’m now leading an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project that investigates the forms and politics of South African literary modernism from the nineteenth century to the present day. There are various South African writers that our team consider as both theorists and practitioners of modernism – Solomon Plaatje, William Plomer, Lewis Nkosi, Bessie Head, JM Coetzee, Nadine Gordimer and Damon Galgut, to name but a few. These writers are connected both personally and textually to other global modernists and modernisms from all over the world, and part of our work involves tracing some of those connections.


Q: To this day, South Africa remains tormented by deep-seated, long-standing socio-political problems. What role, if any, did Modernism play in healing or hindering these problems?

A: Modernist forms are so malleable and varied that they have been mobilised in support of a wide spectrum of political ideas and ideologies, and in many cases, refused any political or social function or allegiance whatsoever.

I think the reason that South African literature emerged in a modernist idiom has to do with South Africa’s uniquely prolonged colonial condition, that arguably stretched all the way from the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck and the Dutch East India Company in 1652, to the end of apartheid in the 1990s.

“Modernism, with its interest in cross-cultural representations, fragmentation, and combinations of tradition and innovation, became the mode through which to represent the unevenness of this experience, in which European economic, political, and cultural structures so detached from their African worldviews and ways of life were imposed and enforced over centuries. I’d argue that there is a connection between modernist expression and anti-colonial and anti-apartheid resistance that can be traced across the works of many of the writers that I mentioned earlier.”


Q: If we want to begin to appreciate and understand South African Modernism, through its literature and poetry, where should we start?

A: I’ve already mentioned a few, but would also add the English-language writers H.I.E. Dhlomo, Athol Fugard, Can Themba, Njabulo Ndebele and Ivan Vladislavić; plus Xhosa-language writer S.E.K. Mqhayi; and Afrikaans writers André Brink, Breyten Breytenbach, Adam Small, Karel Schoeman and Marlene van Niekerk. I’m currently working on a co-edited collection with Professor Andrew van der Vlies (University of Adelaide) on South African modernisms and we have solicited chapters about many of these and other writers.

We’ve got some exciting contributions on South African modernist art and photography too, including by Irma Stern, Dumile Feni, Nichols Hlobo, William Kentridge, David Goldblatt and Albert Adams.  The University of Salford Art Collections holds one of the largest archives of Adams’s work – including paintings, prints and studio ephemera – and there is a permanent display of his paintings in the Albert Adams room at The Old Fire Station (where the Percival lecture is taking place).


Q: What research project/s are you working on in 2024? Is there one project that you’re particularly looking forward to? If so, why?

A: I have lots of things that I’m really excited about this year! I was in Johannesburg with filmmaker Simon Stanton-Sharma in January making a documentary film about female e-hailing (using a smartphone app to request a ride) drivers that we’re currently editing to send to film festivals.

I’m also working with an international research team, Further Education colleges in the Northwest, and exam boards AQA and WJEC Eduqas, on a project to decolonise the English Literature A-Level. We’ll be travelling to Sweden, South Africa and Australia over the next 18 months, working with 16–18-year-old learners and their teachers to create a range of resources to support this – everything from recorded lectures and teacher toolkits to video essays, podcasts and TikToks!

And I’m really looking forward to my co-authored book with Matthew Whittle, Global Literature and the Environment, coming out with Routledge in August. So, all in all, a lovely combination of celebrations, collaborations and activities to be getting on with!


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

Jade Munslow Ong will be giving this year’s Percival Lecture – South Africa’s Modernism, Modernism’s South Africa – at the University of Salford on the 18th April 2024.

Message from our President – February 2024

Posted on: January 31st, 2024 by mlpEditor

February 2024


Welcome to this month’s newsletter. We are well into 2024, and I hope your year has started positively.

Our theme for this term is the environment. Two events – both happening online – are showcased in the newsletter, and our complete program is available on the website. Alongside these events, the ever-popular Philosophy Forum will occur during most months in 2024.

Those of you who booked tickets will know that due to a late change to his itinerary, we had to postpone our event with Andy Burnham. I want to thank everyone who worked on setting up the event. It sold out a larger venue in 48 hours. This is an excellent indication that we can increase our event participation.

If you attended last year’s AGM in September 2023, or read the supporting documents, you will know that Manchester Lit & Phil is facing several challenges. Without going into too much detail in this post, they can be summarized as static event attendances, awareness of who we are and what we offer, and an imbalance in our income and costs.

Several behind-the-scenes changes have occurred over the last few months to start addressing these issues. The most visible to this audience is the theme selection for each term. We have also reviewed our operating model, supplier relationships, and marketing and partnership opportunities.

As you will see from the newsletter, we have moved our office location. This change was planned but was hastened by Colony’s changes to our old location infrastructure.

The next set of decisions will broadly impact our membership; therefore, we must engage and consult with our entire membership.

Currently, our monthly e-newsletter is sent to all mailing list subscribers – not just Lit & members – and its primary aim is to showcase future events and keep people aware of changes in the Society that are of general interest.

To keep the membership informed, we will launch an additional member’s newsletter, issued regularly and topic-focused. This will also be accompanied by a set of online and face-to-face meetings to allow the issues and potential solutions to be explained and explored before their adoption. These sessions will occur over the next three months as we prepare the budget and operating plan for the 24/25 year. The nature and timing of these will be communicated in more detail in the next two weeks.

I invite anyone on the mailing list who is not yet a member but would like to help support the Society and be involved in its evolution to sign up. Members are key to our success, and new perspectives and ideas are always welcome.

Thank you for your continued support. I look forward to seeing you at one of the upcoming events.


Peter Wright 


Bicentenary of the University of Manchester, and the Purple Wave!

Posted on: January 29th, 2024 by mlpEditor

On 17 January 2024, at precisely the time of 18:24, the Oxford Road campus and all adjacent University of Manchester buildings were lit up in purple! Manchester City Council Leader Bev Craig and the University’s Vice-Chancellor Dame Nancy Rothwell pressed a big gold button, and the spectacular light display appeared.

As the University General Assembly Manchester Lit & Phil representative, I was very privileged to attend the formal ceremony, with many prominent guests such as the University Chancellor Nazir Afzal, the Lord Mayor of Manchester Councillor Yasmine Dar, RNCM Principal Professor Linda Merrick, and many more. A specially commissioned bicentenary poem had been written by University alumna Rebecca Hurst and she read parts of it to us. There were also large numbers of the public watching the event, and we were shown live pictures from Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai and Shanghai, where the University has Global Hubs.

Walking back down Oxford Road I saw so many people about, with a huge queue waiting to enter Manchester Museum – people of all ages too (the lure of free chai lattes provided by a local restaurant might have had something to do with that!). The purple lights were everywhere, creating a very impressive and special atmosphere. A line from the Hurst’s poem Mast Year – ‘I’m meant to be here’ – beamed in huge neon letters as part of a wonderful installation across Booth Street East, where it will remain until the end of February.

On Oxford Road, the Museum’s much-loved spider crab was ready to party – and dressed up for the occasion – following a glamorous disco makeover. The ‘disco crab’ proved a huge favourite with the crowds, many of whom posed for selfies and danced with their new decapod friend! It was a very happy evening!

During the bicentenary year there will be many events to mark the importance of the history and future of the University. You will find these listed on the University of Manchester’s bicentenary website. Do go along to be part of the celebrations.


Guest writer Sam Abbott reflects on our event with Newsnight’s Ben Chu

Posted on: December 13th, 2023 by mlpEditor

On 30th November 2023, Manchester Lit & Phil’s The Chinese in Britain – the latest chapter, featuring Newsnight Economics Editor Ben Chu, brought a packed audience up to speed about an often-overlooked but hugely significant influx of migrants.

The event came just one day after significant cuts to the Newsnight programme had been announced. Quizzed on this, Chu expressed his wish for the BBC’s current affairs output to return to fact-based reporting, and to put less focus on the talking heads debating format which it has been leaning into recently.

Chu began his talk on Chinese migration by outlining the numbers — his specialty — and I sensed that the true scale surprised many in the room: over 120,000 Hong Kongers of a wide range of ages have settled in the UK under the British National (Overseas) visa route in the past two years, and estimates suggest 300,000 BN(O) holders could arrive over the next few years, according to think tank British Future.

Placing this into context, Chu discussed other, far smaller migrations of Chinese people to Britain since the 19th century. Keen to highlight shortcomings in the treatment of previous generations of Chinese migrants, he drew parallels between the compulsory repatriation of Chinese merchant seamen in the post-war periods of the 1920s and ’50s and the treatment of the Windrush generation. The plight of the Chinese seamen, however, seems almost forgotten today.

One of the key comparisons made by Chu, and perhaps an answer as to why the repatriated seamen have received such little recognition, is the comparison between earlier generations of politically-disengaged Chinese migrants and the politically active, educated and wealthy BN(O) cohort. This shift in the nature of Chinese migrants holds potentially wide-ranging consequences for the future politics and economy of Britain.

Amidst an audience of equally keen attendees, I unfortunately did not get the chance to ask Chu for his perspective on why this massive intake of migrants — already one of the largest ever — appears to have received relatively little media coverage and political airtime. For my part, I think many factors are at play. Amongst them, this particular group of migrants’ high education level and apparent low crime rate, along with their accompanying wealth and economic potential, make their arrival much more tolerable to the British people, many of whom are otherwise extremely tired and wary of mass immigration.

A poll carried out in February 2022 by Ipsos/British Future showed 73% support, and only 10% oppose the migration of Hong Kongers through the BN(O) scheme, while a YouGov poll from earlier this month found 41% consider immigration and asylum to be one of the top three issues facing the country. It has long been an important issue for a significant proportion of society and I find it intriguing that, in this context, there has been very little opposition to such a large wave of inward migration.

Apart from BN(O) migrants, Chu also touched on the sharp increase in the numbers of Chinese students attending British universities. He challenged the stereotypes and “fear-mongering” surrounding suspicions of ties between these students and the Chinese government, putting forward his experience interviewing a handful of Chinese students in Glasgow as indication that concerns are unfounded. To my mind though, anxieties about the intentions of certain individuals within the large community of Chinese students in British universities — at a time when many are worried about the threat of foreign interference not being given enough consideration by the government, media and security services — should not be dismissed too readily.

In short, The Chinese in Britain – the latest chapter brought great insight into an underreported phenomenon and prompted all in attendance to reflect on both the past treatment of Chinese migrants, as well as the impact that the recent influx could have on contemporary Britain.

Message from our President – December 2023

Posted on: November 30th, 2023 by mlpEditor

December 2023


When I worked in the corporate environment, there was always the milestone of being in a role for 100 days. This time was always used to listen, watch, learn, and get curious. To put forward a vision of the future, and to plan to start moving in that direction.


As I write this, it is 71 days since my election at the AGM, so the other council members, the newly formed operating committee and I are busy pulling a vision and plan together. The next step is to get feedback from the members, refine the plan, and move forward.


And we want to keep you informed. So, we will arrange several online meetings with members, sections, and our broader mailing list to share and listen. The times and dates of these meetings will be communicated in the next few weeks.


This process runs in parallel to the Lit & Phil’s daily business of producing thought-provoking talks and events. Please have a look at the events planned for December; these range from the popular Philosophy Forum, a special Christmas concert, Newsnight’s Ben Chu looking at the recent influx of Chinese migrants from Hong Kong

and our next event focused on the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.


2024 – Our Themes


As mentioned last month, we have decided to organise our events around a theme for each term. This approach gives a focus and allows for a multifaceted exploration of a subject. We are also looking to broaden our appeal by leveraging different formats (including debates and workshops), looking at event timings to ensure accessibility to the broadest audience, and attracting challenging, diverse, and inspiring speakers.


From January, our themes are the Environment, Artificial Intelligence (May to August), and in the Autumn, we will focus on our wonderful city, Manchester.


Manchester, the slave trade & the Manchester Lit & Phil 


2023 has been a time of reflection, as the UCLAN report and the supporting events have helped inform our thinking, connect us with community leaders and help the team start mapping our future plans and events.


We have our final event of this year, which will be led by Professor Robert Beckford and will look at the topic of reparations. This event will be informative, insightful, and challenging. I encourage you to attend.


Your Society needs you!


I apologise for paraphrasing the old slogan: Manchester Lit & Phil, values all its members. As many of you know, in a post-pandemic world, many organisations must look at how they operate and what they offer. We are the same, and we need to make sure our programme meets the needs of our current members, attracts new members, and allows us to keep broadening minds for the next 240 years.


With that in mind, please engage with the invitation to suggest themes, events and speakers. Diverse inputs will lead to a diverse program. And that is what will serve our mission most effectively.


Please spread the word, give feedback, volunteer, and invite people to an event. We are aiming to increase our impact and grow our community.


Thank you for your time.



Peter Wright 


Message from our President – November 2023

Posted on: November 1st, 2023 by mlpEditor

November 2023


It’s amazing how time flies when you’re having fun! This perfectly summarizes my first month as President. I had the opportunity to attend multiple events and I enjoyed every single one of them. Each event gave me a new perspective on the subject and allowed me to explore areas I had never considered before. Above all, I had a great time meeting and interacting with our members and guests.


I believe we have a unique offering. I see my role over the next two years as to work with all of you to continue to develop and improve our special contribution to the people of Manchester and beyond. To make sure the society is operating on firm foundations and build awareness of why we’re here and how people can get involved. What we have to offer is too good to keep to ourselves.


Please help me by talking about what we do, and inviting people to events, and for those of you who may not have been to an event in a while, have a look at the program. I am sure you will find something interesting.


The Environment – Our next theme


Following on from a review of our past programs, the trustees and sections have adopted a new framework for developing our event schedule. We will now be choosing a theme for each quarter and planning various events around a core idea.


We will build a series of events, including talks, debates, and visits creating a chance for our audiences to explore an idea more fully, together. We want our events to have broad appeal and core to that principle is the need to ensure we have space for education, exploration, and most of all entertainment.


We are now starting to release events around our current theme of the environment. Our first event will be an online talk on the use of microorganisms to help reduce plastic waste.


Manchester, the slave trade & the Manchester Lit & Phil 


We had our second event in this current series, a guided tour of Manchester, exploring the cities links to the trans-Atlantic slave trade, its industrial expansion and later role in helping support the abolition movement. I was born in Manchester and worked in the mills. After those two hours, I will never look at the city in the same way again.


Our final event of 2023 will take place on the 12th December: Reparations for our slavery links – how might they work?


In parallel, the team behind this series of events is talking to community leaders to develop a plan for our response to the UCLan report and our future activities.

Preparing for the next 240 years

Our monthly newsletter is focused on giving an update to our members and wider mailing list. With that in mind, I have focused on subjects of general interest. There is, however, a huge amount of work required to prepare the society for the future. The trustees have committed to several workstreams to help address the challenges we face.

As this is more internally focused, communication on the details and how we would like members to contribute will be part of a members-centric communication. If you are not a member but would like to help shape the future, please join the Lit & Phil now. We’d love to hear your fresh ideas.


How you can help

This society is important to us all. I want to ask each of you to think about one action that you can do over the next month to help support our activities. They can be as simple as sharing this message, a conversation or attending an event. Every one of these small actions will make a difference.


Thank you for your time.



Peter Wright 


Message from the President – October 2023

Posted on: October 3rd, 2023 by mlpEditor

October 2023


Thank you for taking the time to read my first monthly update. I want to thank everyone for the warm welcome, support and advice. I assure you I will work with the Council to serve Manchester, the Lit & Phil and its members as we move forward and evolve. 


Thank you to our past officers and President


Firstly, I want to acknowledge everyone who left or took office following the elections at the AGM. The passion and energy displayed by our Trustees is one of the reasons the Lit & Phil is well into its 242nd year.


I would also like to highlight the contribution of Ian Cameron, whose time as President has seen us take stock and begin a journey of change. Ian has already committed a tremendous amount of time to the Lit & Phil. And, to ensure continuity, he has agreed to take on the Vice Presidency. Please join me in thanking him for his ongoing commitment to our development. And thanks must also go to his wife, Sue, for her support.


Manchester, the slave trade & the Manchester Lit & Phil 


Did you attend our event on 27th September: Manchester, the slave trade and the Manchester Lit & Phil? Professor Erinma Bell MBE, DL, JP, chaired a special guest panel that discussed the implications of the UCLan research report, which looked at the historical links that early Lit & Phil members had to the slave trade.


The event was well-attended, thought-provoking and powerful. And I was grateful to the panel for making several practical suggestions regarding our future response.


Our next event, in response to the findings of the UCLan research report, with Professor Robert Beckford, takes place in December. Former Vice President Tony Jackson and the team are discussing our next steps and actions.


Moving Forward


It is hard to believe that I met Ian for the first time on July 14th, having only heard about the Manchester Lit & Phil a week earlier. Over the last weeks, I have tried to meet as many members as possible, listened to people’s views and concerns and immersed myself in the society’s rich history. Over the next quarter, I will continue this journey with the membership, Council, Sections, and our team to develop our strategic plan and operating model.


Many of you know that Aude Nguyen Duc, our Finance and Operations Manager, will leave us in November after five years of working for the Lit & Phil. Aude has been a real asset to the society during a challenging period. We all wish her well for her future.


As a result of Aude’s departure, the focus for the next month will be on ensuring we have operational continuity and that our governance processes are robust and up to date.  


A call to action


The lifeblood of the Lit & Phil is its membership and events. One of my first takeaways is that many of our members were introduced by a friend, attended one or two events, and then joined.


On that basis, I ask you to share details of our upcoming events with your friends and invite them to an event. We’re regularly adding new events to our programme, and I’m sure they’ll see something that interests them.


Peter Wright 


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