All posts by Keith Roberts

Update on the impact of the coronavirus on The Arts Society Royal Leamington Spa

Dear Member,

I am sure you will appreciate, the situation with the coronavirus is fluid and there have been a number of important changes recently which require us to take further action.  Our first priority is, and will remain, to make sure that we minimise health risks to you and all our members.

It is clear that this situation is not going to be resolved in a matter of weeks; the peak of the infection is now forecast to be late May and the advice to vulnerable groups (including those over 70 which constitute quite a proportion of our membership) to stay away from social contact wherever possible for 12-16 weeks suggests a time frame of 3-4 months which takes us to the end of July.  

Very recently the Spa Centre informed us that it was closing (and it now has) but without a date when it will reopen.

In view of the above, your committee has decided to cancel all our lectures for the rest of this season (i.e. up to and including July 2020) in the hope that we can restart at the beginning of our next season on 2nd September. As I mentioned previously, we are aiming to broadcast the April lecture live on the internet and we will see if we can arrange for the same to happen with some or all of the other three lectures; as soon as we know and have appropriate details I will let you know.

We are also cancelling the day trips to Chatsworth (currently scheduled for 20th May) and Weston Park (scheduled for 19th August) but with a view to re-scheduling these trips for equivalent dates in 2022. Those members who have paid for the Chatsworth trip will get a full refund in the near future.  It also means that the biennial dinner, scheduled for 18th June, will also not now take place.

At present we are still going ahead with the short break to East Sussex from 13th-18th September and there are tickets still available for this – if you would like to go on this trip please contact Roz Crampton at or on 01926 833609

While I do not suggest that it will be much comfort to you, I understand that a number of the other arts societies in the UK are taking a similar approach to this issue.
I am also aware that members will have paid their subscription for the 2019-20 year but will now not be able to access all the lectures and events that were implicit in that subscription. Your committee, led in this matter by our treasurer, Charles Bartholomew, will be developing proposals in respect of 2020-21 which take proper account of these circumstances.
If you have any questions  please do contact me – my contact details are on your programme card or use the contact form on this website.

Shaun Pitt
21st March 2020

Update – December 2019

As the nights draw in and the temperatures fall and as we start, at least in meteorological terms, the beginning of winter, I hope you will welcome a warm and cheerful update of what your society has been doing so far this year and to look forward to some of the events in 2020.

As always, and as you will see from this update, there has been a lot going on since the start of the season in September. One of the most pleasing things is that we have had a steady inflow of new members with the result that we are going to have two New Members’ Coffee mornings in 2020. The first of these will be on Thursday 2nd April 2020 and the second on Thursday 8th October 2020 both at Charlecote Village Hall at 10.30am. A ‘hold the date’ email will shortly go out to the relevant new members for the first of these dates and members joining from now until September 2020 will also be invited to attend one of these mornings. If you are a new member and do not get the above email please do let our membership secretary, Margot Radomska, know.

It is also very pleasing to note that we have had record attendances at the lectures so far this season which I hope indicates that you are finding the topics both enjoyable and interesting. We had a particularly large attendance at the 6th November lecture which you may recall we badged as the ‘bring a friend’ lecture and many of you responded by doing exactly that! – thank you very much for doing so and to your friends for coming along; a number of them have now joined as new members. In view of this success, we plan to have another ‘bring a friend’ lecture in the 2020/21 season and, who knows, it may become a fixture of our lecture programme.

It is always useful to get your feedback on our lectures and other events but, until now, we have relied on anecdotal comments. While these have been most helpful, we wanted to make it easy to gather your comments on what your society is doing – or, maybe, not doing. For those of you who could not make the November lectures, I did announce there that we have established a comment form on the website that you can use to comment on any aspect of what we do – lectures, volunteering or anything else. This form is the last item under the ‘menu’ listing on the left of this page so please do use it to let us know what you think. Unlike ‘Twitter’ your comments will only be seen by the committee and you have my personal undertaking that every comment will be read and responded to-so over to you!

I think that you will all be aware that there is the facility for you to book a lunch at the Spa Centre but one of the issues has been that you have had to book up at the preceding lecture and, as this is a minimum of a month ahead, it seems to have deterred some members from taking advantage of this. Accordingly we have taken the opportunity to make the above mentioned comment form into a dual purpose form in that you can also use it to book up a lunch as late as midnight on the Wednesday immediately preceding a lecture which will, hopefully, encourage more of you to enjoy lunch ‘in house’ as it were.

You will, by now I am sure, all be aware that the registration process for attending a lecture is now much simpler and more streamlined so that we can get members into the Spa Centre quickly and efficiently. For some time now, we have asked that members bring their national Arts Society card, which has your name and membership number on it, with them to evidence their membership; to help anyone who is not sure what these are, here are two photographs below showing what this card looks like. If for any reason, you cannot find your card please let Margot Radomska know and she can get you a replacement.

The Arts Society Membership Card

The vast majority of members come prepared to present this card and the process works smoothly. Unfortunately, there have been a few isolated incidents recently where members, who have been asked for their cards, have reacted with aggressive behaviour and unacceptable language and I would ask that this cease forthwith.

Amazing though it may seem we are now 1/3rd of the way through our lecture programme for 2019/20 and, as I have already remarked on, they have been very popular. The last lecture before the winter break was a most impressive and entertaining insight into the ‘Secret Art in the Passport: How We Use it to Fox the Forger’.

Courtesy of programme secretary, Eithne Batt, I am confident that we have an equally appealing set of lectures for the rest of our season. It starts on 5th February 2020 with Michelle Brown on the intriguing sounding topic of ‘Art of the Islands: An Introduction to Early Medieval Art in Britain and Ireland c500-850’.

As always, your programme card does contain full details of the lecture programme and there are synopses of all the lectures on this website.

Your programme card and the website also have details of planned day visits, days of special interest, short breaks and other events and, most importantly, when tickets for these events are being sold. Do please come early if you want tickets for any of these events as they are generally very popular and sell out quickly.

Two important changes/additions to the programme card:

1. As many members may already know, Wroxall Abbey has closed and is in administration. So the biennial dinner which was scheduled to be at Wroxall Abbey on Thursday 18th June 2020 at 7 for 7.30pm will now be held on Tuesday 16th June 2020 at the same time but at the alternative venue of Leamington Golf Club and, as per the programme card, tickets will be on sale at the April lecture and later lectures if tickets remain.

2. We are sponsoring the spring concert by the Coventry and Warwickshire Youth Orchestra (‘CWYO’) at 7pm on 15th March 2020 at All Saints Church in Leamington. The concert will include Elgar’s cello concerto and Beethoven’s 5th symphony.  This organisation does a great deal to help and support young musicians in Coventry and Warwickshire but has recently had funding withdrawn by The Coventry Music Hub and the Warwickshire Music Hub so our sponsorship is helping to enable them to continue to support young people.  Tickets will be available on the door; I will update you on the precise Mechanics nearer the date.

Belvoir Castle
Belvoir Castle

After the successful, if very damp, day visit to Belvoir in August, the next day visit is to Chatsworth on 20th May 2020. This is in response to requests from members for a repeat visit following the inspiring day of special interest on Chatsworth in October 2018. Tickets will be on sale at the March lecture and later lectures if tickets remain.

On short breaks, the next trip is to Rome in April 2020 and this trip is now fully subscribed.

The Autumn trip is to Eastbourne and East Sussex from 13th-18th September 2020 and tickets for this will be on sale at the February lecture and later lectures if tickets remain.

Both our heritage volunteers and church recorders have remained busy through the Autumn. 

The heritage volunteers at The Herbert Museum have been working flat out designing, sourcing material and making nine elf costumes for the Sleigh Ride at the Coventry Transport Museum which opened very recently on Monday 2nd December. With the nine completed, Katie Bye (the project leader) asked for a further two so the whole process began again! The payback was, however, that she did say that the completed ones were fantastic! 

This was a huge undertaking for the volunteers involved who, to use their own words feel “It is good to support the museum in what is a 30 year tradition and many people in Coventry feel that Christmas would not be complete without a trip to the sleigh ride” Many congratulations to the volunteers for all their hard work and dedication. 

The volunteers at the Leamington Museum have been making storage bags for the museum’s weaponry collection. Each weapon, rifle, sword etc needs its own custom-made bag which is then hung from a rack, saving valuable storage space. After all their labours, both these groups are now taking a well-earned break until the New Year.

Our church recorders continue compiling the record at the large All Saints church in Sherbourne, meeting fortnightly for about two hours by which time fingers have usually gone numb!

There are currently no recorders working on the memorial plaques and tombs (26 in total) so this work is being shared out amongst the existing members when they have ‘spare’ time which does, at least, enable them to do research on line at home in the warmth!

The work will cease in mid December and restart in February when, hopefully, the weather is more congenial.

Last, but by no means least, the Midlands Area of The Arts Society has decided to follow a number of other areas (NW, SW, NE and Wessex) in producing a glossy booklet to be titled ’50 Treasurers of the West Midlands’ and we have decided to support this initiative. To do this effectively we need your input in terms of identifying and photographing potential items that might merit inclusion in such a publication. We will be sending out more details in a separate email on how you, as our members, can contribute to this project so the purpose of this is simply to put you on notice that further details will be forthcoming soon.

Finally, however you choose to celebrate the season, my best wishes to you and your families for a very Happy Christmas and New Year.

Shaun Pitt


Young Arts -2019

Young Arts 2019 – Jem Crook

Jem Crook, with Edwina McConville and Shaun Pitt from The Arts Society Royal Leamington Spa
Jem Crook, with Edwina McConville and Shaun Pitt from The Arts Society Royal Leamington Spa

Jem Crook – the recipient of our 2019 Bursary Award at Warwickshire College.

Jem is one of only 40 entrants admitted to The Slade this year. A fellow student from Warwickshire College has also begun to study at The Slade. This is indicative of the excellent tuition and encouragement that the Foundation Students receive at the college.

Congratulations Jem!

Young Arts – 2018

Young Arts 2018 – Sophie Ryan

Sophie Ryan, with Edwina McConville and Sahun Pitt from The Arts Society, Royal Leamington Spa
Sophie Ryan with Edwina McConville and Shaun Pitt from The Arts Society Royal Leamington Spa

Sophie Ryan was our 2018 Bursary Award winner at Warwickshire College.

Sophie impressed us with the commitment she showed to her work and the quality of the work in her portfolio.

Sophie is now studying fashion at Manchester School of Art.

Herbert Museum

Herbert Museum

Volunteering at Herbert Museum
Volunteers and Projects at the Herbert Museum, Coventry

In November 2019, the volunteers at the Herbert Museum in Coventry will celebrate NINE YEARS of volunteering at the Museum.

During their years at the museum, the Volunteers, Ruth Barton, Anne Haywood, Alex Harris and Shirley Jack, have been involved with a huge variety of projects, ranging from making underskirts for a dress exhibition at Blenheim Palace, mounting samplers, making padded coat hangers, sword covers, parasol covers and even mounting birds for the Natural History section of the museum.

Some of their more unusual projects include creating backdrop curtains for the Santa Sleigh ride at the Transport Museum and protective saddle covers for the bicycles. Dusting and cleaning the moth collection was a task that required an extremely light touch and a certain amount of newly learned expertise.

Ongoing volunteer work at the Museum involves checking, repacking and data recording all the boxes of items in the costume store. This is a fascinating occupation as each set of boxes reveals a treasure trove of history. Some of the items however seem very recently familiar to the ‘mature’ members of the group!

The museum caters for younger visitors and the team has made many items to support the Sensory Story sessions. Props for these include 150 Morse Code bean bags, a Hungry Caterpillar and a starry night illuminated sky blanket.

Lately they have been meeting again with the Transport Museum’s Christmas Sleigh ride team to plan new ‘elf’ costumes for the staff helpers on the ride. The time frame is small but if Santa can do the impossible then so can they!

Leamington Spa Museum

Leamington Spa Museum

Leamington Spa Museum volunteers
Leamington Spa Museum volunteers

Our Volunteers have been working at the Museum since 2004, and, of the six original volunteers, two are still regular members.

Here’s what they have been doing over the past couple of years in their own words.

2018 – We began the year with a new project.  In the store, there were many boxes of Victorian fashion plates requiring cataloguing.  We began by sorting them into categories: accessories, men’s fashions, women’s fashions and children’s fashions.

Each one required an accession number, a description of the scene and a photograph taking of it.  These would take a considerable amount of time and it was decided they would be revisited in between other projects.

In March, we were involved in the preparation of a quilt for an exhibition on WW11, to be held at the Art Gallery in the autumn.  We were asked to design the quilt to cover a small hospital-style bed, similar to the ones which volunteers would have made for the recuperating soldiers during the war.

Our design had a central red cross on a white circular background, set on a dark blue fabric, incorporating the colours of the Union Jack.  The corners had smaller red crosses and the borders were made from strips of flowered and patterned materials resembling chintz.  The quilt was machined and the crosses handstitched. 

In September, we began another project.  Three banners were requiring repacking for storage on large cardboard rollers which were hung on cords.  In addition, some smaller items were stored in a similar manner – a silk scarf designed by Terry Frost in 1993 for the Tate Gallery, a Napoleonic commemorative scarf and a tablecloth commemorating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

In November, we had a visit from our new Chairman,  Shaun Pitt and Anne Flower, our HV Co-ordinator, when Lily explained about the work our group had been doing.  She had some examples of the shawls and scarves we had recently repacked on rollers.  The quilt was also on display in the exhibition.

2019 – This year we have only attended between January and March, when we were helping Sally prepare craft boxes for distribution to local schools and tracing pictures from paintings which were reproduced as colouring sheets for children.  There is a likelihood of a new project in October.

Short – Eastbourne – Autumn 2020

Autumn 2020 – September 13th to 18th

Staying at the prestigious 5 star Grand Hotel, we will explore the rich centuries of art in the home counties, including The Charleston Trust famous for the Bloomsbury Group, the world of the Tudors at Penshurst Place and Hever Castle. 

Enjoy The National Trust’s most important art collections at Petworth House and much more.

There are still a few places remaining and we will next be taking bookings at the lecture on Wednesday 4th March 2020.

Click here to download a brochure for this trip

Click here to download a booking form

Click here to download booking conditions

Click here for travel insurance information

Update – August 2019

A very warm welcome to a new year at The Arts Society Royal Leamington Spa – your Society. I very much hope that you enjoyed the summer (with a bit of luck it may be that we still have some summer to go!) and managed to dodge the worst of the wind and rain!

The strap line for the national Arts Society is ‘We inspire, we do, we give’ and, as one of the largest and most active of the societies in the UK, we plan to do just that in our society. We will aim to ‘inspire’ you through the lecture programme, the day visits, the days of special interest and the short breaks; enable you to ‘do’ through our volunteering work and ‘give’ through the various donations that we make over the year to a variety of worthy causes and organisations.

Members have been sent your hard copy of the programme card for the 2019/ 20 season which sets out the lecture programme for the year. I hope you will agree that it looks like another outstanding programme which I hope you will enjoy; if, for any reason, you do not receive your programme card please let the membership secretary know.

Our first lecture is on Wednesday 4th September and, hopefully,  I may have the opportunity to see you and/or meet you there.
If you are planning to come to that lecture there are two matters I should make you aware of:

If on arrival at the Spa Centre, you think there has been a change in our secretary from Margot Radomska to Keith Roberts, please do not be concerned – Margot will be away on her annual visit to friends and family in Poland and Keith is standing in for her at that lecture; normal service will be resumed for the October, and subsequent, lectures.

The ‘click in’ process that we adopted last year to register you when you attend a lecture has proved very efficient and has substantially reduced pre-lecture congestion in the downstairs lobby area. Accordingly, we will continue with that process with one small change; previously your name and membership number were on your programme card and so the majority of members showed that to register their attendance. For this year you will see that your name and membership number are not on the programme card but are on your national membership card and so it is that card that you will need to bring with you for each lecture you attend; if you forget to do so then you will need to register at the desk as before.

The membership desk will still be manned to deal with guests, visitors or any membership related enquires that you may have.

Your programme card also has details of the planned day visits, days of special interest and short breaks and when tickets for these are on sale. It also has details of other events that are planned for the 2019/20 year such as the new members coffee morning (Thursday 10th October 2019), the Leamington Music concert (Friday 18th October 2019) and the biennial dinner at Wroxall Abbey (Saturday 20th June 2020).

If other events arise during the year, I will, of course, let you know about these both in my newsletters and updates and in my announcements before the lectures.

If you have told us that you are happy to receive communications from us by email then you will receive this letter, a brief synopsis of each of the lectures planned for the 2019/20 season and an up to date copy of the guidance notes for members by that means; if not, the synopsis and guidance notes will posted in hard copy form.

I very much hope that you enjoy as much as possible of what is planned for 2019/20.

If there is anything that you want to discuss or if you have any queries or concerns, please do contact either me or any other member of the Committee.

Best wishes,

Shaun Pitt

Discovery Trail – St Mark’s, Milverton

St Mark’s, Milverton

St Marks, Milverton

A group of Brownies from St Mark’s Church, Milverton, was the first to use the latest trail produced by The Arts Society, Royal Leamington Spa.

The Victorian church was originally designed by George Gilbert Scott Junior but has been much altered to fit with changing needs.

The trail was created by Rosemary Jewel-Clark, Anne Roberts, Pat Whorton and Edwina McConville. They received encouragement and support from the vicar, Rev Joanna Parker and Ros Davies, the Children and Families Work Coordinator.

The Brownie pack, with their leaders, enthusiastically used their skills of observation and asked questions as they looked for information and items around the church. One Brownie was heard to say ‘This is really good fun’!

The new materials are now a gift from The Arts Society to the church, and will be available for use by visiting groups, schools and visitors to the church.

Wednesday 2nd September 2020 – Catherine de Medici: the Story of Three in a Marriage

Catherine de Medici: the Story of Three in a Marriage

Catherine de Medici and Henry IV
Henry IV and Catherine de Medici

Fine Art Images/ Heritage Images/ Getty Images

Wednesday 2nd September 2020

Caroline Rayman

This is the sad life story of an unfortunate young woman who left Florence to become the Queen of France, and the unhappy life that followed.

She was a brave woman who suffered every indignity at the French Court, but survived all her enemies.

Caroline has lectured for many years to universities and art organisations in America and on cruise ships. She was an official guide at the British Museum and has published articles on samplers.

This is the first lecture of the 2020/ 21 season.