The Henley College Lectures
The HENLEY College has been privileged to welcome some outstanding speakers to deliver inspirational lectures over the years.
The Dame Periam Lecture is a highlight of the College year, previous guests include Lord Robert Winston, Terry Waite CBE, and Dr David Starkey.
Please click on the links below to read the lecture reviews:
The Henley College Lectures Series 2013-14 is open to all students and staff on a first-come basis, as well as governors and a limited number of members of the public. Members of the public must pre-register to attend.
Visitors are advised to use public car parking in the town centre. See how to find us.
If you have any questions, please telephone 01491 579988 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
5 March 2014, 12.10pm, Rotherfield Hall
David Gill, Former CEO, Manchester United and Vice Chairman, FA
'From playing field to boardroom. David Gill: a career in business and sport'
Open to students, staff, Governors and members of the public.
Members of the public, please register to attend here.
19 March 2014, 12.10pm, Rotherfield Hall
Lord Bichard, Former Senior Civil Servant
Open to students, staff, Governors and members of the public.
Members of the public, please register to attend here.
On 17 April The Henley College welcomed Judo Paralympian Ben Quilter, who gave an uplifting lecture titled 'Winning in Sport and Maximizing Life Chances'.
Ben Quilter is one of the leading Paralympic athletes of his generation, and one of the most successful visually impaired judo fighters Great Britain has ever produced. Among his sporting achievements to date are eight world and European medals and a bronze medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Quilter said: 'It's important to me to be able to come and share some of my experiences. I hope some of the students can take something away from these and apply it to their life. I look forward to seeing these young people go on to achieve great things.'
College Principal Tom Espley added: 'We were very pleased to welcome Ben Quilter to The Henley College. His lecture proved to be both interesting and inspirational to students and guests.'
The Henley College lecture series has welcomed many high profile speakers over the years including Lord Robert Winston, Terry Waite CBE, Dame Anita Roddick and Dr David Starkey.
Speakers for the coming year include Amazon Vice President Ajay Kavan and CEO of Manchester United, David Gill.
For further information please visit Ben Quilter at www.benquilter.co.uk.
Read the Principal's blog entry about the Lecture.
17 April 2013
Students and staff at The Henley College gained a timely first-hand perspective on the Economy from the Bank of England's Ian McCafferty on 20 March, the day Chancellor George Osborne unveiled the Government's latest budget.
McCafferty, the newest member of the Bank of England's nine-person Monetary Policy Committee whose responsibility includes determining UK interest rates, gave an engaging talk titled 'Economic Challenges in a Changing World.' He outlined some of the factors that contributed to the current financial crisis and discussed the important lessons that can be learned from recent years.
Prior to joining the Committee, he was Chief Economic Adviser to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), and previous roles include Chief International Economist at Natwest and Head of Macroeconomics at BP.
McCafferty said: 'I am pleased that students at Henley are interested in economic issues. It is a pleasure to give them a briefing on recent developments and to listen to what they have to say on the economy.'
College Principal Tom Espley said: 'We are privileged to welcome Ian McCafferty and would like to thank him enormously for taking the time to share a unique insight with staff and students at the College.
A large number of very high quality students are studying Economics and Business at the College and I know they in particular will have enjoyed and benefitted from this lecture.'
Economics student Alexander Hurst, from Reading, said: 'I found the lecture extremely informative and it systemised what is happening in the economy. It was an excellent talk.'
Fellow student Mariana Stamateri, also from Reading, added: 'I really enjoyed the lecture. Mr McCafferty made the subject easy to understand and used terms that we are learning for our exams. It will really help me with the Economics part of my course.'
The Henley College lecture series has welcomed many high profile speakers over the years including Lord Robert Winston, Terry Waite CBE, Dame Anita Roddick and Dr David Starkey.
Speakers for the coming year include Paralympian Ben Quilter; Amazon Vice President, Ajay Kavan; and CEO of Manchester United, David Gill.
20 March 2013
Mr Simon Bradshaw, Editor of The Henley Standard, gave a lecture to students at The Henley College on 27 February 2013. Titled 'The World of Newspapers in 2013', Bradshaw discussed some of the key issues facing the industry in recent years, whilst looking ahead to the future.
He began his career at the Coventry Evening Telegraph in 1980 before going on to work for BBC Radio 2 and then a variety of newspapers in Scotland and North East England. He was named Executive Editor of the Daily Record in Glasgow, before becoming Editor of The Argus in Brighton, winning awards including Newspaper of the Year.
After a time as News Sub-editor at the Evening Standard in London, Bradshaw was appointed Editor of the Henley Standard.
The College's Head of Marketing, Dave Lamont, said: 'The College has been privileged to welcome some outstanding speakers over the years, with previous guests including Lord Robert Winston, Terry Waite CBE, and Dr David Starkey.
We are proud to maintain strong links with the Henley Standard and would like to thank Simon Bradshaw for giving up his time to talk to our students. I know they will have found today's lecture very interesting and insightful.'
Image: Simon Bradshaw, Principal Tom Espley and student Jake Smith who introduced the lecture
Upcoming guest speakers at the College include a member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee and a Team GB Paralympian.
Please see The Henley College Lectures for further information.
27 February 2013
The College was delighted to welcome Will Fox, Chairman of the PAW Conservation Trust, to give a public lecture on the real issues facing the African Leopard and the future conservation needs for the last of Africa's free roaming big cats.
Mr Fox gave an enlightening account of the research work being undertaken to protect the leopard and conserve its natural habitat. He also gave an insight into the behaviour of leopards, and how the data that is being collected is helping to understand the species more fully. This data is collected in a variety of ways including the use of camera traps that not only photograph leopards, but also other wildlife. The students enjoyed hearing about the ferocious Honey Badger and Golden Mole.
To find out more about the work of the PAW Conservation Trust and Will Fox please see the links below:
Dr Norman Finkelstein , an American academic and writer, included Henley College on his major UK Lecture Tour whichstarted in Queen’s University, Belfast before moving to Edinburgh and Glasgow universities and afterwards to Imperial College in London. His talk was organised by the College Student UN group as part of a series of lectures on world issues. He talked to Henley students on Middle East politics and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a packed Rotherfield Hall.
(image) Students talk to Dr Finkelstein after his lecture
The College was delighted to welcome award-winning journalist and reporter, Peter Taylor OBE, to give the Dame Periam Lecture 2010. Peter kindly took time out from writing his latest book to give an inspiring talk to a packed Rotherfield Hall.
Peter began his talk by asking the question “what is a terrorist?” and gave examples of people who could be considered terrorists due to the acts of violence they have committed. He also went on to explain how some of these ‘terrorists’ have since become respected public figures, and central to political movements in their countries – for example Nelson Mandela and Martin McGuinness.
Peter showed video clips of interviews he has conducted over several decades where has been able to meet and talk to people closely associated with the Irish Troubles, and more recently those involved in Islamic Extremism. The frankness and honesty with which many of these people spoke was highlighted by Peter, and he explained how much work and persuasion often has to precede the rare opportunity to talk to those closely involved in ‘terrorist’ activity or movements.
One of the personal highlights of Peter’s experiences was when he was filming a documentary in Maze Prison, one of Europe’s top security jails. Nothing was deemed ‘off limits’ to the crew, and they captured on camera the moment when Loyalist inmates marched their band, playing home-made instruments, through the prison corridors on the 300th anniversary of Battle of the Boyne.
The lecture drew to a close with Peter asking the students the think carefully before forming opinions about issues regarding extremism or terrorism. He asked them to never take things at face value, and to try and look behind the story presented to them and to make up their own minds.
On Wednesday 4th November the college welcomed Professor Ian Gilmore to give a very informative lecture titled ‘Alcohol: The UKs uneasy relationship with it’s favourite drug’ .
Professor Gilmore is the President of the Royal College of Physicians. He is a Consultant Physician and Gastroenterologist at the Royal Liverpool University Hospitals and Honorary Professor at the Department of Medicine, University of Liverpool. His specialty interest is liver disease.
Professor Gilmore continues to chair the Alcohol Committee and now also chairs the Alcohol Health Alliance in which relevant agencies work together in a coherent and focussed framework. He is Chair of the European Alcohol and Health Forum Science Group and is a member of the Climate and Health Council.
The lecture explored how alcohol has become a big part of our culture in the UK and across large parts of the world. The audience were given examples of how much we drink as a nation and the impact this can have on our health. Professor Gilmore also talked about how alcohol is advertised, and how alarming it is that many television adverts are shown during peak viewing times for children. Professor Gilmore also discussed alcohol consumption amongst women, and how this has become a much bigger issue in recent times.
On Wednesday 30th September the College was delighted to welcome Professor David Osselton to give a lecture titled ‘Forensic Toxicology’. Professor Osselton is the Director of the Centre for Forensic Sciences at Bournemouth University, and has also worked extensively for the UK Forensic Science Service.
Professor Osselton began his lecture with an introduction to toxicology, and a history of poisons. He described the different methods of poisoning used through the ages by Romans, Greeks and Egyptians, and explained how the investigative methods of the toxicologist have evolved from visual analysis and tasting or smelling blood, through to the more sophisticated technology and scientific testing available in the present day.
The audience were taken on a journey through some of the more infamous crimes in history associated with poisoning such as Dr Crippen and Dr Harold Shipman, and Professor Osselton explained how many high profile murder cases ending in the death sentence were influenced by the toxicology verdict. The staff and students were shown a range of photographs taken from toxicology cases, and these highlighted some of the ways poisons can harm and destroy the human body.
The lecture concluded with examples of the different areas of expertise for a forensic toxicologist today, including disaster scenes, murder investigations and criminal activity such as date rape and driving under the influence of toxic substances.
The renowned explorer, Patrick Woodhead, visited the College and shared his experiences of the Antarctic and gave first hand accounts of his adventures there.
Having been part of the youngest and fastest team to ever reach the South Pole in 2002, Patrick went on to lead the first ever East to West traverse of Antarctica covering 1,850km in a total of 75 days.
Outside the polar world, he has been on many successful expeditions, summiting unclimbed mountains in Tibet and Kyrgyzstan, kayaking down uncharted rivers in the Amazon and being part of the team to set the fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. Patrick is a Prince’s Trust Ambassador and a very motivational speaker on their behalf. Patrick also has an established company, “The White Desert”, which organises visits to the interior of Antarctica: ‘A landscape unlike anywhere else on the planet, so rarely visited yet so utterly beautiful’. These visits are tailored to each individual client and run by a management team that have skied over 16,000kms in the Polar Regions. The guides are some of the world’s leading experts in a Polar environment.
Caroline Watts and Peter Allen
We were delighted to welcome Fiona Hewer to give her fascinating lecture “Climate Change” on Wednesday, 13 February in Rotherfield Hall. Targeted mainly at our Environmental Science and Geography students, this was also extremely informative for those of a wider audience.
<<Fiona Hewer receiving a presentation from
Sandra Wickens, Subject Leader Geography
and Environment Science.
Fiona began by giving her brief: to talk about the science of climate change, followed by the ethics and the politics of this sensitive subject. She cited statistics indicating a definite warming trend from 1950 onwards, with a global average sea-level rise over this period.
Carbon dioxide has the potential to cause warming, as we all know, and in recent times this has rocketed up, starting with the Industrial Revolution. Once in the atmosphere this gas has the potential to stay there for many decades. The ‘greenhouse effect’ is crucial to the state of the planet. Without it the temperature would plummet at least 30 degrees, making life unsustainable. But we now have an increase in these greenhouse gases, causing global warming and an increase in carbon emissions is the cause of this. The melting of the ice-caps is direct evidence of this.
In bringing home her message, Fiona talked specifically of the impact of climate change on Henley itself! Apparently here the average temperature has risen by one degree since the 1970s. How much warmer will this get by the next century? If we lower emissions worldwide now this could only alter emissions after 2040. Carbon dioxide is already there in the atmosphere.
Fiona painted a grim picture of life for future generations if nothing is done. Even a one degree rise would see hundreds of millions of people exposed to increased water stress. This is where the ethics and politics of the subject come in. We all depend on worldwide economic policies. In terms of international agreements and UK targets we were actually one of the first countries to reduce greenhouse gases. However, even now we will not be able to meet proposed targets. So much more must be done. We all have obligations to the people of the future. Worldwide deforestation must be curbed and 20% of energy should be produced from renewable sources to prevent further disaster.
We were delighted to welcome Peter Neyroud, Chief Executive of the National Policing Improvement Agency, to give this year’s Dame Periam Memorial Lecture.
Mr Neyroud opened his lecture with particular reference to George Orwell’s “1984”, in lending a rather whimsical tone to the title of his talk. He then cited other literary and philosophical sources in preparing his audience for a thought-provoking discussion of ‘Big Brother’ surveillance systems and their impact on the relationship between the citizen and the state.
He raised the issue: how far can these go and do they impinge on the quality of civil liberties? His belief is that we are at a turning point and the challenges for the police and the state are indeed immense in protecting the general public. Mobility is a major problem, with much movement in the population making communities difficult to monitor efficiently. We now face a different form of terrorism, previously from outside, but now possibly from within. He reminded us of the prevalence of CCTV cameras and number plate recognition systems, so that our movements are registered everywhere. There is effectively a ‘ring of steel’ around London in preparation for a terrorist attack.
The ‘meat’ of the talk, Neyroud explained, was an examination of the balance between risk and reassurance. To reduce risk, vast quantities of information are needed, from details of home backgrounds to DNA profiling. Does the population want the ‘cops’ to have all this information? How much do we want to give to the state? Apparently even with no contact at all with the police we all leave a smoke trail- even if it is through something as innocent as the possession of a Tesco card! Peter Neyroud believed that this in itself is reassuring. Everywhere we go there are safety mechanisms and monitoring systems that are even more sophisticated than those of the Big Brother of “1984”. We, as citizens, are driving this new era of safety but are we driving it too far?
This was an extremely thought-provoking lecture and raised some excellent questions from the audience. These ranged from the delicate issue of ID cards to whether police should carry firearms. The sensitive issue of the introduction of a national police force was also raised as a highly topical subject.
Many thanks to all who attended, or helped at, this very successful event.
We were delighted to welcome Dr. Carolyne Larrington for the latest Henley College Lecture, entitled “Morgan le Fay: the Enchantress in Arthurian Tradition”.
Speaking to an enraptured audience of English students, Dr. Larrington gave a dramatic and, at times, highly amusing account of this key figure in Medieval literature. Morgan le Fay, sister to King Arthur, certainly proved that women have agency! This enchantress, with her love of learning and intellectual pursuits, had a mission to empower females, in an age where damsels in distress formed the simplistic gender pattern – with of course knights rescuing them.
This delightful take on accepted norms of courtly behaviour sees Morgan qualifying in magic, as a student of Merlin. She then sets a spell for 17 years on a group of unfortunate knights [who have been unfaithful to their ladies], amongst them Sir Lancelot - with whom she falls in love! He is, as it happens, having an affair with Guinevere, the wife of King Arthur! Of course the spell is broken but Morgan never gets her man!
Later depictions of Morgan see her becoming a political figure in the 13th Century, determined to take over the kingdom! Much later Tennyson’s “Idylls of the King” once again sees a return to a more romanticised view. Morgan actually outlived King Arthur and so qualifies as an excellent spokesperson to vocalise the story. Now in the 21st Century, as Carolyne Larrington tells us, Morgan has come full circle as an enduring symbol in our thinking about nobility, women and power.
This was a fascinating and thought provoking lecture, as well as being very entertaining and inspirational. Dr. Larrington’s book “King Arthur’s Enchantress: Morgan and her Sisters in Arthurian Tradition” is now available for loan in the college library.
Peter Allen and Caroline Watts
The College was delighted to welcome the world renowned meteorologist, Brian Hoskins, in giving his talk on this highly topical subject. Rotherfield Hall was crammed to capacity for one of our most popular lectures so far!
In discussing the controversial subject of climate change, Brian Hoskins chose water as the central focus of his talk. He began by giving the example of Jordan and the Middle East with its current huge use of water, yet dwindling supplies. Here water consumption has recently doubled with the increasing population. This can be mirrored in many other parts of the world, where we are taking from the past and not planning for the future.
The greenhouse effect is a vital but delicate system in promoting life on earth. According to Hoskins, variations have always occurred in this system but he believes that now the impact of human interference could seriously endanger this balance. At this present time we have drastically exceeded natural carbon dioxide use, with results that will stay with us for at least the next 100 years. Overall temperatures are higher than for the last 500 years, with a steep upward curve here in the UK between 1998 and 2006. This parallels an approximate one and a half degree increase in northern continents, where the melting of the ice around Greenland has already caused alarm. Extremes of drought and flooding are in evidence worldwide and Hoskins believes that these are likely to increase, with a drastic impact on the greenhouse effect and irreversible damage on earth. Areas like Jordan and Africa will become drier and, with rising sea levels, wetter areas will become even wetter. Even with intervention from the International Panel on Climate Change the damage done so far is irreversible and the real impact will be seen in the second half of this century.
Hoskins’s final message was that we are “in for a nasty surprise” if we do not stabilise carbon dioxide emissions as a matter of urgency. The UK is now 60% over target on energy consumption and this must be reduced by 2050. Climate change in this country is already in evidence and we can no longer afford to be complacent about the future. Action must be taken now!
This was indeed a fascinating and thought-provoking lecture with a very strong message for all of us. Many thanks to all who helped with or attended this event.
“Inspirational….. I’d never thought of doing a gap year, but now I’d really like to know more about it.” When a Henley College Lecture creates this sort of response, we really know that it has been a success.
On Wednesday 22nd March, John Rendel, CEO of Promoting Equality in African Schools – known as PEAS - revealed to students the series of events that led him to focus his career on founding a charity to help build secondary schools in Uganda, East Africa.
John’s humorous account of his student years led to his realisation, while still at university, that he wanted to do more with his life. Inspired by a chance meeting with a young Ugandan, Mike Gironde, who, at 15, had led his school on strike to gain better leadership, John took the plunge. He made the telling contrast between a careless car crash that nearly cost him his life, and the carefully considered risk of committing his career to founding a charity: an ordinary student life that became extraordinary.
If you would like to know more visit: www.peas.org.uk
Dr Jim McElwaine’s Lecture, on 23 November, was a resounding success. Speaking to a packed hall, he gave a highly informative talk on the logistics of avalanches from the biggest ones, composed of powder snow, to the dangerous slush flows that can be equally deadly.
He amused his audience with video clips of experiments with ping-pong balls, used in an attempt to analyse the flow and density of avalanches. It was fascinating for non- physicists to learn that such a feather-like object, travelling at 60 mph down a ski-jump, can severely bruise a human face! We were also left wondering about the creation of the ‘eyes’ in the formation of half a million ping-pong balls as they travelled down the slope. Another mystery of science!
Jim forged an excellent rapport with his audience, frequently asking questions and injecting humour into his talk. His enthusiasm was apparent to all. Using video coverage throughout, we learnt how avalanches can be predicted but also prevented. It was chilling to hear of his own terrifying experience of being buried in an avalanche. Fortunately help was at hand.
There was something for everyone, even a fascinating mathematical equation that foxed most of us but delighted the mathematicians in the audience! We very much look forward to hearing more about Jim’s progress in this field of study in the future.
The College was very privileged to welcome the two Russian cosmonauts, Alexander Martynov and Alexander Volkov, for our third Henley College Lecture this year. As a Beacon College, we were also able to extend this opportunity in offering two extra presentations from our speakers, one to local Secondary Schools and one to local Primaries. The day proved a resounding success and a unique experience for all involved.
Dr. Alexander Martynov has been working as the Head of Foreign Relations, Korolev, since 1994. Born in 1944, he graduated from Moscow University of High Technology in 1968. He then worked in the Russian Mission Control Centre until 1992, before becoming Director of Foreign Relations of the Research Institute of Machine Building of Space City Korolev. His talk and slide show opened the lecture, where he took us through some of the stages in the development of technology that will eventually allow man to land on Mars.
<< Alexander Volkov & local Primary school students
The main College lecture He focused on the work carried out by Space City Korolev and the Russian space stations Mir and Solyut. He also spoke of the current work of cosmonauts aboard The International Space Station. He finished by outlining why there should be a manned mission to Mars. We learnt that Mars more closely resembles Earth than any other planet in the Solar System. Underground water has recently been discovered which may sustain life!
Col. Alexander Volkov then took the floor and invited us all into space with a fascinating slide show, starring Volkov himself aboard one of the space stations. There was great entertainment and amusement as we experienced life on board, with everything from the difficulties of taking a shower to watching some live chicks experience weightlessness in taking their daily exercise. We learnt about ‘space food’, the importance of a daily run on the treadmill and the difficulties of communication with the Earth.
Primary students question the cosmoanuts >>
The journey to Mars will take one year to accomplish and the team of six cosmonauts will stay for one month, researching life forms on the planet. Conversations with Mission Control will involve a nine minute time lapse!
We learnt that Col. Alexander Volkov is likely to be one of the team to visit Mars. He has already spent a considerable amount of time aboard orbital research stations such as Mir and Soyuz T-14, Salut 7, where he has held the position of Commander. He has been awarded with some of the highest honours bestowed on Russian citizens, including Hero of the Soviet Union and the Golden Star medal for courage and heroism shown during these flights.
This lecture was an inspiration to us all. It was highly informative but also very entertaining and our students were visibly captivated throughout.
Langtree School students meet the cosmonauts at the Partner School's lecture
This lecture was an inspiration to us all. It was highly informative but also very entertaining and our students were visibly captivated throughout.
The HENLEY College was delighted to welcome Monawar Hussain for our lecture on 13th December 2004. Hussain, a distinguished tutor at Eton College and a practising cleric, gave a highly successful talk entitled “Living with Diversity from an Islamic Perspective”. His purpose was to clarify areas of the Muslim faith that are so often misunderstood. An ‘Open Forum’ followed his opening speech, with a continuous flow of searching questions from the audience.
Monawar opened his talk with an inspiring reading about greater creation and the presence of God in all things. He outlined the tenets of the Islamic faith based on justice, righteousness and respect for others. The gentleness of his faith was something that struck us all and in speaking of diversity he espoused the importance of respect and appreciation of all individuals, individuality being at the heart of creation.
Monawar then took questions from the audience and at all points we were struck by his thought-provoking and honest opinions. Questions ranged from views on the theory of evolution to the issue of arranged marriages or the wearing of head-scarves. One Muslim student asked about dating girls and Monawer’s view was yes, as long as a third party was present, otherwise that third party was sure to be Satan! He injected humour and gentleness into all he said and impressed his diverse audience with his warm human qualities and inspiring message.
David Starkey’s lecture entitled “Perspectives on 1604” proved an entertaining and highly thought-provoking experience, which held his audience’s attention throughout. He began by reminding us that the year marked the first anniversary of James I’s accession and the beginning of the Stuart reign, when England accepted a Scotsman to the throne! The central thrust of the talk was to highlight the extraordinary similarities of cultural outlook and political sensitivities between the two eras of the early 1600s and the present.
The Henley College is celebrating the 400th anniversary of its foundation by James I. In his research of Henley’s history, David Starkey uncovered the fact Dame Periam, an early benefactor of education in the town, offered opportunities in ‘reading, writing and accounts’ for those seeking largely vocational pursuits! A direct parallel can be drawn with the educational policies of the present government in offering a comprehensive education to all, not just the intellectual elite. It was here that Starkey drew gasps from his audience in describing universities as intellectual ‘concentration camps’, originally designed to keep potential trouble-makers busy and out of the political arena! He also drew parallels between James I’s government and Blair’s so-called ‘nanny state’ and amused us with government health warnings and directives on smoking in 1604!
Another hot topic was the subject of religion. Here he digressed to give fascinating theories on the major part religion plays when coupled with politics in the creation of a totalitarian state. His audience was only too sharply reminded of this sensitive subject in current world events. It was also a major preoccupation at the beginning of the Stuart dynasty, with its belief in the Divine Right of Kings.
In celebrating 1604 we were reminded that this was the first time that the word ‘Britain’ came into use rather than simply ‘England’ as James I had unified the crowns. The King James Version of the Bible [a work of literature actually created by a committee!] marked a watershed in English and the language became recognisable to all. One of Shakespeare’s last plays, “Measure for Measure”, was being performed in the Great Hall of Westminster, its major preoccupations so close to the political ‘sleaze’ in our newspapers today! Shakespeare himself, Starkey agreed, was so instrumental in the awakening of the modern consciousness, his themes so ‘modern’ to an audience of 2004.
In drawing his lecture to a close, Starkey emphasised the vital importance of the past in understanding the present. 1604 and 2004 are not so distant in time. Both share many of the same preoccupations and concerns, revealing the basic humanity that lies at the heart of us all, regardless of economic or political change.
The Henley College was very pleased to welcome the acclaimed author, Pascal Khoo Thwe, to give his talk as part of our lecture series, on March 31st 2004.
The lecture was introduced by Alexa Phillips, a College student, who gave a confident speech outlining Thwe's story.
Pascal delighted his audience with readings from his book "From the Land of Green Ghosts". The poetic beauty of some of his passages evoked images of misty Burmese hinterland and the sheer wonder of this extraordinary country.
Against this backdrop, Pascal described some of the horrors of his harrowing experience in the jungle, fighting for the cause of democracy during the 1988 insurrection. But he didn't fail to make the audience laugh too with humorous accounts of strange encounters with wild animals.
Presented with great sensitivity, Pascal's enthralling story of survival and subsequent escape to the safety of Cambridge made us all think carefully about the issues of world peace and the cause of Amnesty International.
Pascal Khoo Thwe was born in 1967 in a remote part of Burma. He was a member of a tiny Burmese tribe and later became a successful English Literature student at Mandalay University.
While he was working as a waiter at a famous Chinese restaurant in Mandalay, to support his education, he had a chance meeting with Dr John Casey, a Cambridge Don visiting his country. They shared a fascination for the works of James Joyce and struck up a scholarly correspondence. It was at this time that the great insurrection of 1988 occurred in Burma. Pascal was forced to flee to the jungle during the rise of the corrupt and ruthless military dictatorship and he became a guerrilla fighter. His girlfriend was arrested, raped and murdered by the armed forces.
Principal David Ansell, Pascal Khoo Thwe, Caroline Watts & Alexa Phillips
Through the help of Dr John Casey, Pascal escaped to England in 1989, and came to Caius College, Cambridge. He left Burma without any papers or records, as they had all been seized during the fighting in the jungle. He became a student of English at the University, and has now become an acclaimed writer. His book "From the Land of Green Ghosts" was the winner of the 2002 Kiriyama Prize for non-fiction.
After the lecture Pascal met with the Principal and was presented with a framed picture by Caroline Watts.
Copies of Pascal Khoo Thwe's book, 'From the Land of Green Ghosts', are available from: WHSmiths, Bell Street, Henley-on-Thames.
The College was delighted to welcome Lord Robert Winston for the Dame Periam Lecture at St Mary's Church in October. Lord Winston is Professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial College, London, one of the UK's leading medical research centres.
The subject for the lecture was "Should Scientists be Constrained by Moral Values?" and Lord Winston opened with amusing accounts of early scientific progress, making the very valid point that ethical values change with knowledge. Appealing strongly to the younger audience, at no time did he impose his own views and, in effect, by outlining the pros and cons of his argument, he led the audeince to their own conclusions.
Lord Winston gave a balanced view, his gist was that we are morally obliged to follow scientific progress. For example, where GM crops could be modified for drought-ridden regions, to deny their importance outright would be morally indefensible. Scientific progress is not good or bad in its own right, the importance is how it is used. In conclusion his view was that scientific progress should not be stifled but that the key, at all times, should be informed debate and a consideration of the benefits and progress to be yielded for life on this planet. He concluded with an appeal to the young generation that future life was in the hands of the young and that the survival of the species depended on technology and ethical research.
Lord Winston gave an inspired message about the importance of his role as a teacher and father and, indeed, delighted his audience throughout the entire lecture with his passion for science and his humanity.
Tim Lang is currently the Professor of Food Policy at the Institute of Health Studies, City University, and Chairman of Sustain, the UK alliance of 105 Non-Government Organisations working on food and farming.
He gave an impassioned speech to a packed hall at The College. He successfully unravelled some of the complexities of this subject. The message: Reduce fat intake and take more exercise! He now travels by bicycle through the streets of London.
Tim tailored his lecture to the young audience of sixth-formers present, giving a stark message about choices in food intake leading directly to devastating diseases in later life.
Fat intake has escalated dramatically for the young of today, often hidden in the appetising form of ready meals, fast food and the inevitable snacks - crisps being the biggest culprit. Rising trends in obesity for this age group are directly linked to modern diets and the 'couch potato' culture of today. Our more affluent lifestyle also means that meat is featured in every meal and Christmas Dinner is no longer the treat it once was!
Professor Lang spoke with real pioneering spirit of the urgent need to change eating habits,
Kevin Warwick, internationally renowned Professor of Cybernetics at Reading University, gave an entertaining and riveting talk on robots and cyborgs interspersed with videos as illustration.
He described some of his research on robots and went on to discuss his current experiments, the most exciting of which he has just been given clearance on today!
He predicted that in future robots can be more intelligent than humans. Robots can learn and adapt as humans do after initially being programmed, so that each robot develops differently according to its experiences.. Robots can also, however, be made to sense things which humans cannot, such as infrared and xray radiation and ultrasonic vibrations, as well as being able to solve problems in several dimensions and having other mathematical & memory powers.
The definition of "cyborg" is part human/part machine. As the human brain works by means of electrochemical signals, if we can control some of the electrical input we have the potential to enhance the function of the brain. Professor Warwick gave examples of how this has already been used in experiments to help people with disabilities such as Parkinson's disease or stroke victims.
His latest experiment which will now begin in a couple of weeks time, involves an operation to implant 100 connections directly into nerve endings in his arm. These will be connected via a radio transmitter to a computer. When he moves his arm the computer will be able to learn the sequence of nerve electrical signals and may be able to replicate the movement by a 2-way process. The nervous system is also involved in pain and emotions. His wife, Eleanor, has volunteered to also have similar implants, so that experiments may be done on nonverbal communication between them through computers.
There were many questions after his lecture. We look forward to learning the results of these experiments and to Professor Warwick's next visit!
"From Birdy Birds to Absolute Disasters: How People Store Words"
Jean Aitchison, Rupert Murdoch Professor of Language and Communication at Oxford University, gave a clear and witty tour of the ‘human lexicon’ to a full audience . By the age of 20, an educated person has a store of about 50,000 words, whereas the Concise Oxford Dictionary lists 75,000.
Professor Aitchison outlined how theories of how we store these words have changed - from ideas of simple lists and definitions, to theories of prototypes, the central importance of the verb in the sentence, and the importance of collocations - which words hang out together. She explained how the electronic collections of texts known as ‘corpora’ - e.g. the British National Corpus - have changed research into the use and meanings of words. What is happening to a word like ‘disaster’, when events on the scale from gluey spaghetti at a dinner party, to September 11th , can all be called ‘a disaster’? Why does the corpus show that trivial events like the spaghetti are more likely to be a ‘terrible’, or even ‘absolute’ disaster? Is this the weakening of language, or meaning expansion?
Professor Aitchison gave insight into current theory of language change, and the process of layering of meanings - a word is, after all, nothing more than how we use it.
Emma Nicholson is a high profile politician, human rights campaigner, and charity organiser for refugees, orphans and the disabled.
She believes Britain has much to gain for its people by playing a more leading role in making the European Union a stronger, more democratic organisation with far reaching influences internationally.
In her talk she outlined the structure and functions of the E.U. and explained the differences between the European Parliament and national governments. The E.U was formed after the last World War to promote peace and security. It works to establish common ground and consensus among its member states and is unique in that it values human rights equally with economics, defence etc.
It now comprises 15 member states and has 13 more wanting to join. It is extremely powerful and influencial in that it currently represents 350 million people and donates the largest amount of aid, globally. The European Union is in a unique position to provide peace and security in the world for the next 50 years.
Colin Fletcher OBE Bishop of Dorchester
The theme of the talk was taken from a quote by Marshall McLuhan in the 1960s "The new electronic interdependance recreates the world in the image of a global village" Bishop Colin addressed the questions "Has this image become a reality and does it matter?"
Colin Fletcher was chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury until he became Bishop of Dorchester last Autumn. He described experiences in Rwanda from his travels with the Archbishop, for example, in 1995, seeing a church which had been the scene of a massacre where 5000 people were killed, full of dead bodies. He was heartened to see on Comic Relief on TV recently, the same church again being used for prayer - we seldom hear the follow-up to stories in the news from around the world.
We are becoming more aware of our interdependance, environmentally, economically, culturally and personally. The young of today can travel and communicate with people all over the world - but there are still people who are small minded and cut themselves off from global affairs. Should we be a global village? Bishop Colin expressed the view that we cannot afford to be isolated, from a self-interest point of view if nothing else. Justice matters. People matter and are all valued equally & loved by God
His conclusion was that we are not a Global Village yet, but it does matter, and the challenge is to learn to live with others and value the benefit of this for the generations to come.
The Dame Periam Lecture
This year's lecture was given by Terry Waite, who as special envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury, was captured himself when negotiating the release of hostages in Beirut in 1987 and spent 4 years in solitary confinement before being released in 1991. He spoke at St Mary's Church to a 'full house' of students and members of the public.
His lecture was entitled Travels with a Primate, also the title of his recently published book relating amusing tales from his travels with Dr Robert Runcie in the 1970s. He spoke mainly, however, about the plight of hostages all over the world, how to cope with traumatic life experiences and about his own experience of 4 years in solitary confinement.
His talk was very moving, and inspiring because of his evident inherent goodness and integrity. He coped and maintained his sanity during his years of imprisonment by "learning to live from within" and drew on memories of the books that he had read, poems and prayers learned by heart, and 'wrote' several books in his head. He tapped messages on his cell wall every day and after three and a half years was answered by fellow hostages, who then communicated to him that his family was safe and well.
His message to us all was that suffering need not destroy us, if we find the capacity to use it creatively. Also that "we live in a world which is not just, not fair, and suffering is not equally apportioned, but this is no excuse for us not to work constantly for justice and the alleviation of suffering"
The Dame Periam Lecture is given once a year for The HENLEY College by an outstanding speaker.
Professor Susan Greenfield of BBC's 'The Brain Story' fame talked on the 'Future of the Brain' to a packed hall of students and members of the public, at the College on 18 October 2000
Susan Greenfield is ranked the 14th ‘most inspirational woman in the World’ according to Harpers and Queen magazine. She spoke of the possibilities posed by neuroscientific advances — by mapping the human genome, brain transplants, body cooling and the increased use of designer drugs, both proscribed and prescribed. And she predicted that we will live longer and healthier lives and there will be an improved level of brain disorder treatments.
One student, Katherine Campbell, aged 17, said: “I found it really interesting to learn about the different functions of the brain. She made me consider the value of science and the importance it has in society.”