Category Archives: Uncategorised

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

Update – April 2019

Dear Members,

Welcome to Spring 2019!

Those of you who are diligent readers of my various newsletters and updates (which I am sure is everyone!) will have noticed that I promised three updates in October, December and April. I did not actually produce an update in December because, given that there was going to be (and was) a full newsletter in January, I thought that it might be a case of communication overload.  I propose to continue with the pattern of newsletters and updates that has been established this season. I hope that this will strike the always difficult balance between keeping you informed about what your society is doing and avoiding the ‘oh no-not another email from the Arts Society!’ reaction. If anyone has any contrary views on this, please do let me know.

We are now two thirds of the way through the 2018/19 lecture programme and what a successful one it has been to date. We owe many thanks to Carolyn Voss and Eithne Batt for putting together such a varied and interesting programme.

The first lecture of 2019 was ‘Votes for Women! Art and the Suffragettes’ which certainly lived up to my earlier prediction that it would be far more stimulating than current day politics! This was followed by the always irrepressible Peter Medhurst on the ‘Music of Paint’ which proved to be a fascinating look at how musicians, music itself and musical instruments are represented in art. Most recently, we had Nicholas Watkins on ‘The Horse and Modern Art from George Stubbs to Mark Wallinger’, a most interesting review of the horse in art and its links to the human condition.  We start the last third of the season on Wednesday 1 May with Gavin Plumley on ‘The Art and Culture of Fin de Siecle Vienna’ which, as a fan of Vienna as a city and art centre, I personally very much look forward to.

Hopefully you will by now all be aware that we started making a light sandwich lunch available for members who wished to participate on the upstairs level of the Spa Centre and that seems to have been well received. If you would like to join friends, fellow members and the committee, you can sign up the month before for lunch at the following month’s lecture at a price of £7 per head; the sign in process is with our membership secretary, Margot Radomska, who will be at her desk just inside the main doors as you enter the Spa Centre. As always, your programme card contains full details of the lecture programme and synopses of all the lectures are on our website ( It also has details of our days of special interest, day visits, short breaks and our volunteering activities so please do make use of it to keep up to date on what is going on in your society.

There is one upcoming event that is not on the programme card because it was organised after the card was printed and that is the afternoon tea party at Audley Binswood on Thursday 25th April at 3pm.  There are still some tickets available for this, priced at a very reasonable £10. If you are interested in coming, please contact Roz Crampton on 01926 833609.

Despite the high bar set by the previous day of special interest, our most recent such event on Friday 15th March on ‘How to look at Paintings: Unlocking Hidden Meanings in Art’ at our now usual venue for these events, the Warwickshire Golf Club, was equally well received by the full house audience. Our presenter, Stella Grace Lyons, gave all of us some help and ideas as how better to view and appreciate paintings of all ages and genres.

After our day visit to Stonor and Hughenden on 8th May, our next day visit is to Belvoir Castle on Wednesday 14th August and tickets for this will be on sale at the May lecture.

Our volunteers have continued with their considerable range of projects and I had the pleasure to visit those volunteers working in the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry and see, first hand, the work they were doing to preserve the extensive collection of garments. It was clear that the work they do was very well regarded and appreciated by the Herbert’s curator.

The volunteers at the Lord Leycester Hospital have just completed their work on cleaning a major part of the weaponry there and the Master of the Hospital has sent me a letter of thanks for the quality of what they have achieved.  I have, of course, passed this on to the members of the team so many congratulations to them.

I hope that you will enjoy the remainder of our season and I look forward to seeing and meeting as many of you as possible at our events.  In the meantime may I take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Easter holiday.

Shaun Pitt


Update – January 2019

A very Happy New Year to you all and welcome to 2019!

I hope that, however you chose to celebrate the Christmas season, you had a thoroughly enjoyable time and found some time to relax amongst the festivities.

We had a very successful set of lectures in the first half of the 2018/19 year, the last lecture of which was most impressive on ‘Contrapuntal Forms: Barbara Hepworth and Terry Frost’. Those of you who were at the lecture (and maybe even more if you were not able to be there), might be interested in a piece written by one of our members, David Howells (a collector of a number of pieces of Terry Frost’s work), which has details about Terry’s life and background; you can download the piece here

We have an equally impressive set of lectures for you in the second half of the season. It starts on Wednesday 6th February with Dr. Caroline Shenton on ‘Votes for Women! Art and the Suffragettes’ which should be most stimulating-certainly more so than present day politics!

For those of you planning to attend this lecture, we are planning an innovation that I hope will be welcome to you. We pride ourselves on being a social, friendly society and, with that in mind, we thought that members might like the opportunity to meet up after/before the lecture (depending on whether you are a morning or afternoon member) for a light sandwich lunch on the upstairs level of the Spa Centre and socialise with friends, committee members and the lecturer. Accordingly, at the February lecture you will be able to sign up for such a lunch at the March lecture at a price of £7 per head, payable at the February lecture either by cheque or in cash; the sign-up process will be with our membership secretary, Margot Radomska who, as usual, will be at her desk just inside the main doors as you come into the Spa Centre. The process will roll forward each month i.e. book up at the March lecture for lunch at the April lecture etc, etc. Members will also be able to purchase drinks from the upstairs bar which will be open from 12.00 noon to 1.45pm.

So that you have some idea of, literally, what the lunch looks like, here is a photograph of what we are talking about.

I very much hope that many of you will take this up and enjoy it.

Your programme card does, as always, contain full details of the lecture programme and synopses of all the lectures are here on our website. It also has all the details of our days of special interest, day visits, short breaks and our volunteering activities so please do make use of it to keep yourself up to date with what is going on in your society.

For those of you who wish to keep up to date with happenings in the art world outside our society, I would strongly recommend signing up to the regular email from the national Arts Society which contains ‘Curated Highlights’; the current version has an opportunity to win a Fred Olsen cruise worth £5,698!

It is easy to sign up via the national Arts Society website

Your programme card has details of the planned day visits, days of special interest, short breaks and other events and, very 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 always popular and sell out quickly. Three very important updates:

If you have booked to go to the Carducci Quartet on Friday 25th January, the location for this event, which was shown on the programme card as the Royal Pump Rooms, has been changed by the organisers to Leamington Town Hall. Please also note that the 2 for 1 ticket offer is for the best seats if you book via the phone number on the programme card

The “Time the Concert” event on Saturday 16th February 2019 by the Coventry and Warwickshire Youth Orchestra starts at 7.30pm and tickets are available at £6 (a special price for our members) on the door.

We have arranged an afternoon tea party at Audley Binswood on Thursday 25th April at 3pm. Tickets for this, which has historically been a most pleasant and well supported event, are £10 per person and will be on sale at the February and, if necessary, the March lectures.

On short breaks, the trip to Berlin in May 2019 is now fully subscribed but tickets will be on sale at the February lecture for the September trip to Dublin.

After the very successful day visit to Blenheim in November (photo left), the next day visit is to Stonor and Hughenden on 8th May, the former home to the eponymous family for 850 years and the latter the home of Benjamin Disraeli and tickets will be available at the March lecture.

After the universally enthusiastic feedback from the last day of special interest on Chatsworth, I am looking forward in high expectation to the next day of special interest, ‘How to Look at Paintings: Unlocking Hidden Meanings in Art’ on Friday 15th March at the Warwickshire Golf Club with Stella Grace Lyons as the presenter. Tickets for this will be available at the February lecture.

Our heritage volunteers have continued to be busy over the Autumn. At the Herbert Museum in Coventry, the group have now finished the padded dots and dashes for a morse code activity at the Transport museum. In case you are wondering what this looks like the photo shows the word FINISHED in morse (reading downwards)

You may recall that this group made it through to the finals of the West Midlands Volunteer Awards but, unfortunately, they did not win but getting to the finals is a tribute to their work in itself-so many congratulations to them

The volunteers at the Leamington Museum have been condition checking and re-packing large textiles which are stored on large rollers. They are delighted to find that the WW1 bed cover that I referred to in my August newsletter is to go on permanent display at the Beamish Museum in County Durham.

After two years and 830 hours the volunteers at All Saints Church have now completed their repair and conservation of a large amount of ecclesiastical embroidery. I am delighted to tell you that, on 21st November, at a presentation that I and Anne Flower attended, they were presented by David Brass (the area head of heritage volunteers) with the Golden Jubilee award ‘In recognition of their outstanding contribution to Volunteering for the Arts Society’ so many congratulations to them.

The next project will be at the Lord Leycester Hospital in Warwick which will involve the cleaning and conservation of arms and armoury. If you would be interested in joining the group for this project please have a word with Anne Flower who tells me that all that is needed is interest in the collection and lots of elbow grease!

It is of considerable note and credit to all the heritage volunteer groups and Anne to report that all three groups over the last couple of years have been awarded the Golden Jubilee award or Golden star award for their work-ladies and gentlemen you can all stand very tall!

Our church recorders have now finished the record for St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic church and it will be presented to the parish priest, Father John Sharp at a lunch on 13th February 2019.

The group will be starting to record All Saints, Sherbourne in January 2019. It is  a lovely Gilbert Scott church and, according to Pevsner, ‘ is a generous and expensive estate church lavish in every detail’ It cost £20,898 in 1862-64!

Our head of church recording, Angela Watkins, is looking for additional recorders so, if you are interested, please contact Angela direct on 01926 624758.

Your society continues to be active in the young arts arena. In September, a pupil in St. Margaret’s School in Whitnash won 2nd prize in the West Midlands Young Arts competition to design a ‘My Birthday Tea Party’ plate in conjunction with Wedgewood, as part of the Arts Society’s golden jubilee celebrations. She was presented with a plate made from her design, a certificate and a cash award at Wedgewood by Denise Topolski, the National Head of Young Arts.

The future plans for young arts include-hopefully!-an exhibition of children’s work in the Leamington Art Gallery in Spring 2019.

I hope that as many of you as possible will get involved in some, or even all, your society’s activities over the next six months and I look forward to meeting as many of you as I can in that time.

Shaun Pitt

Update – August 2018

Dear Member

Welcome to the new season at The Arts Society Royal Leamington Spa. I do hope that you have all been enjoying our beautifully warm, sunny summer-for once, not a sarcastic comment!!
As always, we have a full year of lectures, events and volunteering activities which I hope as many of you as possible will attend/get involved with and enjoy as we move past our 25th anniversary year and into our second quarter century.

Our programme secretary, Eithne Batt, has put together an outstanding programme of lectures, and it starts on Wednesday 5th September with Chloe Sayer lecturing on ‘Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera: The Golden Age of Mexican Painting.’– something that I would guess relatively few of us know a great deal about.

For those of you who plan to attend this lecture there are two important matters to be aware of:

1. As I mentioned at the lecture in July, the Ovo Energy Cycling Tour of Britain has a stage finishing in Leamington on the day of our first lecture. The result is that there will be various road closures and parking restrictions in Leamington on that day and, while we have confirmed that we are still able to use the Spa Centre for the lecture, I would strongly recommend that you allow more time than usual to make your way to the Spa Centre and for parking.

2. We have also reviewed the way that members register when you attend a lecture. The process of queueing at the registration desk to give your name and number has sometimes been somewhat tedious and has caused considerable congestion in the downstairs lobby area. Accordingly, from now on, all you will need to do is to show your programme card to the committee member inside the door as you arrive and they will ‘count’ you in. This does of course mean that you need to bring your programme card with you to each lecture that 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 queries that you may have.

As well as being on your programme card, full details of the lecture programme and synopses of the lectures are on our website ( It also has all the details of our days of special interest, day visits, short breaks and our volunteering activities so please do make use of it to keep yourself up to date with what is going on; it is a mine of useful information, easy to use, with useful links and, apart from anything else, you will see just how active your society is!

Your programme card also has details of the planned day visits, days of special interest and short breaks and when tickets are being sold for these events. Do please come early if you want to go on these events as they are always very popular. Tickets for the day visit to Blenheim Palace on Thursday 15th November and for the day of special interest ‘Duchess to housewife’ (on Chatsworth) on Friday 12th October will be on sale at the September lecture.

In terms of our short breaks, those for Yorkshire in September 2018 and Berlin in May 2019 are now both sold out but, if these trips are of interest to you, keep an eye out for the Southern Ireland tour in September/October 2019, tickets for which will be on sale at the February 2019 lecture.

Our heritage volunteers have been busy over the summer. At the Herbert Museum in Coventry, the group has recently completed a project for the pre school group sessions which involved making cushion covers in shades of blue and green with different textures. I am delighted to be able to report that these volunteers are through to the finals of the West Midlands Volunteer Awards which are given regionally by the West Midlands Museum Development programme; I will let you know how they fare in the finals in a later communication. They are also about to start a new project with the transport museum and I will update you on this in due course. The volunteers working in the Leamington Museum, have now completed the WW1 quilt and this is now included in an exhibition in the Art Gallery called ‘Are you in this?’ with an acknowledgement of your society’s involvement in the project.

The project at All Saints’ Church is in its final stages and photographs of the volunteers and their work will soon be on permanent display in the church. Three items of embroidery are currently being mounted and framed and will also form part of the permanent exhibition; if you attend All Saints, or are just visiting, do take the opportunity to see the work that the volunteers have done there.

Angela Watkins, who runs our highly regarded team of church recorders, is currently working with a group at St. Francis of Assisi in Baddesley Clinton. The fieldwork is now almost complete and collating and photography is under way and it is hoped that the record will be complete later this year.

We are always looking for new volunteers for both the heritage volunteers and church recorders so, if this is of interest to you, please do contact the relevant people; their contact details are on your programme card and on the website.

Your society has also been active in the Young Arts arena. In November, Jacquie Smithson, a mixed media artist specialising in felt making worked as an artist-in-residence at Round Oak School in Warwick. Round Oak School provides for students aged 11 – 18 who have a broad spectrum of special educational needs. All the young people at the school participated in making felt leaves, twigs, clouds and berries for a wall hanging which is now in the school’s entrance hall.
In December members of The Arts Society attended the Playbox Theatre in Warwick to see an excellent production of ‘The Wizard of Oz’. The young actors put on a very professional and enjoyable performance.
Every year your society awards a bursary to a Foundation Year Student at Warwickshire College. This year the recipient is Sophie Ryan who is a Fashion/Textiles student.

Finally, if you are a new member, you will shortly receive an invitation to our new members coffee morning at Charlecote village hall at 10.30am on Thursday 11th October and I hope that as many as possible of you will be able to join myself, the Committee and other new members for what is always a pleasant and enjoyable morning.

I very much look forward to seeing and meeting as many of you as I can during the course of the season and I hope that you will thoroughly enjoy your membership of The Arts Society Royal Leamington Spa.

Shaun Pitt

Wednesday 3rd July 2019 – From Garbo to Garland: The Magical Art of Hollywood

From Garbo to Garland – The Magical Art of Hollywood


Wednesday 3rd July 2019

Dr Geri Parlby

Lights, Camera, Action! – inside stories of the art and artifice of the early decades of Hollywood.

This lecture covers the work of stills photographers, costumiers, publicists, actors and actresses and the movie moguls who made it all happen.

Geri is a former Fleet Street journalist and film publicist. She has a first class honours degree in History and Theology, a Masters in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute and a Theology doctorate from Roehampton University in London. She has been lecturing for the past eleven years both in the UK and internationally. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at Roehampton University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Note – This lecture will follow our AGM which will start at 1:30pm

Wednesday 5th June 2019 – Thank You Your Majesty: the Royal Art Collection

Thank You Your Majesty: the Royal Art Collection


Wednesday 5th June 2019

Linda Collins

We look at the founding of the Royal Collection with Henry VIII and we then work chronologically through our Monarchs looking at items they brought in to the Royal Collection.

This gives us a good idea of their personal taste – and there are some surprises! George IV would bankrupt himself for diamonds and yet his taste in art was for small genre pictures. Charles I was probably our greatest connoisseur of art. He enjoyed acquiring Italian paintings by important artists and our Royal Collection at this time would have rivalled any in the world.

On the other hand, it was said of William IV that he couldn’t tell a decent painting from a window shutter!

Linda was employed by the Historic Royal Palaces for more than twenty years before becoming an independent lecturer. She holds a BA(Hons) in Early Italian art, an MA in the works of Georges de la Tour, and a Diploma in French language and Culture.

Linda describes working amongst the paintings in the Royal Collection as being “fascinating and compelling”. She was involved in the opening of the New Cumberland Art Gallery at Hampton Court Palace, which has brought together works by Caravaggio, Holbein, Rembrandt, Gentileschi (both father and daughter), Gainsborough and many more in a beautiful historic setting.

Wednesday 1st May 2019 – The Art and Culture of Fin-de-Siècle Vienna

The Art and Culture of Fin-de-Siècle Vienna


Wednesday 1st May 2019

Gavin Plumley

At the turn of the last century Vienna was the capital of a vast empire and one of the most exciting artistic laboratories in the world. It produced painters such as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Oscar Kokoschka, architects like Otto Wagner, Adolf Loos and Josef Hoffman, the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, the composer Gustav Mahler and the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.

This lecture looks at these and other figures in the context of the society in which they worked and asks how and why the City of Dreams became a cultural hotbed around 1900.

Gavin is a writer and broadcaster. Well known for his work on Vienna and Central European music and culture, he is equally at home on Broadway and in Tolstoy’s Russia. His work can be found in newspapers, magazines and opera and concert programmes around the world. He appears frequently on BBC Radio 3, both as a guest and as a presenter, and on BBC Radio 4. Gavin also edits other people’s writing, as a commissioning editor for the Salzburg Festival and for the Oxford Lieder Festival.

Wednesday 3rd April 2019 – The Horse and Modern Art from George Stubbs to Mark Wallinger

The Horse and Modern Art from George Stubbs to Mark Wallinger

Lecture_2018_Nicholas Watkins

Wednesday 3rd April 2019

Dr Nicholas Watkins

The horse is so rooted within the psyche of the Western imagination that it has maintained its expressive power through the centuries.

Stubbs, the greatest horse painter of all time, depicted the English Thoroughbred as a lean, mean racing machine. Degas learnt from sequential photography how to represent the mechanical movements of a galloping horse. For Munnings the horse represented tradition, a defining image of Englishness, while for the Fascists and Nazis the horse was a symbol of authority.

In Guernica (1937) the most moving protest painting of the twentieth century, Picasso employed an agonised horse in its death throes to evoke the destruction of the civilian population by the German Condor Legion flying for Franco in the Spanish Civil War.

The lecture concludes with the very diverse ways contemporary artists have made use of the equestrian image including Mark Wallinger’s planned but as yet unrealised gigantic 50 metre horse in Kent.

Nicholas is Emeritus Reader in the Department of the History of Art and Film, University of Leicester, curator, critic, author and lecturer. He is a regular contributor to The Burlington Magazine and other leading art journals. He lectures extensively to universities, museums, art galleries and art societies.

Wednesday 6th March 2019 – The Music of Paint

The Music of Paint


Wednesday 6th March 2019

Peter Medhurst

Some of the finest paintings in Western Art contain references to the world of music – Holbein’s The Ambassadors, Vermeer’s Young Woman at the Virginals, Gainsborough’s portraits of 18th century composers – and often the musical element carries intriguing and complex symbolism.

Peter Medhurst selects a range of masterpieces from the 16th to the 18th centuries and matches them with live music that stems from the exact time the paintings were created.

Peter’s work as singer, pianist and lecturer-recitalist has taken him all over the world. In the last few years he has toured New Zealand, Australia and South Africa and made frequent tours in Europe. Closer to home, he has presented events at the Barbican, St John’s Smith Square, and the Royal Festival Hall. He has also directed presentations at the Wallace Collection, the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and the V&A, linking the visual arts with the world of 17th & 18th century music making.

Wednesday 6th February 2019 – Votes for Women! Art and the Suffragettes

Votes for Women! Art and the Suffragettes


Wednesday 6th February 2019

Dr Caroline Shenton

This lecture explores the story of the suffragettes through their ‘pro and anti’ portrayals in cartoons, postcards and paintings – as well as their own artistic productions.

It will also consider the Suffragettes’ impact on the Houses of Parliament itself and how the Parliamentary Art Collection has responded to criticism that its own collection is too ‘male, stale and pale’.

By turns amusing, infuriating, enraging and ultimately inspiring, you will come away from this talk with a new appreciation of how the campaign for equal electoral rights was won by and through art.

Caroline is an archivist and historian. She was formerly Director of the Parliamentary Archives in London, and before that was a senior archivist at the National Archives. Her first popular history book, “The Day Parliament Burned Down”, won the Political Book of the Year Award in 2013 and Mary Beard called it ‘microhistory at its absolute best’ while Dan Jones considered it ‘glorious’. Its highly-acclaimed sequel, “Mr Barry’s War”, about the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster, was a Book of the Year in 2016 for The Daily Telegraph and BBC History Magazine and was described by Lucy Worsley as ‘a real jewel, finely wrought and beautiful’. Caroline teaches Public History to postgraduates at the University of Dundee, and during 2017 was a Political Writer in Residence at Gladstone’s Library.