For details, click individual lectures below:
The Arts Society
Royal Leamington Spa
Lecture Programme 2020-21
Our lecture programme at the Royal Spa Centre is on hold due to coronavirus restrictions but we are still presenting lectures online. The next online lecture will be on Wednesday 7th October 2020. Members will be invited by email to view this lecture.
Our 2020-21 programme takes us on a journey from late nineteenth century Norway through early twentieth century Germany to a remote part of Uzbekistan.
Closer to home, we’ll look at The Day Parliament Burned Down, the Secret Story of Ruskin Pottery, and Coventry Cathedral: Icon and Inspiration. We’ll explore some of the world’s Great Railway Stations, hear about Outstanding Female Photographers, dip into Bach’s Glorious Christmas Oratorio, and even have a light-hearted look at Magic and the Life and Times of Giles. We very much hope you’ll enjoy what we have in store for you.
Although we are setting out here our plans for lectures for the 2020/21 year, some events may need to be changed or rescheduled depending on government regulations relating to the coronavirus. If this becomes necessary, we shall give members as much notice as possible of any changes.
Insiders/Outsiders: Refugees From Nazi Europe And Their Contribution To British Visual Culture
Wednesday 1st July 2020
Despite the traumatic nature of their dislocation and the obstacles they often encountered on arrival in the UK, those who fled here from Nazi-dominated Europe in the 1930s and 1940s made a deep, pervasive and long-lasting contribution to British culture. Focussing on the visual arts, this new lecture will examine the nature of this contribution, embracing not only familiar names such as Gombrich, Kokoschka, Moholy-Nagy, Schwitters and Heartfield, but also lesser-known figures such as Albert Reuss, Josef Herman and Marie-Louise von Motesiczky.
At a time when the issue of immigration is much debated, this lecture serves as a reminder of the importance of cultural cross-fertilisation and of the deep, long-lasting and wide-ranging contribution that refugees make to British life.
Monica is an independent London-based writer and an Associate Lecturer at Birkbeck College since 2005. She has lectured for institutions such as Tate, the National Gallery, the Royal Academy of Arts, the Open University, Sotheby’s Institute of Art and the Courtauld Institute of Art. She is the initiator and Creative Director of the Insiders/ Outsiders arts festival, and as such she hosted a whole series of online events earlier this month to mark National Refugees’ Week. Among her many publications, her book “Art and the Second World War” was nominated for the William M. B. Berger Prize for Art History and the National Award for Arts Writing, USA.
This lecture was streamed online at 11:00am on Wednesday 1st July 2020.
Members received an invitation by email to join the lecture.
The Good Life: Gimson and the Barnsleys – Inventing the Cotswold Style
Wednesday 5th August 2020
Discover the talents of Ernest Gimson and Ernest and Sidney Barnsley, influential figures of the Arts and Crafts movement. From setting up workshops to establishing ‘the Cotswold style’, these men have inspired generations of designers and makers.
Desiring to ‘live close to nature’, Gimson and the Barnsleys found Pinbury Park, near Cirencester. In 1900, Gimson and Ernest Barnsley set up a small furniture workshop in Cirencester, moving to larger premises at Daneway House, Sapperton, an idyllic medieval manor house. Although their partnership dissolved, Gimson and his skilled cabinet makers established a ‘Cotswold style’ while Sidney Barnsley designed and made his own furniture.
With a first degree in archaeology and a PhD in English, Anne was a senior lecturer in Art and Design History at Southampton Solent University for fourteen years.
She has held several prestigious fellowships and is currently a tutor for the V&A Learning Academy. A specialist in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts movement, Anne’s book on The Perseus Series was published for the Edward Burne-Jones exhibition at Tate Britain in 2018.
Her career as an international speaker has taken her all over the world, including Spain, Germany, New Zealand, Canada, the USA and Leamington Spa in November 2012. We are looking forward to her return, even if only in cyberspace.
This lecture will be streamed online on Wednesday 5th August 2020 at 11:00am.
TAS RLS members will receive an invitation by email to join the lecture.
After broadcast, the lecture will be available to view on our YouTube channel until 12th August.
The Old East End – A Virtual Tour
Tuesday 11th August 2020
The East End is one of London’s most fascinating and dynamic districts. It is essentially the story of immigration, wave after wave of people coming to London to seek refuge and look for a better life.
The Old East End Virtual tour tells their story. Using powerful images, video and Google street view, our journey takes us from the arrival of French Huguenots in the 1680s through to the more than 10,000 Jewish Kindertransport children who arrived at Liverpool Street station in 1939.
Pepe Martinez is an award winning London Blue Badge Tourist Guide. He was born in the East End and has lived there all his life. He is an accredited Institute of Tourist Guiding Trainer and is currently tutoring on the London Blue Badge training course.
This “virtual tour” will be streamed online on Tuesday 11th August 2020 at 2:00pm.
TAS RLS members received an invitation by email on August 8th to join this event.
Banned: Savitsky and the Secret Hoard of Avant-Garde Art
Wednesday 2nd September 2020
Chris Aslan Alexander
Russian Avant-Garde Art flourished during the first thirty years of the 20th Century, but as Stalin rose to power all but Socialist Realist expressions of art were banned. To own anything else was dangerous, and to start collecting it was unthinkable; yet that is exactly what Igor Savitsky did: he amassed the world’s second largest collection of Russian Avant-Garde art.
The remote location of the State Museum of Karakalpakstan, near the south shores of the Aral Sea, meant that Savitsky was able to get away with such subversive activity because even the authorities in Moscow were a little hazy as to where exactly Karakalpakstan was. Savitsky promoted Russian artists sent to Central Asia in exile as well as the first Central Asian artists to paint their own people and landscapes.
Chris spent his childhood in Turkey and in war-torn Beirut. After school he spent two years at sea before studying media and journalism at Leicester. After university he moved to Khiva, a desert oasis in Uzbekistan, where he established a UNESCO workshop reviving fifteenth century carpet designs and embroideries.
After a year in the UK writing A Carpet Ride to Khiva, he spent three years in the Pamirs in Tajikistan, training yak herders to comb their yaks for their cashmere-like down. Next came two years in Kyrgyzstan, living in the world’s largest natural walnut forest and establishing a wood-carving workshop. Chris has recently finished rowing and studying at Oxford, and a curacy at St. Barnabas in North Finchley. He is now taking two years out to focus on writing fiction. As well as lecturing for the Arts Society he leads tours to Central Asia, where a large part of his heart remains.
This lecture will be streamed online on Wednesday 2nd September 2020 at 11:00am. TAS RLS members will be invited by email to join the lecture.
Just before the coronavirus lockdown in March, Chris recorded a YouTube lecture on Soviet Propaganda in Central Asian Monumental Art. This can be viewed by clicking on the following link:
Great Railway Stations: Evoking the Spirit of Romance and Adventure
Wednesday 7th October 2020
When we think of St Pancras International or New York Grand Central, we imagine long romantic journeys. They are special places promising excitement and adventure. But there are dozens of other glorious stations in the UK and abroad.
In this lecture we will take a journey around some of the most evocative and splendid of them, looking not only at the magnificence of the architecture and the brilliance of the engineering, but discovering numerous artworks within the stations and examining many depictions of stations in art. These include Claude Monet’s Gare St Lazare and William Powell Frith’s Paddington.
Ian Swankie is a Londoner with a passion for art and architecture. He is a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Art Scholars, an official guide at Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Guildhall Art Gallery and St Paul’s Cathedral, and an active freelance London guide.
This lecture will be streamed online on Wednesday 7th October 2020 at 11:00am. TAS RLS members will be invited by email to join the lecture.
The Day Parliament Burned Down
Wednesday 4th November 2020
In the early evening of 16th October 1834, to the horror of bystanders, a huge ball of fire exploded through the roof of the Houses of Parliament, creating a blaze so enormous that it could be seen by the King and Queen at Windsor and from stagecoaches on top of the South Downs. In front of hundreds of thousands of witnesses, the great conflagration destroyed Parliament’s glorious old buildings and their contents. No one who witnessed the disaster would ever forget it.
This lecture will take us through the gripping hour-by-hour story of the fire through contemporary depictions of the disaster by Turner, William Heath and others.
Dr Caroline Shenton is an archivist and historian. She was formerly Director of the Parliamentary Archives in London, and before that a senior archivist at the National Archives.
Her book, The Day Parliament Burned Down, won the Political Book of the Year Award in 2013. Its 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.
This lecture will be streamed online on Wednesday 4th November 2020 at 11:00am. TAS RLS members will be invited by email to join the lecture.
“Celebrate, Rejoice, Rise Up!” – Johann Sebastian Bach’s Glorious Christmas Oratorio
Wednesday 2nd December 2020
Sandy Burnett’s close relationship with Bach’s music stretches back for decades. Between 1997 and 2010 he directed a complete cycle of Bach’s sacred cantatas in West London.
In this illustrated lecture he will explore how Bach brings the Christmas story alive in his Weihnachtsoratorium or Christmas Oratorio, written for Lutheran congregations in 1730s Leipzig. An overview of Bach’s life and achievement will precede a close look at this magnificent work which draws on various forms ranging from recitative, arioso, aria, chorale, and instrumental sinfonia through to full-blown choruses infused with the joyous spirit of the dance.
Sandy Burnett has combined a career as a broadcaster on BBC Radio 3 and as music director for the RSC and the National Theatre with lecturing and performing as a double bassist on the London jazz scene.
This lecture will be streamed online on Wednesday 2nd December 2020 at 11:00am. TAS RLS members will be invited by email to join the lecture.
Giles: His Life, Times and Cartoons
Wednesday 6th January 2021
The cartoonist Carl Giles once said that he loved his creation Grandma Giles – that fearsome, black-clad, gambling, drinking battleaxe – because she allowed him to say things through his cartoons that he was too polite to say in person. She helped him to poke fun at authority in all its forms, from Hitler to traffic wardens and even his employers at the Daily Express, who didn’t trust him and had sub-editors scouring his cartoons for subversive background details.
His admirers included Prince Charles, Sir Malcolm Sargent and Tommy Cooper, and it was no surprise when he was voted Britain’s best-loved cartoonist in 2000.
Giles gave us a remarkable picture of a half-century of British life. He was also, as his editor John Gordon put it, ‘a spreader of happiness’ and ‘a genius…with the common touch’.
Barry Venning is an art historian with a particular interest in the work of JMW Turner. His interests and his teaching extend from medieval architecture to contemporary British art. He is currently Associate Lecturer with the Open University and lecturing on a freelance basis for The Arts Society and Christie’s Education.
This lecture will be streamed online on Wednesday 6th January 2021 at 11:00am. TAS RLS members will be invited by email to join the lecture.
Coventry Cathedral: Icon and Inspiration
Wednesday 3rd February 2021
Ahead of Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture, this lecture will tell the extraordinary story of the rebuilding of the Cathedral as a symbol of peace and reconciliation and its inspiring commitment to the modern.
We’ll experience the work of many of the world class artists associated with its treasures, including Jacob Epstein, Elizabeth Frink, John Piper and Graham Sutherland.
Alexandra Epps’ background is in design, having practised as a graphic designer running her own business for many years. She now works as a guide to the City of London, and as a guide and lecturer to Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Guildhall Art Gallery and Pallant House Gallery.
Painting the Land of the Midnight Sun:
Norway’s Golden Age of Painting
Wednesday 3rd March 2021
Stella Grace Lyons
The late 19th century marked a defining moment in Norwegian art as romantic painters began to turn to their own land for inspiration, painting the stormy seas, towering glaciers and raw, untamed landscapes of their homeland. They included Peder Balke, who captured the far north with drama and romance, and Nikolai Astrup, who depicted the landscape as a mythical and eerie entity.
Stella Grace Lyons is a freelance lecturer, a lecturer in art history at the University of South Wales, and an artist’s model for the figurative artist Harry Holland.
Women Behind the Lens: Outstanding Female Photographers and Their Contribution to the Art of Photography
Wednesday 7th April 2021
The work of women photographers has often been unfairly neglected. This lecture seeks to correct that by examining the contribution of three outstanding British practitioners; Victorian pioneer Julia Margaret Cameron, portraitist Jane Bown and landscape photographer Fay Godwin – and that of two influential Americans – Dorothea Lange, with her documentary images, and contemporary photographer Annie Leibovitz.
Brian Stater is a Senior Teaching Fellow at University College London. His principal academic interest lies in the appreciation of architecture, while a strong personal enthusiasm is for photography. An exhibition of his own photographs has been held at University College London. He is a member of the Association of Historical and Fine Art Photography and works with a pre-war Leica camera, as used by his great hero Henri Cartier-Bresson and many others.
Cultural Experiments in the Weimar Republic
Wednesday 5th May 2021
After World War I, with Europe reeling from the worst conflict ever known, artists and architects were in a state of flux; yet out of crisis came a truly stimulating period of artistic endeavour.
Contemplating painters such as Max Beckmann, Otto Dix and Christian Schad alongside the experiments of the Bauhaus, new film technologies and the sultry stylings of Marlene Dietrich, this lecture will look at the culture of German-speaking Europe during the interwar years.
Gavin Plumley lectures widely on the culture of Central Europe during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He is a writer and broadcaster, appearing on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio 4, and contributing to newspapers, magazines and opera and concert programmes worldwide.
Wonder Workers and the Art of Illusion:
The History of Magic Through Art and Pictures
Wednesday 2nd June 2021
From the beginning of time the fascination with magic has been widespread. Sorcerer Priests used scientific principles to create illusions for the edification of worship and to hold power over the people.
In the age of the Music Hall, audiences flocked in their thousands to watch the extraordinary feats of The Great Illusionists. Even today, with the craze for Harry Potter, the wonder and surprise of magic are as popular as ever. This lecture will be a whistle stop tour of the history of magic from 3000 BC to the present day.
Bertie Pearce is a member of the Inner Magic Circle. He has toured the world with his one-man cabaret show All Aboard, performed on cruise ships, and lectured to a wide range of art and history societies.
The Secret Story of Ruskin Pottery
Wednesday 7th July 2021
At the beginning of the 20th century the Ruskin Pottery in Smethwick was producing some of the most innovative and beautiful art pottery in the world.
Named in honour of the art critic John Ruskin, the pottery was set up by Edward Richard Taylor, Headmaster of the Birmingham Municipal School of Art. It was later taken over by his son William Howson Taylor. The company won international awards and even royalty invested in pieces for their collections.
Collectors today are prepared to pay thousands of pounds for the finest pieces of Ruskin Pottery, yet the story of the factory is little known. This lecture will introduce us to the secrets of Ruskin Pottery and its beautiful ceramics.
Dr Sally Hoban has lectured extensively on art, design and antiques throughout the UK and at The University of Birmingham. She has broadcast on BBC Antiques Roadshow, BBC Two, BBC Four and BBC Radio 4 and her publications include the book Miller’s Collecting Modern Design.
She currently runs her own antiques businesses, specialising in nineteenth and twentieth century decorative arts, and antique and vintage clothing and textiles.
This lecture will follow the AGM at 1:30pm
The Ashcan Painters: Founders of New York Realism
Wednesday 1st September 2021
The term ‘Ashcan School’ was used to describe the realism and contemporary subject matter of a New York based group of artists who shared a fascination with zesty everyday life scenes. Each had an individual style, and all rejected the stolid conservatism and rigid teaching practices of the National Academy of Design.
This lecture will explore the work of this extraordinary group of individual artists who created vivid and stunningly beautiful images of a New York city in transition at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Mary Alexander has thirty years’ experience as a lecturer. Her experience includes public lectures in museums, tutoring for the Open University, visiting lecturer at Christie’s Education in London, and museum curator at Platt Hall, the Gallery of Costume, Manchester. She has worked in Pentagram design consultancy in London and New York organising conferences and special events, and is now a freelance lecturer to various arts, heritage and antiquarian societies. She is the author of articles on design and visual awareness issues. Her background combines an unusual blend of academic and visual communications skills.
This is the first lecture of our 2021/ 22 season.
For details of reading lists for these lectures please contact
The images on this site are published in good faith and the copyright holder, where known, is acknowledged beneath the image. If we receive any legitimate objections in respect of copyright, we undertake to remove such images immediately.