Photo: The Garden Visiting Group
by Jane Malvern

Speakers' Biographies

Speaker for April 2020 - Prof Melanie L Williams

By the time we get to our mature years we are likely to have experienced the family tensions which can arise around Wills, probate and the inheritance of property. In his novel of 1910, Howards End, E.M. Forster recognised that prejudices concerning social class and notions of entitlement could be additional aggravating factors and his nod to broader social and economic changes threatening Edwardian England still resonate today. This talk will reflect on the genius of the novel Howards End and its acute exploration of difficult questions of inheritance and justice, the mirror held up to us all requiring us– as Forster expresses it – to ‘only connect’.

Melanie L. Williams is Professor Emerita of Law at Exeter University. Professor Williams read Law at the University of Cambridge and a Masters in English Literature at the University of Sussex and taught at London University, Aberystwyth, Swansea and Exeter. She has been Consultant to the Open University and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and editorial board member of the International Journal of Law in Context (Cambridge University Press) Law, Culture and Humanities (Sage) and Jurisprudence (Hart).

Having been located as an academic in the discipline of ‘law’ but also considering literature and philosophy, her work has reflected in particular upon how the moral life co-exists and engages with the institutions of law, cutting across a range of questions concerning human existence, particularly problems of violence, sexuality, bioethics and mortality, from the historical, to the cultural, psychological, feminist/gender and now with a view to considering how these play out in global social and popular media.

She is the author of numerous articles and book contributions as well as two single authored books, Empty Justice and Secrets and Laws

Speaker for March 2020 - Geraint Davies

Dr Geraint Evans, was for over 35 years lecturer and Senior Lecturer at the Department of Information Studies Aberystwyth University. He had always been a voracious reader of detective novels and on his retirement he began to write detective novels in Welsh – having noticed that in comparison to hundreds available in English the number of Welsh titles was very limited.

His first novel, Y Llwybr (The Path), appeared in 2009 and has been followed by four others. All the novels are set in Aberystwyth/Ceredigion and feature Detective Inspector Gareth Prior and his feisty assistant D. C Teri Owen. In 2019 he wrote a 10,000 word story for his community newspaper entitled Night and Day – which appears in 1,000 word monthly chunks. The fee for the story was passed to the 2020 Ceredigion National Eisteddfod Appeal. He has just started on his sixth novel, which if he keeps to his timetable (!) should be published in the Spring of 2021.

Speaker for February 2020 - Gavin Hooson

In this talk, Gavin will show how the most unpromising looking documents will still have information about the lives of ordinary people who have lived in Mid Wales before us. He will be looking at court records, school records and even maps.

Gavin Hooson came to Powys in 1976 as a teacher and worked as an archaeologist, and arts administrator before joining the Powys Library and Archive service. He retired from the service in 2013.

Speaker for November 2019 - Hugh Parry

'Music Before The Microchip' gives a reminder of how our parents, grandparents - and often we ourselves - used to listen to recorded music. You will see a variety of instruments gallantly willing to perform for you, dating from around 1910 to 1960. The recordings, which cover the same kind of time-span, will follow a theme, which could be called 'Aboard the Orient Express' in that they all have an Eastern connection which testifies to the long-lasting (if not very well-informed) interest, for both 'serious' and light music, in the Arab world, the Indian sub-continent and the Far East. Expect a few gongs.

Hugh Parry has been a literature tutor in adult education for thirty years or so, but, in 'Music Before The Microchip', he wears the hat, or fez, of his alter ego, The Sheik of Shellac. This is a sideline which contains a warning, since it shows how a casual hobby can grow like a triffid. Music or literature, though, the aim has always been the same: to share a pleasure. He has lived in mid-Wales for a few years, and is a member of Aberystwyth U3A.

Speaker for October 2019 - Rhian Morgan

Richard III: From car park to cathedral tells the story of the discovery and identification of the skeleton in the car park, including how DNA was used to help confirm that the remains were that of the lost king, Richard III.

Rhian is originally from Ystrad Mynach in the Rhymney Valley but now lives and works in Cardiff. Her background is in biomedical research - having studied at Swansea University and the University of Wales College of Medicine in Cardiff - and she has worked in academic, industrial and clinical research settings. More recently she has worked with individuals and families affected by genetic conditions at Genetic Alliance UK, and later, the University of South Wales. She is currently the Senior Education and Engagement Officer for the Wales Gene Park where she helps to deliver a busy programme of genetics-related events and activities to schools and colleges, health professionals, patients and families and the public.

Speaker for September 2019 - Bruce Lawson

In 1900, aged 22, Charles Stewart Rolls was the best-known motorist in Britain, better known that Jeremy Clarkson today, having won the Thousand Mile Trial of that year, the event that launched motoring as a practical popular concept. Rolls followed his success in the trial by racing, in highly dangerous inter-city races in Europe. He drove the fastest time ever thus far achieved in Britain, although this was never ratified. At the same time, Rolls ran a large car sales and service show room in London, employing 70 staff at one time, with space for 200 cars. In the space of six months, he persuaded the secretary of the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland (later RAC), Claude Johnson, to join him and then shortly after he discovered Henry Royce and his three Royce cars, the engineering genius, with whom Rolls name is forever linked. This triumvirate of talented engineers and businessmen took Rolls-Royce to the pinnacle of motoring excellence which the company has occupied ever since.

Rolls for relaxation helped create the new sport of hot air ballooning and raced for his country. He then joined a select band of intrepid pioneers who sought to prove the theory of powered flight. He was a confidante of the Wright Brothers, during their early years in their aviation experiments, which were amazingly disbelieved in America. He was the first to fly the English Channel both ways, but weeks later he perished at Bournemouth Air Show. Engineer, salesman, aristocrat, pioneer and businessman, Charles Stewart Rolls offers us a timely reminder of British invention, courage and ingenuity a century ago.

Born in Worcestershire, Bruce Lawson’s life has never been dull. A little eccentric perhaps, this is a man who launched a major radio station in Hereford/Worcester, played rugby for Jamaica, walked through the Channel Tunnel for charity and stood for Parliament or the Welsh Assembly 3 times (without success!) Nearing retirement, Bruce found a replacement career as a writer and speaker. In 2009, he read Andrew Marr’s The Making of Modern Britain which featured Rolls who co-founded Rolls-Royce and found it “a ripping good yarn”. The result was the biography Charles Rolls of Rolls-Royce. “Rolls was the Richard Branson/James Dyson of the Edwardian Age.

Bruce has lived in Wales in Montgomery for 20 years and lectures on both Rolls-Royce, Charles Rolls his life and early motoring in Britain. About sixty talks so far, including at Rolls-Royce Motors in Goodwood and on the Queen Victoria, (Cunard, not the pub in Eastenders).  Bruce has just published a second biography, the life of Gwyn Steinbeck, second wife of American Nobel writer John Steinbeck and mother of his two sons which has had its controversial debut in the USA (see

Speaker for August 2019 - Janet Robinson

Janet's talk is set in Hertfordshire.  Born in Hatfield, she describes herself as "a less distinguished daughter than some, of a grocer – that old fashioned word that has now disappeared from common parlance".  Her talk is about the research and presentation of family history and is based on the grocery business started by her great-grandfather in 1869. It encompasses four generations, some quaint characters, and the experiences of two World Wars. It includes, of course, some of those who married into the family and have their own unique stories.

Now living in Hay on Wye, before Janet came west she was a teacher in both Hertfordshire and London. In 1986 she and her husband bought an old Vicarage in Herefordshire and ran a guest house for sixteen years. Not only was that a rewarding experience but they found themselves knee deep in the history of one of the local vicars – a Victorian astronomer - and it was after the publication of his life and work that she returned to her own family roots.

Speakers for July 2019 - Mike Watkins and Wilma Hayes

There's nothing like a good conspiracy theory! There's paranoia, secrecy, intrigue and even lunacy, some have got it all. From Kennedy to Princess Di, from Roswell to the moon landings this talk takes a light hearted look at the history of the conspiracy theory and presents some of the strangest and weirdest theories, and some that are almost believable!

Speakers Mike and Wilma return to bring us another talk. Mike, as well as being chairman of his local history society, has an interest in canals and is chairman of the Friends of the Leominster Canal. With a life-long love of carpentry, a half acre of garden and their old black & white cottage to maintain, Mike keeps himself pretty much out of trouble!  Wilma, who moved to England from Canada in the mid 1980s has, as they say, come home! Having lived for many years in Surrey, she and Mike now live near Ludlow in south Shropshire, not far from Much Wenlock where her ancestors lived in the 1800s. A writer, Wilma can be found most days tapping away on her computer key board only raising a head when it’s time for coffee! She has written and published several novels, edited and contributed to a non fiction history book and regularly writes for magazines and publications both here and in Canada.

Speaker for June 2019 - Fran Sandham

Critically acclaimed author and public speaker Fran Sandham walked across Africa solo, from Namibia's Skeleton Coast to the Indian Ocean near Zanzibar, a 3,000-mile trek taking nearly a year.

Fran Sandham was an editor at Rough Guides for several years, and worked in bookselling and in the voluntary sector before that. He has travelled in over fifty countries. He now lives in London and Wirral, and divides his time between writing, public speaking and travel. He has written for many newspapers, magazines and travel publications, including the Sunday Times, NBC News, the Daily Telegraph, the Observer, the Financial Times, inflight magazines for KLM and Gulf Air, Adventure Travel, Traveller magazine, Travel Africa and Country Walking.

Speaker for May 2019 - Malcolm Meadows

Malcolm was born in Wales and during his early years he attended school in Abergavenny. He later gained a degree in Pharmacy from the University of Wales. He has always had a keen interest in Art, History and Music. His work has taken him to many parts of Britain before returning to Abergavenny to work in a local hospital.

Following his retirement he has been able to develop his interest in Music and Art to give illustrated lectures to inform and entertain mixed groups of people such as Rotary clubs, U3A, Probus, Church groups, WI’s, and Art groups including Abergavenny Art Group. For the past 3 years he has given presentations on Cruise ships sailing to destinations from Tahiti to St Petersburg, Cape Verde and the Canaries to Scandinavia.

Speaker for April 2019 - Stephen Ashley

In this month's talk Stephen Ashley will suggest that there was a lot more to Renaissance sculpture than just Michaelangelo and the Florentine gang. In particular he makes the case for the truly amazing terracotta sculptures that permeated the whole of Europe at that time and which have been largely ignored ever since the Greek revival of the late 18th century.

Of Welsh and Canadian as well as English extraction, Stephen grew up in the Vale of Evesham. He trained and practised as a chartered surveyor before going walkabout for a while in Italy. He then found, somewhat to his surprise, that he had become a specialist journalist in the construction industry press where he stayed for 15 years. After a number of years as the founding editor of a journal involved with energy use in buildings he was promoted to be an editorial director in the industry's leading publishing house.

Seeking a better work-life balance, Stephen brought his family back to Mid-Wales where he went back to working as a general practice building surveyor for 25 years until his retirement. Somewhat to his surprise, he finds himself just as busy as before!

Note: This talk replaces that in the original programme by Bernard Lockett on "Social and Political Satire of Gilbert and Sullivan".

Speaker for March 2019 - Deborah Moggach

In her talk, Deborah will discuss the process of turning books into films, her misadventures in Hollywood and what happened in India when they filmed her book.

She as written 19 novels, several of which she has adapted into TV dramas. These include Final Demand, To Have and To Hold, Stolen and Seesaw. Her novel Tulip Fever, set in l7th centruy Amsterdam, has been made iinto a major film starring Alicia Vikander, Judi Dench and Jack O’Connell and her novel The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel became a hit film. Her other screen plays include The Diary of Anne Frank, Love in a Cold Climate and the movie of Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley, which was nominated for a BAFTA. Her latest novel is Something To Hide. She has also written two collections of short stories and a stage play.

Speaker for February 2019 - Dr Martin Bates

In recent years survey along our coastlines and beneath the shallow waters of the English Channel, North Sea and Cardigan Bay has revealed evidence for formerly dry lands that once existed where we now have seas.  These are not the landscapes of Atlantis or Cantre’r Gwaelod but real places which were once home to early modern humans and Neandertals.  Our surveys are beginning the map the river valleys, estuaries and uplands of these lost landscapes and occasionally recover the traces of these early ancestors. This talk will show how these landscapes are being pieced back together again both in Cardigan Bay and elsewhere around the British Isles.

Dr Bates career history covers a number of disciplines including archaeology, quaternary geology, engineering geology and environmental science.  It is this multi-disciplinary profile that allows him to provide a unique approach to archaeology that manifests itself through teaching, research and contract work.

He was centrally involved in the discovery and excavation of the important Lower Palaeolithic site at Boxgrove in the 1980’s and this interest in the Quaternary history of Sussex has continued to the present day. Since the mid 1990’s there have been 3 threads to his career; teaching, research and contract archaeology. All three are currently run through the School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology at Lampeter.

The archaeology of submerged landscapes is an on-going area of interest and he is part of a team looking at submerged landscapes around the Bay of Firth and the Loch of Stenness in Orkney.  Additionally he is project geoarchaeologist for the Ice Age Island project in Jersey and is leading a new multi-disciplinary research excavation at La Cotte de St.Brelade in Jersey. He is also working as project geoarchaeologist on a research project at Isimila in Tanzania and has also worked as a geoarchaeologist on projects in Turkey, Lebanon, Qatar and Iran.

Speaker for January 2019 - Richard Walker

A fascinating woman and contemporary of George Eliiot, Octavia Hill provided the author with the model for Dorothea in "Middlemarch".  Well-known as one of the founders of the National Trust, she is recognised as a pioneer of social work and her famous book "Housing London’s Poor" has never been out of print.

The presentation covers the influences in her life from her maternal grandfather Robert Southwood Smith, a contemporary and friend of Jeremy Bentham, to her mother’s enlightened views on eduation and her father’s utopian socialism.  Her ability as an artist was recognised by John Ruskin who employed her as a copyist and provided the money for her first housing project.  Her life touched millions of the poor and disadvantaged in a pitiless age, and her network of followers reads like a "Who’s Who" of the Victorian and early Edwardian period.

Richard Walker was born in Derbyshire and grew up in Sheffield, Leeds and the West Midlands, graduating from Hull University in 1968. His claim to fame is that he lived round the corner from Phillip Larkin!  Richard taught in Birmingham for a couple of years, and then joined the Police service in 1970. Whilst serving as a Police Officer he studied for the Ministry of the Church of England  and was ordained in Bristol in 1995. He served as a non-stipendiary priest in Bristol and then as Prison Chaplain in Leicester and Usk.

In 2005 Richard began a series of voluntary jobs including being a Parish Priest in South Gloucestershire and working as an advisor with The Citizens Advice Bureau. After moving to Powys in 2007 he worked in the bureau in Abergavenny. He is currently chairman of a small charity in Brecon providing advocacy services for adults with learning difficulties.

Richard is a community governor at his local school and is secretary to Brecon U3A. He strongly believes in the ethic embodied in the U3A movement of life-long learning. He is a member of three Interest Groups in Brecon: Theology, Literature and Philosphy.  He also enjoys singing in a community choir and helps out in a number of Churches and Chapels in and around Brecon.

Speaker for December 2018 - Dean Powell

Dean's lecture will celebrate the history of the male voice choir movement in Wales which has its origins in religious nonconformity and was accelerated by the growth of the coal mining industry. He will describe how the male voice choirs took Wales by storm during the mid-Victorian era, creating world famous music institutions that created the universal image of the “Land of Song”.

With almost 30 years’ experience as a chorister, Dean has extensively researched why Wales developed its love of singing and how the fierce competitiveness of choirs occurred with a backdrop of gambling, rivalries and royal commands!

An award-winning journalist, with years of experience as a newspaper editor and broadcaster, Dean is also an accomplished author and Welsh historian. For more than twenty years Dean has regularly appeared on all manner of radio and television programmes, from documentaries and religious shows to news bulletins and chat shows. Dean is based in Llantrisant, South Wales, but travels extensively as a guest speaker.

Dean previously gave a lecture to Llandrindod U3A in October 2017 about the famed Welsh surgeon Dr William Price.

Speaker for November 2018 - Kevin Russell

In his talk, entitled "The Beatles: were they over-rated or were they pop music pioneers?", Kevin will talk about the Beatles, concentrating on the period when they were together as a group during the 1960s. Although he is not a recognised authority on the Beatles, he is a serious collector of their music and has been a follower and fan for many years. Kevin will focus on their body of work, discussing particular songs to show how the group developed from their beginnings in Liverpool to their breakup as worldwide rockstars. His talk will not be a detailed critique of the band and their music. Kevin hopes to illustrate, even to those non-fans, the influence the group had on the development of modern popular music and modern culture through the heady days of the 1960s.

Kevin Russell was born in Salford, Greater Manchester in 1960. Blind since birth, he has led a full and active life, never allowing his disability to impair his desire to live a fulfilling life. He spent his formative years being educated in special schools for the blind in Liverpool and Worcester. He then went on to study French and German at university, obtained a post graduate teaching certificate, but then changed direction and studied Computing at Bradford University. He spent 29 years working for IBM's UK development laboratory, based at Hursley, near Winchester in Hampshire in a rewarding and varied career. As a totally blind person, he has met life's challenges with determination and a strong desire to succeed and enjoy life to the full. Kevin’s main interests are music and radio. He presents a weekly pop music radio show every Tuesday evening, called Flashback Gold on The Phoenix internet radio station.

Speakers for October 2018 - Annette and John Christophers

Annette and John of Albrighton Pottery will talk on the history of potting. The session begins with the earliest urban settlements and ends with the Industrial Revolution in Stoke on Trent. The talk is light-hearted and there is a hands- on component which has been known to cause hilarity.  Members will all be able to put an embelm or small design of their choosing onto a piece of clay.  All the pieces will then go to make up two bowls which the Christophers will take away to fire and will in due course be raffled.

Annette and John Christophers have been making pots for over 50 years. Both were trained to ‘throw’ on the potters wheel which even today would take a 5-7 year apprenticeship in a company. Annette came from Kenya to study at Hornsey College of Art in London and John trained with Nora Braden at the University of West Sussex. They still make pots but now spend more time travelling and talking to interested groups about the delights of their craft.

Speaker for September 2018 - Dr Sian Nicholas

Everybody is always complaining about the BBC. They can, because it belongs to us. They ought to because it always needs to be better.

The BBC has never faced larger or better resourced competitors nor more aggressive opponents on both the left and the right, and especially commercially motivated lobby groups. Yet in a period of ‘fake’ news, when politics is more angry and divisive than ever before, when both domestically and internationally the UK is anxious and uncertain, and when social media produce silos – when people only talk to others they agree with (and behave intimidatingly to those they do not agree with) the BBC may be more relevant than ever: how can it help to make us listen to each other and how can its obligation to represent us all to ourselves and each other be developed?

Dr Sian Nicholas is Reader in Modern British History at Aberystwyth University. She studied History at the University of Cambridge and Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, before completing her DPhil thesis (on the BBC's role on the home front during the Second World War) at the University of Oxford under the supervision of Lord (Asa) Briggs, and has taught at Aberystwyth since 1992, specialising in modern British history (in particular the British home fronts in the two world wars) and the history of the mass media. Her research interests include the social role of broadcasting, the British media at war, and the institutional, personal and creative links between different mass media in the first half of the twentieth century. Her publications include The Echo of War: Home Front Propaganda and the Wartime BBC 1939-45 (1996) and Reconstructing the Past: History in the Mass Media 1890-2005 (ed. with Tom O’Malley and Kevin Williams, 2008). She is currently writing a history of the British press in the Second World War (with Tom O’Malley), and is project lead on the Heritage Lottery Fund-sponsored community history project "Aberystwyth at War 1914-1919: Experience, Impact, Legacy".

Note: This lecture was originally to have been presented by Professor Jean Seaton, and we are very grateful for Dr Nicholas for stepping in at short notice

Jean Seaton is Professor of Media History, Director of a unique Foreign Office Programme – that brings together Indian and Pakistani journalists - and Director of The Orwell Foundation. This uses the work of George Orwell to give a voice to the less powerful and confront uncomfortable truths, and which runs the most prestigious prizes for political writing and journalism. She has written widely on the role of the media in conflicts, politics and a wide range of social and political history. She has been involved in policy making and discussion and is on the boards of Full Fact (the UK’s premier fact checker) and the Reuteur’s Institute. Her volume of the official History of the BBC ‘Pinkoes and Traitors: the BBC and the Nation 1974 -1987’ was published in an updated and expanded paperback in 2016. She broadcasts regularly.

Speaker for July 2018 - David Mitchell

David's talk is part historical but essentially shows how basic living needs developed with wealth into domestic, governmental and commercial architecture that became a medium for vanity and/or control. David will also show how that architecture reflected the personalities and regimes that spawned it. The talk will be fully illustrated by relevant examples.

Born in London and educated at St. Benedict's, Ealing, David qualified as teacher with hons. degree in geography and geology.   He retired as Senior Lecturer from The Henley College and moved to Llangors in 2001. Former hobbies include sea kayaking, sailing, painting, the Territorial Army and mountain walking. Now, due to poor eyesight, he spends his time gardening and furthering his own education. He joined Brecon U3A in 2002 and served on committee for many years including spell as chairman. He is married to Suzette with two daughters and five grandchildren.

Speaker for June 2018 - Dr Brenda Davies

Despite comprehensive international legislation around the preservation of human rights, abuse of such rights continues on a daily basis. In the Southern States of America in the 1990s, in the wake of the Ku Klux Klan, Afro-Americans continued to live in constant fear of persecution, while Afro-American women had the highest rate of infant and maternal mortality in the so-called developed world. Twenty years later, the United States remains the only country in the western world that continues to use the death penalty, more than a third of the national total of executions taking place in Texas.

The heart of her work, not only in USA but also in Russia, Israel, Cambodia, Cyprus, Ireland, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and elsewhere always focuses on improving communication, understanding, cooperation, acceptance and the celebration of our differences at grassroots level, promoting empowerment and changing attitudes so as to create unity rather than division. Peace is not the province of politicians but the potential of every human heart. Only in healing our own hearts can we heal the divisions that make racism a possibility and the taking of a human life acceptable.

Dr Davies has lived in Zambia where she had a farm that was the home of many orphans; and in South Carolina and Texas where she worked on human rights and abolishing racism and the death penalty. She's been a pharmacist, a doctor, a consultant psychiatrist (just retiring at 75). She teaches psychotherapy and the role of spirituality in maintaining our health and longevity and has an international school in eight countries on five continents with hundreds of students.

She's worked actively for peace in Cyprus, Ireland, Germany, Cambodia and elsewhere. She is the author of seven books on health and spirituality and has just completed her first novel and is writing a screenplay. She is a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother and loves her life and all that’s in it, including dancing in which she indulges daily.

Speaker for May 2018 - Professor Richard Rathbone

In November this year we will remember the ending of the First World War, the Great War, the war to end all wars. We know it best through the remarkable artistic reaction to its brutality. From school onwards most of us have read the vivid poetry and prose of writers like Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon and of course David Jones and Hedd Wyn. We have seen plays like 'Journeys End' and films like 'All Quiet on the Western Front'.

Most of us think of the Great War in terms of the mud and blood of the western front. We tend to forget another campaign that took place over huge tracts of land and water in equatorial eastern Africa. Maybe we forget because it was a campaign whose artistic memorials are fewer and less forgivably, perhaps, we forget it because the majority of its victims both military and civilian were African.

In his talk Richard will be looking at that campaign not as a sideshow of the terrible slaughter on Flanders Fields but as another quite distinctive human disaster. To the relief of some and at the risk of disappointing others, his focus will not be much concerned with military detail but with the scale and nature of that disaster.

Richard was born in war-time London. His mother and father worked for the BBC. However, his father was an RAF pilot and was killed soon after Richard’s birth. His childhood and education were spent in and around London. In 1964 he began his research career at the School of Oriental African Studies where he worked under a pioneer historian of Africa, Roland Oliver. He was appointed to teach history there in 1969. He worked there until his early retirement in 2003. During that time he served as Chairman of the University of London’s Centre for African Studies and Dean of Postgraduate Studies and was promoted to chair in Modern African History in 1994. London life was episodically interrupted by a series of long research trips to Ghana which he had become excited by as an exchange student in the University of Ghana, Legon in 1963. A variety of fellowships took him for long attachments to universities in CapeTown , Johannesburg , Harvard and Princeton as well as for shorter periods to Bordeaux, Lesotho and Toronto.

He has been married to the writer Frances Thomas for many years and since he retired they have divided their time between London and rural mid-Wales. This is reflected in his current appointments as Emeritus Professor and professorial research associate at SOAS and as honorary professor in history at Aberystwyth University. He has served on the Council of the Royal Historical Society, most recently as one of its vice-presidents. In 2017 he was elected a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales.

Speaker for April 2018 - Tamsin Westhorpe

Tamsin will give an insight into what makes a good feature and how gardens are selected to be in magazines. You'll discover how a magazine is put together and she will share the latest in gardening trends and tell entertaining stories of life as a green-fingered journalist.

Tamsin Westhorpe started her gardening career at the age of 16 when she trained under her great-uncle John Treasure of Burford House Gardens, Worcestershire.

She went on to study decorative horticulture at Sparsholt College in Winchester and later worked as a parks gardener in Bournemouth. During this time she became Dorset’s first female greenkeeper on the bowling greens and perfected the art of planting bedding in straight lines! She then went on to work at garden centres and later found work with the IPC Media as a junior sub-editor for The Gardener Magazine.

Since then her career has seen her writing for many national gardening magazines, running a small garden shop and lecturing on practical horticulture at Kingston Maurwood College in Dorset. The highlights of her journalism career have been working as deputy editor for Amateur Gardening Magazine and being editor for The English Garden magazine for five years.

Tamsin is now a director and gardener at her family garden, Stockton Bury in Herefordshire, and a freelance garden writer.

Speaker for March 2018 - Rod Evans

Rod's talk will be based upon the life of LLewelyn Morris Humphries, also know as "Murray the Hump". He was an American Gangster whose parents came from within the Powys Area. His father was from Carno and his mother was from Staylittle. Born in Chicago, he left school at an early age and became a member of one of the local Chicago street gangs and progressed to becoming one of America's most notorious gangsters.

Rod Evans worked at a number of Technical Colleges both in the UK and in the Arabic World. His last job was as a member of staff at Coleg Powys, where his title was Head of Vehicle Engineering and Construction with responsibility for the MV staff at the Brecon Campus.

He enjoys walking and regularly visits the ELan Valley. He is trying to master the art of photography. He also enjoys researching and then giving presentations on subjects that he finds interesting.

Speaker for February 2018 - Chris Matchett

In this talk Chris cover some of the technical problems involved in the conservation of oil paintings illustrated with examples of conservation and restoration work he has accomplished. He will also touch on the dark arts of fakes and forgeries and go on to examine the relationship between restorers and forgers in the art world.

Chris has been brought up in the world of art since a child. His grandfather worked alongside Augustus John when in London.

Chris and his wife Saffron have initiated several art projects including an art materials warehouse, gallery and studios. He has focused on the restoration and conservation of oil paintings for the past 20 years. His business, Whistler Studios, is based in Llanwrytd Wells.

Speaker for January 2018 - Jan Swindale

Jan writes: "My lovely Mum always used to say that she never knew what I was going to do next! I thought I would share with you a little of my life of Mischief and Mayhem, of getting into Trouble and causing Chaos involving friends and relations in my eccentric exploits, leading up to becoming Llandrindod Wells' Town Crier. The role is an honour for me to represent our town and gives me a chance to show I can be dignified!"

Jan was born in Bedford in 1946, parents being in the Forces during WWII. Dad was in the Royal Engineers, a turbine expert in civilian life, was rescued at Dunkirk, and later seconded to the Navy on a Port Repair Ship ready for D Day at Arromanches and helped build the Mulberry Harbour under heavy fire. Mum was born in India, brought over to UK at aged 11 with her sister and Mother, and lived with guardians, boarding school and then nursing in the WRAFs, a very sheltered, gentle lady.

She was encouraged to start ballet at aged 4, but gave up aged 6 with painful legs. After Secondary School she went to the local Further Education College studying the ubiquitous secretarial course which led to a job with a national insurance company where she eventually became Head of the Motor Department. Jan joined Kays Theatre Group who put on their pantomime performances at the brand new Swan Theatre and spent five happy years growing in confidence.

David and Jan were married in 1969 after 6 years of courting, and moved to Llandrindod Wells in 1972 where they had two sons. She joined Llandrindod Wells Theatre Company performing pantomimes, plays, Music Hall and as Assistant Wardrobe Mistress making many costumes. In time she became the Wardrobe Mistress.

She worked for 3 years with a local estate agent, then 12 years with local solicitors, running the Criminal Department single handed, travelling most weeks to the Crown and Magistrate Courts all over Wales, preparing the Barrister's briefs and sitting in Court taking notes, also taking some clients with her. She moved to another local solicitor for three years which was slightly less stressful, and finally spent 3 years with a mental health clinic working with Social Workers and CPN's before retiring.

Jan wholeheartedly supports the Victorian Festival and has directed many events to entertain the visitors to the town since the festival's inception. Spotted by the local Mayor dressed as a Trainee Town Crier in one of the many parades she organises, the Town Council re-established the role of Town Crier, there not having been one for 10 years. After providing a CV and a 1 1/4 hour interview with the Town Council, she was given the honour of the role of Town Crier in 2013 for a probation year, giving her maiden cry at the Transition Town's May Fayre. She has not drawn breath since!

Speaker for December 2017 - Susan Marshfield

Susan's talk is based around memories of Christmas from the 1930's and onward compared to Christmas today in the 21st century. There will be a selection of her family memories mixed with presents, food and Father Christmas. From some of the preparations, through Christmas Day, the kings speech to Granpa's Christmas cigar. It is meant to be entertaining with some humour and suitable for mixed audiences.

Born in Northamptonshire Susan moved with her parents to the Devon and Somerset borders when she was 15 where she remained until marriage brought about a move to the Bristol area. Susan took root there, enjoyed life in a large village, joined the Women’s Institute and settled into bringing up the children.

When the children went to school she joined the executive of Gloucestershire WI an later became an Avon Federation Executive when that was formed, becoming the first Treasurer. She became a local Councillor and served with both the District and County Council, where she held a number of chairmanships as well as 10 years as chairman of Governors at a local Technical College.

Susan was awarded an MBE in 2015 for her services to the community in Bristol and South Gloucestershire, a fact she attributes to those with whom she worked during the 40 years covered by this honour. Planning to retire from speaking at the end of 2017, she thinks she will still have plenty to do!

Speaker for November 2017 - Christopher Hartley FIH, FCFA (SG)

Born July 1944, Chris joined the Merchant Navy in 1962, seeing service as an Assistant Purser, and Chief Purser until 1976. 1976 saw him in Egypt where he was Port Catering Superintendent for oil rigs and shore establishments. The late seventies saw Chris working in Saudi Arabia, and the early eighties in the Sudan as General Manager for Institutional and Industrial catering companies. Chris joined Channel Island Ferries as Chief Purser onboard the MV Corbiere in 1984.

Chris then came ashore as General Manager of the St. Mellion Golf Hotel & Country Club in Cornwall. In1991 Chris joined Safir International Hotel Management as Project Director for the upcoming Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit at Bayan Palace. This was followed by stints as the GM of Safir Nile Cruises and Safir Hotel Hurghada in Egypt.

In 1996 the call of the Caribbean saw Chris working in St. Lucia and Jamaica as General Manager at two of the top resorts in the World. In 2004 Chris was back again in Kuwait at Failaka Island as Island General Manager working with the Kuwait Royal Family. Chris spent eight years on Failaka Island creating and managing the Heritage Village, the only resort of its kind in the Gulf region.

Chris is a Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality (FIH) and was the Regional Ambassador MENA Region for the Institute of Hospitality until mid February 2012 when he retired after leaving Kuwait.

In late 2013 he set up ‘Dickens’ in Llandrindod Wells.  Chris is also the Festival Director of the Llandrindod Wells Victorian Festival and was also a Community Councilor for Disserth & Trecoed for 3 years.  He married his wife Denise in April 1974.

The title of the talk is "A Life Well Lived" encompassing the period from 1962 until his retirement in 2012.

Speaker for October 2017 - Dean Powell

Dr William Price was a Chartist, surgeon, heretic, archdruid and pioneer of cremation in the British Isles. Poverty stricken in his youth, the young man became a surgeon at the age of 21. He created an embryonic national health service, masterminded the first Museum of Welsh Life, launched Wales’s first cooperative society and was exiled to France as a political activist. He fathered illegitimate children with a housekeeper sixty years his junior and died sipping a glass of champagne at the age of ninety two. A remarkable story of an incredible Welshman!

Dean Powell is a widely acclaimed guest speaker, journalist, author, broadcaster and vocalist. As a master of ceremonies he has compered engagements for the likes of Katherine Jenkins, Elaine Paige and Dame Vera Lynn and in such diverse venues as the Sydney Opera House and Monte Carlo’s Hotel de Paris. He has toured USA, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, New Zealand and Australia as soloist and Master of Ceremonies for several Welsh male voice choirs. He joined a star studded line up at the Royal Variety Performance where he was presented to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Dean is also well known as a lecturer on Victorian Welsh history and his work in the fields of journalism and public relations have been prolific. He is the author of thirteen history books including the biography of Dr William Price and the memoirs of actor Glyn Houston. As a former BBC journalist and award-winning newspaper editor, his anecdotes of interviews given with the likes of Hollywood greats Gregory Peck and Joan Fontaine have made him a firm favourite as a guest speaker.

Speaker for September 2017 - Rosemary Kennedy

In her talk Rosemary will take us on a tour around the outside Westminster Abbey and explain how and why the Abbey was built. She will then show pictures of many special things inside the Abbey and talk about the daily life of the Abbey including the many special services held there.

The daughter of an Australian clergyman, Rosemary was brought up in her Mother's home county of Herefordshire. Her grandfather was the Rector of Ross-on-Wye and Archdeacon of Hereford.

Rosemary trained as a Secretary and her first job was at the Heralds' College, having had a keen interest in Heraldry and Genealogy since childhood. She later worked at the Royal Geographical Society. Returning to work when her children were older she worked at London University, first in the Institute of Education and then at the Warburg Institute. She has worked for 30 years as a volunteer Bereavement Counsellor at her local Hospice in Clapham.

In 1994 she started volunteering at Westminster Abbey. This brought together so many of her interests, in church affairs, history, heraldry, art, and meeting people. As well as answering general questions from visitors to the Abbey she and her husband also lead specialist tours for groups which have included the Army, the RAF, clergy (often from abroad), the Blind, the Deaf, and specialist historians. She loves the work and every week has interesting encounters with those she meets.

Speaker for July 2017 - Rev Eldon Phillips

Revd Phillips has titled his talk "God in the Community  -  the Road to Parc Y Scarlets!"  His talk will cover his role as Honarary Chaplain, Scarlets Rugby and Llanelli RFC as well as drawing on his varied experience.

Revd Phillips has had a long and varied career, much of it involved with teaching.  This included a period teaching at Llandrindod Wells High School.  He was ordained in Brecon Cathedral in 1988 and was Advisory Teacher for RE in Powys from 1988 to 1992. He joined Trintity Colege, Carmarthen in 1992 as a Senior Lecturer and member of the Chaplaincy Team.  He was the Anglican Chaplain at Singleton Hospital, Swansea from 2006 to 2015.

His career includes broadcasting with BBC Radio Wales, Radio Pembrokeshire, Radio Ceredigion and Radio Carmarthenshire and he is a Macmillan Cancer Care Ambassador.

Speaker for June 2017 - Nick Talbott

In this talk Nick will be talking about the concepts of "PassivHaus" - an approach to building design that emphasises energy efficiency to the point where a conventional central heating system is no longer required.

Passivhaus principles can also be applied to upgrade the performance of existing buildings. Nick will describe the work done to "Trosnant", a bungalow originally built in the 1970s, to bring it as close as practical to Passivhaus standards. He will also talk about the importance of this approach in the context of global climate change and show that this is a case where what is good for the environment is also good for your bank balance.

Nick's first career was in planning and economic development. He began working for Powys County Council in 1975 having previously worked in West Sussex. With the advent of affordable personal computing that began in around 1980 he became increasingly involved in "information technology". Nick was involved during the 1990s in regional development work in conjunction with the Training and Enterprise Council and the Development Board for Rural Wales and worked on a number of schemes to promote new technology to business. He was heavily involved in lobbying for upgrade of rural exchanges to support broadband, and you may have seen him championing this cause on "The Money Programme" on a couple of occasions.

Having made a full career transition into computing, Nick went on to become IT Manager for Powys before taking early retirement in 2013, allowing him to work full time on the project to upgrade "Trosnant".

Nick has always been an adventurous DiY type. He self-built a house in Nantmel over a three-year period starting in 1978. This experience together with a later project to rennovate an Edwardian town house gave him the confidence to take on the extensive work that would be needed to tackle the Passivhaus conversion for "Trosnant".

Speaker for May 2017 - Melanie L. Williams MA (Cantab) MA (Sussex) PGCE (Sussex) Fellow HEA

Melanie will be talking to us about ‘Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles – law and seduction, rape and murder’, exploring criminal history and current disputes in law relevant to the text.

A copy of the handout for the lecture is available to download.

A copy of the slides accompanying the lecture is also available to download.

Melanie is Emeritus Professor of Law, formerly Head of Department at the University of Exeter, prior to that working at Swansea University Law School, Aberystwyth University Law Department and the University of London. She has taught a range of subjects in Law, from Criminal Law to the Anthropology of Law.

Melanie has a somewhat unconventional educational history, she was a ‘school failure’ gaining only a few O’ levels at Grammar School and working after school for some years as a typist, but always reading and enjoying classical literature. In her twenties she married her GP husband Dr John Williams and took the Cambridge University Entrance Exam for Law as an independent candidate and was admitted to study Law with two children under three years old. After graduating and with a third baby she studied for an MA in English Literature at Sussex University and later began her career as a university lecturer. With her husband John Melanie lives near Lampeter and since retirement has enjoyed offering lectures on a casual basis and reading and writing poetry.

Melanie has published articles predominantly in the fields of Medical Law and Ethics and of Law, Literature and Philosophy. Her two books, Empty Justice and Secrets and Law, examine a range of philosophical questions concerning human nature, morality and law.

Speaker for April 2017 - Jill Loyd DipCFHP, MPSPract

Jill will be talking about the importance of taking care of your feet from basic foot care, common foot conditions and highlighting the implications that diabetes can have on the feet.

After having difficulties in finding someone to treat her elderly Aunts feet, Jill felt there was a desperate need for foot health in Powys so did some research and trained to become a Foot Health Practitioner at the College of Foot Health in Birmingham. She qualified in 2011 and is currently studying for a Diploma in Diabetes Mellitus. Jill holds a weekly clinic in Builth and Llandovery and a monthly clinic in Ystradgynlais and offers a mobile service on other days.

Speaker for March 2017 - Berwyn Woolnough

Berwyn was born in Dolgellau but brought up in Surrey. He studied German, French and Japanese and, having no clear idea what to do with himself, took a job with ICI, didn't like it, stuck it out for a while and then moved into teaching. In the early 70s he went to teach English in Germany for a year and stayed for three, after which he got a post back home in a boys' grammar school which soon became independent and co-educational. He stayed there for 24 years, narrowly missing the gold watch, but did come away with a very elegant decanter!

Berwyn started learning the clarinet at the age of twelve and, in later life, played regularly in symphony orchestras and chamber groups. But it was in theatre bands that he came across the music of George Gershwin …  In this talk Berwyn will tell Gershwin's story and illustrate its highlights with music - performed live!

Speaker for February 2017 - Stephen Ashley

T'ai chi is a form of exercise based on softness and awareness instead of force and resistance, T'ai chi movements are widely acknowledged to help calm the emotions, focus the mind, and strengthen the immune system. Practised at a slow and even speed, T'ai chi promotes relaxation, straight posture, and balance.

Stephen will go through the often controversial development of this exercise technique and show how it works. He will also show some of the surprising, and sometimes amusing, applications of T'ai Chi in our modern world.

Stephen first became interested in T'ai chi in the late 1970s. He studied for many years under the UK's leading T'ai chi master.

Of Welsh and Canadian as well as English extraction, Stephen grew up in the Vale of Evesham. He trained and practised as a chartered surveyor before going walkabout for a while in Italy. He then found, somewhat to his surprise, that he had become a specialist journalist in the construction industry press where he stayed for 15 years. After a number of years as the founding editor of a journal involved with energy use in buildings he was promoted to be an editorial director in the industry's leading publishing house.

Seeking a better work-life balance, Stephen brought his family back to Mid-Wales where he went back to working as a general practice building surveyor for 25 years until his retirement. Somewhat to his surprise, he finds himself just as busy as before!

Speaker for January 2017 - Andrew Wyton

The turn of the twentieth century saw the birth of the Edwardian garden, regarded by many as the pinnacle of British gardening. This was the moment when garden style threw off the rigidity of high Victorian shackles and replaced it with the dream of a rural idyll, crafted around the house, making best use of natural materials, formal design and ebullient planting. Given the brevity of its presence an indelible imprint was left on how Britain gardened.

Andrew Wyton was born into a predominantly farming community in very rural Gloucestershire.  Agriculture and horticulture proved to be foundational in both his upbringing and later years.  In-between times, however, life took a different turn as he pursued a vocational call to Christian ministry serving as a Baptist pastor in Southwell, and then West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire.

After 20+ years of church leadership the opportunity arose in 2004 for a complete change of direction and Andrew went back to university to study International Horticulture followed by an MA in Garden History at the University of Bristol. Alongside the studies, Andrew set up his own horticulture business, firstly in Nottingham and then here in Mid-Wales when he and his wife Helen moved to Gwystre in September 2012.

Sadly, arthritic knees brought his days of gardening on Welsh hillsides to an untimely conclusion – the result he supposes of following two professions in life that involve a lot of kneeling!  But Andrew is again drawing on his ministry experience and has recently been appointed by the Baptist Union of Wales as the Superintendent for Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire.

Speaker for December 2016 - Helen Pruett

Helen's talk will be about the Wales Air Ambulance - the national air ambulance charity for Wales, providing emergency air cover for those who face life-threatening illness or injuries.

Helen's background is in education. She taught modern foreign languages in South Wales for many years, before relocating to Powys. She joined the Wales Air Ambulance fundraising team as the Community Co-ordinator for South Powys in November 2011, following the emergency airlifting of her brother-in-law. This is a part time rôle with varied responsibilities. She promotes the charity within the community by giving talks to schools, clubs and social groups. She engages with local businesses and corporations in order to attract sponsorship, and supports members of the public who wish to undertake fundraising activities on behalf of the Air Ambulance service. You will often see her in the press attending cheque presentations after such events. She co-ordinates a team of volunteers who can be found manning the Air Ambulance stand at local shows and events throughout the year, whatever the weather!

Speakers for November 2016 - Mike Watkins and Wilma Hayes

Two Ships in the Night: This is the story of two Atlantic ships, one you’ve never heard of and one you most definitely have. Sinking two years apart, more passengers were lost on the Empress of Ireland than the Titanic. But why has the Titanic story endured? We tell the story and why you have heard of one but not the other.

Married and living in a 17th century cottage on the borders of Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and the Marches Mike & Wilma have been speaking to clubs, societies and groups for nearly 15 years. Both are interested in history and greatly enjoy the research that goes into preparing and creating a talk. Wilma’s talks on the Empress of Ireland and WW1 War Diary have their origins in family history. A particular interest of Wilma’s, the Empress, also plays a part in one of the Titanic stories. Mike, as well as being chairman of his local history society, has an interest in canals and is chairman of the Friends of the Leominster Canal.

Speaker for October 2016 - Nick Marchmont

This presentation tells of humanity's most distant past and is a journey from ancient Africa to the brick-lined burial pits of the world's most ancient cities. As this story unfolds we encounter an ice-age pottery in prehistoric Europe, a megalithic temple deliberately buried 10 000 years ago and the Earth's most massive platform on which rest stone blocks weighing up to 1000 tonnes.

The decisions made by our ancestors throughout the ages have resulted in the mind, attitudes and physique of modern humans. This grand tale is at once a vast sweep through history and our own personal story.

Nick Marchmont is an independent researcher with a lifelong interest in ancient cultures, vanished civilisations and old knowledge. His Healing History presentations use a wide range of illustrations to cast an engaging and colourful light on the skills of our ancestors. From the birth of Earth to the Age of Prophecy, Nick makes clear connections between the genius of earlier ages and contemporary ideas whilst questioning the modern interpretation of humanity's past.

Planned Speaker for October 2016 - Jen Green

Unfortunately, Jen was unable to give this talk for health reasons.

In 1999 Jen Green received a package from her 83 year old aunt living in Bolton; it was not to be opened until after her death. Three months later, the aunt died and Jen Green, her trustee had to make the “arrangements” Before leaving for the North she recalled the package and discovered an address book of her aunt’s life time of lovers 27 in all and she wanted them all contacted. It was a hilarious event, leading to a life of a woman who loved but never lost and turned out to be LS Lowey’s missing life model.

Of the 27 lovers 18 were contactable some had passed on and others turned up at the funeral neither knowing the other. This is the story of a wonderfully amusing woman who could still pull at 80, but for most of the latter part of her life she lived quietly (So we thought) in a sheltered housing scheme.

From Mill Girl to Life Model and so much in between, Aunty May’s experiences range through wartime relationships with allied forces to fronting up for gay men in important positions. She was an aunt for all Seasons her remarkable, well lived life is delivered by Jen Green in her own amusing style full of promise for what ever the occasion.

For more information on Jen, please visit her website.

Speaker for September 2016 - Joe Botting

Llandrindod sits on the edge of one of the most extraordinary areas for fossils in the world. Between here, Builth and Llandegley is an patch of rock known as the Builth Inlier, where rocks of Ordovician age form the rugged, lumpy hills that all the main roads go around. This sequence of rocks reveals the remains of an ancient volcanic island, from a time when Wales belonged to the micro-continent Avalonia, drifting north through the southern temperate latitudes. Because of the conditions around this island, with violent earthquakes and eruptions, and a sinking sea floor, fossils were preserved throughout the succession, and often in huge abundance. The area is world-famous for trilobites, but in recent years we have been discovering that this is the tip of the iceberg; there are sites nearby with truly exceptional preservation, where we find fossils of creatures that simply aren't preserved under normal conditions. They may not be the most spectacular things to look at, but the extraordinary array of sponges, echinoderms, hydroids and many other creatures are slowly changing our understanding of what life in the Ordovician was all about.

Come along to discover what should arguably be Radnorshire's most celebrated feature: a globally unique fossil history that reveals a past so remote that to understand it, we need to discard the modern world completely and look only at the rocks.

Joe started academic life at Cambridge University, getting a first in natural sciences that was underpinned by a geological mapping project around Llandrindod. That led to a PhD in Birmingham, studying the effects of volcanic ash falls on Ordovician ecology, during which time he got to know the extraordinary sponges of Llandegley Rocks. The sponges would become a major focus of the research, and he headed back to Cambridge for a four-year research fellowship. After that, life took him to the Natural History Museum in London, Leeds Museum, the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology in China (for two years) and all over the world for research trips. He and his wife Lucy Muir (they met in the geology lectures in Cambridge!) have now settled in Llandrindod, and they've decided to to stay and carry on their research from here.

Joe is currently a Guest Scientist at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, and an Honorary Research Fellow at the National Museum Wales. He has published over 50 academic papers (including in major international journals like Nature), and is widely regarded as the foremost authority on early sponge evolution, as we as (with Lucy) discovering numerous sites with extraordinary fossils in Wales that are putting the country back onto the world geological map. He has appeared on ITV Wales' Coast and Country, and has been an adviser for the BBC Natural History Unit (including David Attenborough's First Life), and for Fortey's Fossil Wonderlands.

He mainly makes a living from teaching geology and palaeontology, doing insect surveys, and playing the harp, and is heavily involved in local community sustainability.

Speaker for July 2016 - Jim Saunders

Jim was for 18 years Offa's Dyke Path Officer, working along the whole 177 mile length of the path from Chepstow to Prestatyn. In 2006 he worked as Adviser on the BBC Wales TV series "Border Country with Iolo Williams". His first book, "Offa's Dyke – a journey on words and pictures", was a spin-off from and was this published in the same year by Gomer Press with BBC Wales

Jim continues his connection with Offa's Dyke through the Offa's Dyke Association, for whom he makes occasional appearances on radio and television. His most recent book is "Hay - Landscape, Literature and the Town of Books", published in 2014.

Speaker for June 2016 - Lawrence Matthew

In the last century, Lawrence and his wife Alison were university lecturers and statisticians in the oil and transport industries. In this one, they wrote a best-selling book on Chinese characters before turning to epidemiology, the Bowen Technique and the psychology of climate change.

Recently Laurence has been Chairman of a climate policy NGO and has given evidence to Select Committees of the UK House of Commons.

They live near Hay-on-Wye with far too many books (most of which are Laurence's)

Their book "Framespotting" (2014) is an informal, upbeat, punchy and jargon-free introduction to 'framing': how our view of life is often zoomed in to focus on a small area; and how to take control of this process and see the bigger picture. Sometimes a frame around a topic doesn't just restrict what you see but it also influences how you see it: what you think is 'good' and what's 'bad'. And often we don’t notice this is happening.

Having spent time researching, campaigning and debating responses to climate change, Laurence became increasingly interested in the deep reasons why we're doing so little to tackle something so serious. There are all sorts of technical, political and economic issues and debates, but there’s something deeper going on too. When he looked, Laurence was surprised how pervasive this framing effect was in all sorts of other areas of life too, and how strongly it influences us.

For more information, please visit the Framespotting web site.

Speaker for May 2016 - Kevin Russell

Kevin Russell was born in Salford, Greater Manchester in 1960. Blind since birth, he has led a full and act