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Lewes Speakers Festival 2022

10th, 11th and 12th of June 2022 at All Saints Centre, Lewes

Friday 10th June 2022

Colin Thubron

The Amur River: Between Russia and China

Friday 10th June 17.30 – 18.50


The Amur River is almost unknown. Yet it is the tenth longest river in the world, rising in the Mongolian mountains and flowing through Siberia to the Pacific to form the tense, highly fortified border between Russia and China.

In this talk Colin Thubron describes how, in his eightieth year, he took a dramatic 3,000-mile long journey from the Amur's secret source to its giant mouth. Obstructed by injury and arrest from the local police, he made his way along both the Russian and Chinese shores on horseback, on foot, by boat and via the Trans-Siberian Railway, talking to everyone he met. By the time he reached the river's desolate end, where Russia's nineteenth-century imperial dream petered out, a whole pivotal world came alive.

Colin Thubron is a master of travel writing. His first major work was set in 1982 when he travelled into the Soviet Union in an ancient Morris Marina, pursued by the KGB, a journey he recorded in ‘Among the Russians’. From these early experiences developed his classic travel books: Behind the Wall (winner of the Hawthornden Prize and the Thomas Cook Travel Award), The Lost Heart of Asia, In Siberia (Prix Bouvier) and Shadow of the Silk Road.  He was President of the Royal Society of Literature from 2010 to 2017.


A Q&A Session will follow.

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Alan Johnson in conversation with Lesley Thomson

The Late Train to Gipsy Hill

Friday 10th June 19.10 – 20.20


A woman hiding a deadly secret. And the man who went in search of adventure, but found himself in danger ...

Gary Nelson has a routine for the commute to his rather dull job in the city. Each day, he watches as a woman on the train applies her make up in a ritual he now knows by heart. He's never dared to strike up a conversation . . . but maybe one day.

Then one evening, on the late train to Gipsy Hill, the woman invites him to take the empty seat beside her. Fiddling with her mascara, she holds up her mirror and Gary reads the words 'HELP ME' scrawled in sticky black letters on the glass.

From that moment, Gary's life is turned on its head. He finds himself on the run from the Russian mafia, the FSB and even the Metropolitan Police - all because of what this mysterious young woman may have witnessed. In the race to find out the truth, Gary discovers that there is a lot more to her than meets the eye.

Alan Johnson was a Labour MP for 20 years before retiring ahead of the 2017 general election. He served in five cabinet positions in the Governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown including Education Secretary, Health Secretary and Home Secretary.

​As an author, Alan Johnson's childhood memoir THIS BOY won the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, and the Orwell Prize, Britain's top political writing award. His second volume of memoirs, PLEASE MR POSTMAN (2014) won the National Book Club award for Best Biography. The final book in his memoir trilogy, THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD (2016), won the Parliamentary Book Award for Best Memoir.

Lesley Thomson's first novel, A Kind of Vanishing, won the People's Book Prize in 2010. Her second novel, The Detective's Daughter, was a number 1 bestseller and sold over 500,000 copies. Her latest book 'The Companion' is out this month and is available to buy. A woman hiding a deadly secret. And the man who went in search of adventure, but found himself in danger ...



A Q&A Session will follow.

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Saturday 11th June 2022

Tim Marshall

The Power of Geography: Ten Maps that Reveal the Future of Our World

Saturday 11th June 9.50 – 11.00


Tim Marshall's global bestseller: Prisoners of Geography showed how every nation’s choices are limited by mountains, rivers, seas and concrete. Since then, the geography hasn’t changed. But the world has.

In this revelatory talk, Marshall explores ten regions that are set to shape global politics in a new age of great-power rivalry: Australia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the UK, Greece, Turkey, the Sahel, Ethiopia, Spain and Space. Find out why Europe’s next refugee crisis is closer than it thinks as trouble brews in the Sahel; why the Middle East must look beyond oil and sand to secure its future; why the eastern Mediterranean is one of the most volatile flashpoints of the twenty-first century; and why the Earth’s atmosphere is set to become the world’s next battleground.

Delivered with Marshall’s trademark wit and insight, this is a lucid and gripping exploration of the power of geography to shape humanity’s past, present – and future.


Tim Marshall is a British journalist, broadcaster and bestselling author who has written and reported widely on foreign affairs, international diplomacy and post-war geopolitics. He has worked for LBC, the BBC and Sky News where he was Foreign Affairs Editor. He has reported from 30 countries concerning 12 wars. His book Prisoner of Geography was an international bestseller.


A Q & A Session will follow.

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Iain Dale

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along: Shout Less. Listen More.

Saturday 11th June 11.20 – 12.30


This talk is based on his book which is part-memoir, part-polemic about the state of public discourse in Britain and the world today.

In an increasingly divided society, Dale examines why we’ve all become so disrespectful and intolerant. Using experiences from his career in politics and the media, he says it doesn’t have to be this way, and suggests how we can all emerge from tribalism and division and become more respectful to each other and those who govern us. It is a talk that is optimistic about the fundamental decencies embedded in human nature and uses deeply personal anecdotes to explain why we can look forward in a positive way to a better life both in personal and material terms.


Iain Dale is an award-winner broadcaster and presenter of the Evening Show on LBC Radio. He is the author/editor of more than 30 books and host of the For the Many podcast and the Iain Dale Book Club podcast. He was named Radio Presenter of the Year for 2013 and 2016 at the Arqiva Awards, and was shortlisted for Speech programme of the year at the 2013 Sony Radio Awards. He is the former Managing Director of Biteback Publishing.


A Q & A Session will follow.

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Fatima Manji

Hidden Heritage: Rediscovering Britain’s Lost Love of the Orient

Saturday 11th June 12.50 - 14.00


Why was there a Turkish mosque adorning Britain's most famous botanic garden in in the eighteenth century? And more importantly, why is it no longer there? How did one of the great symbols of an Indian king's power, a pair of Persian-inscribed cannon, end up in rural Wales? And who is the Moroccan man that stole British hearts depicted in a long-forgotten portrait hanging in a west London stately home?

Throughout Britain's galleries and museums, civic buildings and stately homes, relics can be found that beg these questions and more. They point to a more complex national history than is commonly remembered. These objects, lost, concealed or simply overlooked, expose the diversity of pre-twentieth-century Britain and the misconceptions around modern immigration narratives.

In this talk Fatima Manji recontextualises the relationship between Britain and the people and societies of the Orient. In her literary journey across Britain exploring cultural landmarks, she searches for a richer and more honest story of a nation struggling with identity and the legacy of empire.


Fatima Manji is an award-winning broadcaster and journalist who anchors the UK's Channel 4 News, the nation's most popular adversarial nightly news programme. She reports on major national and international stories, and is best known for breaking stories with a global impact: including the tale of Saudi princesses held hostage for years by their father the King; giving voice to the heart-rending testimonies of internally displaced Iraqis fleeing ISIS; investigating an MI5 spy accused of entrapment in Northern Ireland; and tracing the perilous journey of victims of war across the Hungarian border in the face of rising anti-migrant extremism.


A Q & A Session will follow.

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Esther Freud                                                                                                                        

I Couldn't Love You More: Esther Freud

Saturday 11th June 14.20 – 15.30

In this talk, Esther Freud tells the story of Rosaleen who is still a teenager, in the early Sixties, when she meets the famous sculptor Felix Lichtman. Felix is dangerous, bohemian, everything she dreamed of in the cold nights at her Catholic boarding school. And at first their life together is glitteringly romantic - drinking in Soho, journeying to Marseilles. But it's not long before Rosaleen finds herself fearfully, unexpectedly alone. Desperate, she seeks help from the only source she knows, the local priest, and is directed across the sea to Ireland on a journey that will seal her fate.

Kate lives in Nineties London, stumbling through her unhappy marriage. But something has begun to stir in her. Close to breaking point, she sets off on a journey of her own, not knowing what she hopes to find.

Aoife sits at her husband's bedside as he lies dying, and tells him the story of their marriage. But there is a crucial part of the story missing and time is running out. Aoife needs to know: what became of Rosaleen?

This presentation is based on the novel which describes the lives of three generations of women, and is about love, motherhood, secrets and betrayal - and how only the truth can set us free.

Esther Freud is the award-winning author of nine novels. They include: Hideous Kinky about her childhood in Morocco and which was made into a film starring Kate Winslet; Mr Mac and Me, inspired by the architect and artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh and now; I Couldn’t Love You More, a multi-generational novel that travels between London and Ireland in the 1930s, 60s and 90s. She contributes regularly to newspapers and magazines, and is a teacher of creative writing at The Faber Academy. She is also the great granddaughter of the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, and the daughter of the late, celebrated artist Lucian Freud.

A Q & A Session will follow.

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Sandy Gall and Carlotta Gall

Afghan Napoleon: The Life of Ahmad Shah Massoud

Saturday 11th June 15.50 – 17.00


This talk is based on the first biography in a decade of Afghan resistance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the forces of resistance were disparate. Divided mujahideen groups were as interested in fighting each other and competing for Western arms as opposing the Russians. The exception was Ahmed Shah Massoud, the military strategist and political operator who solidified the resistance and undermined the Russian occupation by leading its members to a series of defensive victories. During this time Sandy Gall was embedded with Massoud during Soviet offences and reported on the war.


The talk is based on Gall’s illuminating biography of this charismatic guerrilla commander, which contains excerpts from the surviving volumes of Massoud’s diaries. Massoud’s prolific diary-keeping was little known during his lifetime, and his entries detail crucial moments in his life and throw fascinating light on his struggles, both in the resistance and in his personal life. Born into an ostensibly liberalising Afghanistan in the 1960s, Massoud ardently opposed communism and Mohammed Daoud, Afghanistan’s puppet leader. Massoud’s assassination in 2001 presaged the attack on the Twin Towers just two days later and it is widely believed to have been ordered by Osama bin Laden. Forever the underdog in a life dominated by conflict, Massoud’s attempts to build political consensus in Afghanistan were ultimately frustrated. Despite that, he is recognised today as a national hero.


Carlotta Gall is currently the Istanbul Bureau Chief for the New York Times, also an author in her own right with, The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan 2001-2014, and a Pulitzer Prize winner in 2009 for coverage of Afghanistan for the New York Times.


Sandy Gall is a British journalist, author, and former ITN newscaster. His journalism career started nearly seventy years ago on the Aberdeen Press and Journal, before he joined Reuters and then ITN, covering wars and revolutions. He has written four books about Afghanistan and made three documentaries about the Soviet occupation, two of which were nominated for BAFTA awards.


A Q & A Session will follow.

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Gavin Esler

How Britain Ends: English Nationalism and the Rebirth of Four Nations

Saturday 11th June 17.20 – 18.30

In the past, it was possible to live with delightful confusion: one could be English or British, Scottish or Irish, and a citizen/subject of the United Kingdom (or Great Britain). Now this archaic state is coming under terrible strain. The English revolt against Europe is also a revolt against the Scottish and Irish, and the pressures to declare Scottish independence and to push for a border poll that would unite Ireland, may become irresistible.

Can England and Wales find a way of dealing with the state's new place in the world? What constitutional, federal arrangements might prevent the disintegration of the British state?


This talk is about history, but also about the strange, complicated identity of Britishness.


Gavin Esler is a journalist, television presenter and author. He was a main presenter of the BBC current affairs show Newsnight for 12 years until 2014. Since 2014, he has been the Chancellor of the University of Kent, a public speaker, and a political commentator and newspaper columnist. In 2019, he stood for Change UK in elections to the European Parliament.


A Q & A Session will follow.

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James O’Brien

How Not To Be Wrong: The Art of Changing Your Mind 

Saturday 11th June 18.50 – 20.00


James O'Brien has built well over a million loyal listeners to his radio show by dissecting the opinions of callers live on air, every day. But winning the argument doesn't necessarily mean you're right.

In this deeply personal talk, James turns the mirror on himself to reveal what he has changed his mind about and why, and explores how examining and changing our own views is our new civic duty in a world of outrage, disagreement and echo chambers. He writes candidly about the stiff upper lip attitudes and toxic masculinity that coloured his childhood, and the therapy and personal growth that have led him question his assumptions and explore new perspectives. Laying open his personal views on everything from racial prejudice to emotional vulnerability, from fat-shaming to tattoos, he then delves into the real reasons -- often irrational or unconscious -- he holds them.

Unflinchingly honest, revealing and funny, this talk is a tonic for a world more divided than ever and a personal manifesto for a better way of thinking and living. Because after all, if we can't change our own minds we'll never really be able to change anyone else's.


James O'Brien is an award-winning writer and broadcaster whose journalism has appeared everywhere from the TLS to the Daily Mirror. His and his first book, How To Be Right, was a Sunday Times bestseller, which won the Parliamentary Book Award for Best Political Book by a non-politician. He is often to be found on Twitter trying not to get into arguments unless absolutely necessary!


A Q & A Session will follow.

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Sunday 12th June 2022

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Denis MacShane

Must Labour Always Lose?

Sunday 12th June 9.50 - 11.00


Since 1970, Labour has won power in just 4 of the 14 general elections. This angry, passionate polemic asks why Labour is so good at losing elections and so unhappy and edgy when it does win. 

This talk is full of observations that are witty, personal, and exasperating. It offers insights and pragmatic guidance. Based on the hard lessons he's learned, MacShane offers twelve pragmatic suggestions for turning Labour into a party of power as well as protest.

Denis MacShane joined the Labour Party in 1970, and has held every office at local party level. He stood for the Commons aged 26. He served as an MP for 18 years and was Minister of State for Europe. He draws on experience, meetings with Labour leaders from Jim Callaghan to Jeremy Corbyn, and his personal diaries kept when in the Commons as he tries to answer the question: Why is Labour so keen on fighting internal battles and so useless at winning power?

A Q&A Session will follow.

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Ian Williams

Every Breath You Take:- China's New Tyranny

Sunday 12th June 11.20 - 12.30


China is building the world’s first digital totalitarian state - a system of hitherto unimaginable social and political control. Internet freedom has been eliminated and ubiquitous surveillance cameras employ the latest facial recognition technology.

Through flagrant cyber espionage, it has plundered Western technology on a massive scale, bullied Western tech companies and academics (though many have been willing accomplices) and intimidated critics worldwide. In doing so, it has become a model for aspiring dictators everywhere.

Williams describes the extraordinary rise of the Chinese surveillance state, showing how it has been driven by the enigmatic Xi Jinping, now effectively president for life, and how it impacts the daily lives of Chinese citizens, particularly dissidents and those from ethnic minorities. Supporting interviews and first-hand accounts from those whose lives have been turned upside down or worse highlight the chilling and ruthless efficiency with which the government can now act.

This talk also considers the wider implications for the rest of the world. How to deal with an increasingly strident, aggressive Beijing is one of the biggest challenges facing the West in what has become a technological Cold War.


Ian Williams is an award-winning journalist who has reported from across the world. He covered business for the London Sunday Times before becoming a foreign correspondent, based in Russia and then Asia for Channel 4 News and NBC.


A Q&A Session will follow.

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Wing Commander Mike Sutton

Sunday 12th June 12.50 - 14.00


The thrilling and true account of the Typhoon FGR4s in the war against ISIS, from the RAF Wing commander who led them into combat. The Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 is the most advanced multi-role combat aircraft in the world. Capable of flying at nearly twice the speed of sound and powering to a height of more than 10 miles in less time than it takes to boil a kettle, a single Typhoon can also deliver a heavy bombload with such lethal precision that a whole squadron of Lancasters could not have guaranteed the same result.

Taking command of the RAF's premier Typhoon squadron represented the pinnacle of Mike Sutton's career as fighter pilot. Until the day he was told he would be leading 1 (Fighter) Squadron into battle against a bloody and brutal enemy hell-bent on establishing a permanent stronghold across Syria and Iraq and spreading terror across the free world.

Their mission was to help stop them in their tracks.

In proving the Typhoon in combat, they would be flying in some of the world's most treacherous skies, where ground fire, anti-aircraft artillery and the latest surface-to-air missiles posed a constant danger. The threat of getting shot down behind enemy lines was a fact of life.

This talk is the first inside account of the RAF's long war against ISIS; a campaign in which any mistake could have devastating consequences.


Wing Commander Mike Sutton led the RAF’s legendary 1(Fighter) Squadron into action against ISIS in 2015 and conducted what remains the first and only gun attack by a Typhoon against the enemy. An RAF fighter pilot for 18 years, he flew the Jaguar low level strike jet before becoming an instructor on the first RAF Typhoon multi-role attack squadron. During his time as a tactics instructor he conducted a live scramble in response to a potential terrorist hijacking, introduced new precision weapons to the RAF frontline and served on operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. He was awarded the OBE in 2017.


A Q&A Session will follow.

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Andrew Monaghan

Russian Grand Strategy in the Era of Global Power Competition
Sunday 12th June 14.20 – 15.30


Is Vladimir Putin a strategist or just an opportunist, making things up from day to day? Is Russia really a long-term challenge or a state already in decline? Russia is increasingly assertive on the world stage. It is both developing relations with China and challenging the Euro-Atlantic community with its war in Ukraine and demands to reconsider Europe's security architecture. So it is essential to understand what Russian power in the 21st Century means: What are Moscow's strengths, and priorities, and what are the problems the Russian leadership faces? What are the implications for UK-Russia relations? This session will discuss the rebirth of Russian Grand Strategy and "Global Russia", and how to think about Russian futures in an era of global power competition.

Dr Andrew Monaghan is the founding Director of the Russia Research Network. He is also a Senior Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London and a Non-Resident Associate Fellow at the NATO Defence College in Rome. 

Having led thinking about Russia at two major research centres (for NATO and Oxford University), Andrew’s insights go far beyond partisan and media soundbites.


A Q&A Session will follow.

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Yasmin Alibhai Brown

Ladies Who Punch: Fifty Trailblazing Women Whose Stories You Should Know

Sunday 12th June 15.50 – 17.00


Courageous women change history and remould our culture. For centuries, rebel ladies have been punching up, fighting for freedoms and equality, challenging the world order. Today, the next generation continue the fight, boldly marching, banners flying, into a brighter future.

And yet, women’s contributions are routinely marginalised. Determined to redress the balance, veteran journalist and author Yasmin Alibhai-Brown sets lesser-known names alongside the most famous, celebrating fifty daring, courageous, indomitable women. There’s Anne Lister, the lesbian landowner; Sophia Singh, the forgotten suffragette; detective superintendent Shabnam Chaudhri, the first Asian/Muslim to hold that role in the Met; and Harriet Wistrich, the superlative human rights lawyer. There’s Reni Eddo-Lodge, Caroline Criado-Perez, Shazia Mirza; the list goes on…

Featuring interviews with the women themselves, this compendium of fearless ladies is a fortifying tonic, reviving the stories of women lost to history and cheering on those who will lead the way to a more equal tomorrow.


Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is a prominent political and social commentator, a journalist, an author and an Orwell Prize and National Press Awards winner. A regular columnist for the Independent and feature writer for the Sunday Times Magazine, she is the editor of Biteback’s Provocations series.

A Q&A Session will follow.

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Andrew Lownie

Traitor King: The Scandalous Exile of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor

Sunday 12th June 17.20 - 18.30


In this talk based on the book: Traitor King, by Sunday Times best-selling author Andrew Lownie, he looks at the years following the abdication of Edward VIII when the former king was kept in exile, feuding with his family over status for his wife, Wallis Simpson, and denied any real job.

Drawing on extensive research into hitherto unused archives and Freedom of Information requests, Lownie makes the case that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were not the naïve dupes of the Germans but actively intrigued against Britain in both war and peace.

He reveals:

  • The story behind the German attempts to recruit the duke as a British Pétain in the summer of 1940.

  • The efforts, by Churchill in particular, to prevent post-war publication of the captured German documents which detailed the duke's Nazi intrigues.

  • The reasons why the duke, as governor of the Bahamas, tried to shut down the investigation into the 1943 murder of his close friend Harry Oakes.

  • The full extent of the feud with the British royal family, based on his betrayals going back to his dishonesty about his true financial position at the time of the abdication.

  • That far from a love story, Wallis felt trapped in a marriage she had never wanted with a pathetic and suffocating husband, one of the reasons she took several lovers, including the playboy Jimmy Donahue.


Andrew Lownie was President of the Cambridge Union and has run his own literary agency since 1988. A trustee of the Campaign for Freedom of Information and President of The Biographers Club, he has written for the Times, Telegraph, Wall Street Journal, Spectator and Guardian. He was one of the six man team who advised on the creation of the Washington Spy Museum.

His books include lives of the writer and Canadian Governor-General John Buchan, the Cambridge Spy Guy Burgess, the former Viceroy of India Dickie Mountbatten and the former Edward Vlll. He has been the top selling literary agent in the world and lectures extensively on how to get published biography.

A Q&A Session will follow.

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Professor A C Grayling

Technology, Climate, Justice and Rights: Can We Get The Whole World To Agree On Any Of Them?

Sunday 12th June 18.50 – 20.00

In A. C. Grayling's view three of the biggest challenges facing the world today are climate change, the rate of development in high-impact technologies, and the global deficit of social and economic justice. They are connected: the third of these underlies problems in dealing with the first two.

He asks: can human beings agree on a set of values that will allow us to confront the threats facing the planet, or will we simply continue with our disagreements and antipathies as we collectively approach greater problems and instability, and even our possible extinction?

Both our problems and our technologies are outstripping our moral and current political capacity to deal with them. As every day brings new stories about extreme weather events, spyware, lethal autonomous weapons systems, and international political-economic, health and human rights imbalances, Grayling argues that we urgently need to find a positive answer to the question Is Global Agreement on Global Challenges Possible?

A.C. Grayling is the Founder and Principal of New College of the Humanities at Northeastern University, and its Professor of Philosophy. He is also a Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford. He is the author of over thirty books of philosophy, biography, history of ideas, and essays. He was for a number of years a columnist on the Guardian, the Times, and Prospect magazine.He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Vice President of Humanists UK, Patron of the Defence Humanists, Honorary Associate of the Secular Society, and a Patron of Dignity in Dying.


A Q&A Session will follow.

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