Category Archives: Uncategorised

Wednesday 3rd June 2020 – Beethoven at 250

Beethoven at 250


Wednesday 3rd June 2020

Sandy Burnett

To mark the 250th Anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, Sandy will guide us through the life of this brilliant, cantankerous visionary and astonishingly original composer, a man who tore up the rule book of classical music. With visual images and examples of his music, Sandy will show us why Beethoven described himself as a ‘poet in sound’

Sandy is one of the UK’s most authoritative broadcasters in the field of classical music. His varied career has seen him as author, bassist, conductor, broadcaster and presenter, sharing his passion for music.

After studying music at St Catharine’s College in Cambridge, Sandy worked as music director for the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and in London’s West End.

Sandy became a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 for more than a decade, and also worked for Irish radio station RTÉ Lyric FM.

When he is not on our airwaves, Sandy is the author of the Idler Guide to Classical Music, and presenter of a related online course covering a thousand years of classical music from the medieval to modern eras. He also devises and leads cultural lecture holidays across Europe.

Sandy became an accredited lecturer with The Arts Society in 2017.

This meeting will be streamed online at 11:00am on Wednesday 3rd June 2020.
Members will receive an invitation by email to join the lecture.

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

Wednesday 1st July 2020 – The Art of Taking Tea

The Art of Taking Tea

The Art of Taking Tea
Afternoon Tea, 1886.
Chromolithograph after Kate Greenaway
Credit: Welcome Collection

© Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) terms and conditions

Wednesday 1st July 2020

Gaye Blake Roberts

This lecture will explore the extraordinary story of the development of drinking tea in Britain from its introduction, through the importance of the Far Eastern trade, to the general usage of tea in modern times. It will examine the changing styles and uses of tea wares and will also look at the implications of how the beverage altered the habits of the nation.

Gaye Blake Roberts is Curator of the Wedgwood Museum, having worked previously at the V&A and the Coalport China Works Museum.  She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Fellow of the Museums Association.

Gaye has lectured extensively throughout Britain, Italy, Australia and the USA and has often appeared on national radio and television.

She has contributed to catalogues for major exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts, the V&A and other international museums and has written a number of specialist books on ceramics and the creativity and innovation of Wedgwood.

Note that this meeting will not now take place in the Royal Spa Centre due to the ongoing Coronavirus situation. It may be rescheduled for a later date.

Instead, please click here to see details of our online lecture on 1st July.

Wednesday 1st April 2020 – Raphael: A Master in the Making

Raphael: A Master in the Making

The Transfiguration - Raphael

The Transfiguration by Raphael
[Public domain image]

Wednesday 1st April 2020

Siân Walters

Raphael, one of the three giants of the High Renaissance in Italy alongside Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, moved from humble commissions in Urbino to become one of the leading artists at the court of Pope Julius II in Rome. This lecture explores how he achieved this extraordinary rise in status.

Siân is a highly qualified and experienced tutor and events organiser, and lectures regularly for the National Gallery, The Arts Society, The Art Fund, Friends of the Royal Academy and many other galleries, colleges and arts societies. She was a lecturer at Surrey University for many years and in 2016 was named a Highly Commended finalist in the World’s Best Guide Awards.  Siân is a firm believer in making art history fun!

Note that this meeting will not now take place in the Royal Spa Centre due to the ongoing Coronavirus situation. Instead, the lecture will be streamed live on the internet. Full details will be emailed to members shortly.

Wednesday 4th March 2020 – Charles Dickens – The Man, His Life, and His Characters

Charles Dickens – The Man, His Life, and His Characters

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens by Crowdy & Loud, after G.L. Lea, or after Mason & Co (Robert Hindry Mason) photogravure, published 21 December 1901 (1863) NPG x28075

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Wednesday 4th March 2020

Bertie Pearce

Charles John Huffam Dickens brought into the world a staggering array of wonderful characters with orphans, starving children, misers, murderers and abusive school teachers among them.

People such as Mr Micawber, Fagin and Abel Magwitch remain in one’s literary psyche long after the books are put down.

Largely self-educated, Dickens possessed the genius to become the greatest writer of his age with fifteen major novels and countless short stories and articles.

In this lecture Bertie Pearce looks at the life and places of Dickens through his characters. The talk is interspersed with readings of his works. A truly Dickensian experience.

Bertie has a BA (Hons) in Drama from Manchester University, and a Diploma Internationale from the École Internationale du Théatre, Jacques Lecoq. He is a member of the Inner Magic Circle, with Gold Star. Past experience includes lecturing and performing on cruise ships, and to U3A, historical societies, festivals, schools and colleges. In addition, he has toured the world with a magic cabaret show and a one man show entitled All Aboard and has written articles for newspapers and magazines on entertainment and theatre.

Wednesday 5th February 2020 – Art of the Islands: An Introduction to Early Medieval Art in Britain and Ireland c. 500-850

Art of the Islands: An Introduction to Early Medieval Art in Britain and Ireland c. 500-850

The Ardagh Chalice
Photograph © National Museum
of Ireland

Wednesday 5th February 2020

Michelle Brown

The different cultures present in these islands before the Norman conquest produced stunning metalwork such as the Sutton Hoo and Staffordshire Hoard, the Ardagh Chalice and the Tara brooch, magnificent manuscripts such as the books of Durrow and Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels, and sculptures such as the Ruthwell Cross and the enigmatic Pictish carvings.

This illustrated lecture will trace the interaction of these cultures – Celtic, Pictic, Anglo-Saxon and Viking – across the various artistic media, setting them within the historical context.

Michelle holds a BA in History and History of Art, Westfield College, and a PhD in History, UCL.   She is Professor Emerita of Medieval Manuscript Studies, SAS, University of London, Visiting Professor at UCL and Baylor University, and Senior Researcher at the University of Oslo.

She was formerly a Course Tutor in History of the Book (SAS), Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library, and lecturer at Birkbeck and Morley Colleges.

Her recent publications include The Book and the Transformation of Britain, c.550-1050 (2011) and Art of the Islands: Celtic, Pictish and Anglo-Saxon Visual Culture (Bodleian, 2016).

Wednesday 6th November 2019 – Secret Art in the Passport: How we use it to fox the forger

Secret Art in the Passport: How we use it to fox the forger

Secret Art Passport

Wednesday 6th November 2019

Martin Lloyd

From the wax seal to the microchip, man has exploited the skill of the artist and artisan in his attempt to manufacture a forgery-proof document.

Taking you through three centuries of passport design, this lecture explains the overt, and uncovers the covert, to illustrate the defences built in to the passport and the tricks the forger uses to defeat them.

Martin Lloyd has been lecturing to various groups, including U3A, National Trust, historical societies, Gresham College and business groups since 2008. He previously worked for HM Immigration Service, and has broadcast on local and national television and radio.

Wednesday 2nd October 2019 – Brilliant British Humour in the Forgotten Art of the Picture Postcard 1909-1939

Brilliant Britsh Humour in the Forgotten Art of the Picture Postcard 1909-1939

Lecture_2019_James Taylor

Wednesday 2nd October 2019

James Taylor

From the Edwardian era to the outbreak of World War II, millions of artist-drawn humorous postcards were produced, not just for entertainment but to bolster morale, to inspire, instruct, motivate and persuade.

Discover the popular themes and styles of the period by the masters of the medium such as Mabel Lucie Attwell, Dudley Buxton, Donald McGill and Fred Spurgin, and the reasons why their popularity waned with the British public. 

James Taylor studied at the Universities of St Andrews and Manchester.

He is a former curator of paintings, drawings and prints, and co-ordinator of various exhibitions, at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich and has worked as a lecturer on board cruise ships.

Publications include Maritime Painting: Images of Sail, Sea and Shore (1995); Yachts on Canvas: Artists’ Images from the Seventeenth Century to the Present Day (1998); The Voyage of the Beagle: Darwin’s Extraordinary Adventure Aboard FitzRoy’s Famous Survey Ship (2008); Careless Talk Costs Lives: Fougasse and the Art of Public Information (2010) and Your Country Needs You: the Secret History of the Propaganda Poster (2013).

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