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Lewes Speakers Festival 2024

10th, 11th and 12th May 2024 at All Saints Centre, Lewes

Friday 10th May 2024

Sarah Sands
Hedgehog Diaries: A story of faith, hope and bristle
Friday 10th May 15.30 – 16.40

In this talk Sarah Sands tells a beautiful story about the end of life, in which hedgehogs become a metaphor for hope. The Daily Express described it as: 'the most poignant and heartwarming memoir of the year’.

It is the Winter Solstice and Sarah Sands is sitting by her father's bedside, bracing herself for loss. What her father needs to do, she thinks, is conserve his energy - to hibernate like a hedgehog. When the hedgehog curls up in its bed of leaves, its heart rate slows, its body temperature drops and for months there it remains, hardly breathing at all.

A few days earlier, Sarah and her grandson had found a poorly hedgehog in the garden and taken it to the local hedgehog sanctuary. They named her Peggy, and her fate had become a matter of pressing concern. When death looms, it's easier to talk about hedgehogs. There is something about these homely and yet mysterious creatures - prickly and defenceless, wild and tame - that, as Ted Hughes put it, makes us feel deeply sympathetic towards them.

As Rory Stewart notes: "The hedgehog was around long before the human species: it existed 56 million years ago. It tells us a great deal about British civilisation...”

Hedgehogs have captured the imagination of poets and philosophers for centuries. They have managed to outlive roads, dogs, strimmers and pesticides, but now they are an endangered species. For Sarah Sands, our failure to protect them is a symptom of our alienation from the living world. But all is not yet lost. In this charming, idiosyncratic talk, she explores the meaning and morals of hedgehogs, and finds, in hedgehog world, a source of deep solace and wisdom.

Sarah Sands joined the Daily Telegraph in 1996 as Deputy Editor to assume responsibility later for the Saturday edition. She was appointed the first female Editor of The Sunday Telegraph in 2005. In 2006 she worked as Consultant Editor on the Daily Mail and in 2008, she became Editor-in-Chief of the UK edition of Reader’s Digest.  She was appointed Deputy Editor of the London Evening Standard in 2009 and became its Editor from 2012-2017. Sarah is currently the Editor of the BBC Today Programme.

 

A Q&A Session will follow.

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Suzanne Heywood
Wavewalker: Breaking Free
Friday 10th May 17.00 – 18.10

This talk is based on the international bestselling book and Times Best Memoir of 2023.


Aged just seven, Suzanne Heywood set sail with her parents and brother on a three-year voyage around the world. What followed turned instead into a decade-long way of life, through storms, shipwrecks, reefs and isolation, with little formal schooling. No one else knew where they were most of the time and no state showed any interest in what was happening to the children.


Suzanne fought her parents, longing to return to England and to education and stability. This memoir covers her astonishing upbringing, a survival story of a child deprived of safety, friendships, schooling and occasionally drinking water… At seventeen Suzanne earned an interview at Oxford University and returned to the UK.
Wavewalker is the incredible true story of how the adventure of a lifetime became one child’s worst nightmare – and how her determination to educate herself enabled her to escape.

Suzanne Heywood was born in the UK but for most of her childhood sailed around the world with her family, with limited access to formal education. She came back to the UK aged 17 and won a place to study at Oxford University. After her PhD at Cambridge University, she joined McKinsey and Company where she became a senior partner. She is now a Chief Operating Officer of Exor. She married the late civil servant Jeremy Heywood in 1997 and they have three children. She is also the Sunday Times bestselling author of What Does Jeremy Think?


A Q&A Session will follow.

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Will Hutton
This Time No Mistakes: How Britain Was Broken and How To Fix It
Friday 10th May 18.30 – 19.40

This is an urgent talk about the state of Britain in the 2020s, from leading journalist and bestselling author Will Hutton.

Rarely has a country seen as many interlinked crises as Britain is now enduring: a turbulent economy, rising living costs, an increasingly divided society, and the looming break-up of the United Kingdom.

Hutton argues that it is the absolute dominance of a neoliberal consensus that has broken Britain, and that we need a new economic, social and political settlement if the country is not to become even poorer and more irrelevant.

This talk examines the failures of what he considers to be a right-wing ideology that has dominated Britain for an entire generation. Hutton exposes a pattern of minority leadership marked by lies and corruption, upheld by a broken first-past-the-post electoral system. A new kind of politics is urgently needed, one that harnesses the power of the collective to transform our economy, leadership and society for the better.

Writing more than two decades on from his generation-defining ‘The State We're In’, which has sold a third of a million copies, Hutton once again captures Britain's anxieties and, more hopefully, its capacity for change.

Will Hutton is a political economist, author, think tank and academic leader and columnist. He is currently President of the Academy of Social Sciences (since 2021) regular columnist for the Observer (since 1996) and co-chairs the Purposeful Company (since 2015) – a think tank which argues that companies’ intrinsic purpose should drive their strategy, values and ultimately profit. He also chairs the advisory board of the Fairness Foundation, is trustee of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, a member of the Progressive Economic Forum and editorial advisory board of Prospect magazine.


His now fifty year career spans a period in the City as an investment banker, the Economics editorship of the Guardian and BBC2 Newsnight, the editorship of the Observer, the chief executive of the Work Foundation and Principal of Hertford College Oxford. Along the way he has won awards for his journalism and as a thought leader in Human Resources

 

A Q&A Session will follow.

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Tom Baldwin in conversation with Denis MacShane
What to expect from Keir Starmer and his government when and if Labour takes power
Friday 10th May 20.00 – 21.10

A conversation between two authors: one who has spent his career writing and communicating about politics and the other who was former Europe Minister under Blair.

They base their discussion on two books.

The first is by Tom Baldwin. It is called: ‘Keir Starmer: The Biography’. This authoritative – but not authorised – biography provides answers by drawing deeply on many hours of interviews with the Labour leader himself, as well as unprecedented access to members of his family, his oldest friends and closest colleagues.  Together, they tell an unexpectedly intimate story filled with feelings of grief and love that have driven him on more than any rigid ideology or loyalty to a particular faction.  It tracks Starmer’s emergence from a troubled small-town background and rebellious youth, through a storied legal career as a human rights barrister and the country’s chief prosecutor, to becoming an MP relatively late in life. Baldwin provides a vivid and compelling account of how this untypical politician then rose to be leader of his party in succession to Jeremy Corbyn, then transformed it with a ruthless rapidity that has enraged opponents from the left just as much as it has bewildered those on the right.

The Second is by Denis MacShane and is called: ‘Labour Takes Power: The Denis MacShane Diaries 1997–2001’. With the strong possibility of Labour forming our next government, it is fascinating to consider the last time the party stood on the verge of power, was back in 1997. At that time, MacShane had a ringside seat that he would occupy for the next decade or so, living through Cool Britannia, the Good Friday Agreement, Peter Mandelson’s multiple resignations, Princess Diana’s death and Tony Blair’s seeming invincibility. New Labour may be remembered as an unstoppable force, but MacShane’s diaries reveal that while, outwardly, all seemed to be going well, the personal rivalries, slights and petty jealousies between the party’s big beasts meant that it was never far from disaster. MacShane was a regular in Downing Street from the moment of Labour’s election victory, and his candid, intimate diaries show figures such as Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Robin Cook, Peter Mandelson, Clare Short and Alastair Campbell in a light in which they’ve never been seen before, detailing the personalities as much as the politics of Labour’s most successful stint in government.

Tom Baldwin has spent most of his life writing about or working in politics from Westminster to Washington. He began his career in local newspapers before having senior roles for the Sunday Telegraph and The Times. He was the Labour Party’s communications director under Ed Miliband and later helped run a mass campaign for a second referendum on Europe.

Denis MacShane is a former Labour MP who served in Tony Blair’s government as Europe Minister from 2002 to 2005. During his time in Parliament, he was a member of the Privy Council and chaired the Commons inquiry into antisemitism. He was first elected as MP for Rotherham in 1994 and served until his resignation in 2012. He has written several books on European politics and in 2015 published Brexit: How Britain Will Leave Europe, which predicted that Brexit would indeed occur.


A Q&A Session will follow.

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Saturday 11th May 2024

Linda Yueh
The Great Crashes: Lessons from Global Meltdowns and How to Prevent Them
Saturday 11th May 9.50 – 11.00

The global economy has weathered the most tumultuous century in modern financial history.

Since the Wall Street Crash in 1929, financial meltdowns have repeatedly sent shockwaves through our world. From the currency crises of the 1980s and 1990s, to Japan's housing crash, the dot com boom and bust, the global financial meltdown, the euro crisis and the COVID pandemic. This talk tells the stories of ten of these historic events. They serve as a series of cautionary tales, each with their own set of lessons to be learnt.

With clear-eyed analysis, renowned economist Dr Yueh extracts a three-step framework to help recognise the early signs of a crash and mitigate the effects - all with the hope of preventing the worst mistakes of the past from being repeated in the next inevitable financial crisis. She warns about where the next one might come from and shows how her framework could contain it.

Linda Yueh is an economist, writer and broadcaster.

Dr Linda Yueh is Fellow in Economics at St Edmund Hall, Oxford University. She is a widely published author who has written/edited 11 books. She is a TV and radio presenter, including for BBC Radio 4 and the World Service, as well as having fronted BBC TV series, such as The New Middle Class, Next Billionaires, and Working Lives. She was Chief Business Correspondent for BBC News and presenter of Talking Business with Linda Yueh for BBC World TV and BBC News Channel. She had been Economics Editor and anchor at Bloomberg TV.


A Q&A Session will follow.

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John Kampfner
In Search Of Berlin
Saturday 11th May 11.20 – 12.30

This talk is based on the Waterstones Best History Book of 2023 which was described by Peter Frankopan as a ‘masterful portrait of one of the world's greatest cities' and as ‘gripping’ by the FT.

Ever since John Kampfner was a young journalist in Communist East Berlin, he hasn't been able to get the city out of his mind. It is a place tortured by its past, obsessed with memories, a place where traumas are unleashed and the traumatised have gathered.

Over the past four years Kampfner has walked the length and breadth of Berlin, delving into the archives, and talking to historians and writers, architects and archaeologists. He clambers onto a fallen statue of Lenin; he rummages in boxes of early Medieval bones; he learns about the cabaret star so outrageous she was thrown out of the city.

Berlin has been a military barracks, industrial powerhouse, centre of learning, hotbed of decadence - and the laboratory for the worst experiment in horror known to man. Now a city of refuge, it is home to 180 nationalities, and more than a quarter of the population has a migrant background. Berlin never stands still. It is never satisfied. But it is now the irresistible capital to which the world is gravitating.


John Kampfner is an award-winning author, broadcaster and foreign-affairs commentator. He began his career reporting from East Berlin (during the fall of the Wall) and Moscow (during the collapse of communism) for the Telegraph. After covering British politics for the Financial Times and BBC, he edited the New Statesman. He is a regular TV and radio pundit, documentary maker and author of six previous books, including the bestselling ‘Blair's Wars’. His previous book, ‘Why the Germans Do it Better’, was a top ten bestseller, Book of the Year in the Guardian, Economist and the New Statesman, and sold over 150,000 copies in all editions.

A Q&A Session will follow.

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Baroness Catherine Ashton in conversation with John Kampfner
And Then What?: Inside Stories of 21st Century Diplomacy
Saturday 11th May 12.50 - 14.00

So much of modern-day diplomacy still takes place behind closed doors, away from cameras and prying eyes. So what does this vital role really look like in today’s world – and what does it take to do it well?


From 2009 to 2014, Catherine Ashton was the EU’s first High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security, effectively Europe's foreign policy supremo responsible for coordinating the EU's response to international crises. Arriving in Brussels as a relative novice to international diplomacy, she faced the challenge of representing the views and values of 28 nations during one of the most turbulent times in living memory. Decades-old certainties were swept away in days. Hope rose and fell, often in a matter of hours.


From the frozen conflict of Ukraine to the Serbia-Kosovo deal, there were challenges, failures and moments of success. She encountered dictators and war criminals, and witnessed the aftermath of natural disasters, military action, and political instability. Working with US politicians and counterparts including John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Bill Burns, she negotiated historic settlements, such as the Iran nuclear deal. An ‘honest broker’, she navigated the needs of opposing politicians to chart a path towards collaboration and stability.


Now she takes us behind the scenes to show us what worked and what didn’t, and how it felt to be in ‘the room where it happened’. From Serbia to Somalia, Libya to Haiti, she offers essential insight into how modern diplomacy works, examining the tools needed to find our way through the many challenges we face today.


Baroness Ashton served as the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and First Vice President of the European Commission in the Barroso European Commission from 2009 to 2014.  A Labour politician, she was Lord President of the Council in Gordon Brown’s first cabinet in 2007. It was during this period that she played a pivotal role in passing the Treaty of Lisbon, an international agreement which forms the constitutional basis of The European Union, through UK parliament.


John Kampfner is an award-winning author, broadcaster and foreign-affairs commentator. He began his career reporting from East Berlin (during the fall of the Wall) and Moscow (during the collapse of communism) for the Telegraph. After covering British politics for the Financial Times and BBC, he edited the New Statesman. He is a regular TV and radio pundit, documentary maker and author of six previous books, including the bestselling ‘Blair's Wars’. His previous book, ‘Why the Germans Do it Better’, was a top ten bestseller, Book of the Year in the Guardian, Economist and the New Statesman, and sold over 150,000 copies in all editions.

A Q&A Session will follow.

Click Here to purchase tickets

NEW THIS YEAR...
OUTSIDE ACTIVITY:
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Jack Cornish
A guided walk around Lewes with Jack Cornish as your guide.
Saturday 11th May 13.45 -15.30

This 4.5 mile circular walk starting at the All Saints Centre will uncover some of the history to be found in the urban passages and country footpaths around Lewes. We will walk alongside the River Ouse and the Cockshut Stream, taking in the Lewes Railway Land Reserve, through the history of Lewes' venerable monastic history, the gardens of a grand 16th century house and ramble along to discover some of Lewes' famous twittens. Along the way, you will hear about how historic paths are being reclaimed across England and Wales and discover some paths which have been recently put back on the map in Lewes so that they can be used and enjoyed for generations to come.

Jack Cornish is head of paths at the Ramblers, leading the Ramblers work to protect, expand and improve our path network. Jack joined the Ramblers in 2017, having recently completed a 1,550 mile walk all the way across Britain from Land’s End to John O’Groats.  
 
Jack is the author of ‘The Lost Paths', a personal journey and exploration of the deep history of English and Welsh paths and how this millennia-old network was created, has evolved, and been transformed.   An important part of Jack’s focus at the Ramblers has been the flagship Don’t Lose Your Way project which identified over 49,000 miles of paths that could be lost forever because they are not legally recorded as public rights of way. Jack has regularly appeared in the media including the BBC, Country Living magazine and The Guardian.  
Jack lives in southeast London, from where he sets out to complete another mission, a potential futile attempt to walk all the streets, squares and paths of the capital city.

 

Q&A throughout the talk and it will be followed by a book signing.

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Gavin Esler
Britain Is Better Than This: Why a Great Country is Failing Us All
Saturday 11th May 14.20 - 15.30

An urgent and timely exploration of a British political system in peril - and what we must do to save it based on the book which was described by Will Hutton as: 'the most compelling, lacerating description of the Muppet Show that is British public life I have yet read'. BBC Political Correspondent Steve Richards also notes that 'there can be no book more urgently needed than this one.'  

For centuries, British identity has been shaped by ideas of exceptionalism, grandeur and competence. Yet British democracy is failing. Governments supported by a minority of voters are elected with enormous majorities under a deeply unrepresentative first-past-the-post system. The result has been failed leaders delivering wounding blows to the country's economy, prosperity and international image.

This talk explores what lies beneath this sense of malaise, revealing the structural and constitutional failures at the heart of a sclerotic political system. It sheds light on a culture of lies, distrust and corruption. It reveals fundamental flaws in core institutions, including the media, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. It draws on events such as the MP expenses scandal, Brexit, 'Partygate' and the farcical premiership of Liz Truss, as symptoms of a great nation at a turning point yet unsure of which way to turn. And it looks ahead, offering practical solutions to answer the key question of our time: What do we need to do to build a better future?

Gavin Esler is an award-winning television and radio broadcaster, novelist and journalist. He is best-known as one of the three main presenters on BBC2’s Newsnight, and the main presenter on Dateline London on BBC World and the BBC News Channel. He is a regular writer and commentator in the mainstream press, and has authored five novels and a non-fiction book about the United States, The United States of Anger (1997).

Over the past two decades Gavin has interviewed world leaders ranging from Mrs Thatcher, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, John Major, and King Abdullah of Jordan to President Clinton, President Carter, Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega, and Shimon Peres.

Esler won a Royal Television Society award for a documentary about the Aleutian Islands. He was also awarded a Sony Gold Award in 2007 for a radio documentary on prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.


 A Q&A Session will follow.

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Danny Dorling
Shattered Nation: Inequality and the Geography of A Failing State
Saturday 11th May 15.50 – 17.00


Britain is broken, but how did it become so divided?

Professor Dorling notes that Britain was once the leading economy in Europe; it is now the most unequal. In this talk, he shows that we are growing further and further apart. Visiting sites across the British Isles and exploring the social fissures that have emerged, he exposes a new geography of inequality. Middle England has been hit hard by the cost-of-living crisis, and even people doing comparatively well are struggling to stay afloat. Once affluent suburbs are now unproductive places where opportunity has been replaced by food banks. Before COVID, life expectancy had dropped as a result of poverty for the first time since the 1930s.


Fifty years ago the UK led the world in child health; today, twenty-two of the twenty-seven EU countries have better mortality rates for newborns. He contends that no other European country has such miserly unemployment benefits; university fees so high; housing so unaffordable; or a government economically so far to the right. In the spirit of the 1942 Beveridge Report, Dorling identifies the five giants of twenty-first-century poverty that need to be conquered: Hunger, Precarity, Waste, Exploitation, and Fear. He offers powerful insights into how we got here and what we must do in order to save Britain from becoming a failed state.


Danny Dorling is the Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford. His previous books include Inequality and the 1% and Slowdown.

A Q&A Session will follow.

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Luke Harding
Invasion: Russia’s Bloody War and Ukraine’s Fight for Survival
Saturday 11th May 17.20 – 18.30


Basing his talk on the book which was a finalist for the Orwell Prize for Political writing, the award-winning Guardian journalist and #1 New York Times bestselling author, explains Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

For months, the omens had pointed in one scarcely believable direction: Russia was about to invade Ukraine. And yet, the world was stunned by the epochal scale of the assault that began in February 2022. It was an attempt by one nation to devour another.


This talk gives a compelling chronicle of the war that changed everything. For this breathtaking work of reportage, Harding spent months reporting on the ground during the build up to the conflict and afterward; his account tells of the initial days of shock and panic, the grim reality of this ongoing war, and the unheard human stories behind the headlines. Harding also offers insightful portraits of the war's two great personalities. One, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, is an actor-turned-president who rallied support on a global stage. The other, Vladimir Putin, is a dictator who dwells in a strange and unreachable realm. Harding examines the ideological, religious and personal reasons behind Putin's decision to invade. And he confronts a crucial question: which side will prevail in this terrible war?

Harding notes: ‘My focus as a writer and correspondent is on the human story. I describe the horrors of Bucha and Mariupol; the grinding artillery battle in eastern Ukraine; and the mass graves and torture chambers found in former zones of Russian occupation. I travelled to the north-east Kharkiv region, to areas liberated in autumn by a Ukrainian counter-offensive. In November 2022 I visited bombed villages in Kherson oblast, in the south, days after a Russian pull-out across the Dnipro river’.

Luke Harding is a British journalist who is a foreign correspondent for The Guardian. He is known for his coverage of Russia under Vladimir Putin, WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden.


He was based in Russia for The Guardian from 2007 until, returning from a stay in the UK on 5.2.11, he was refused re-entry to Russia and deported the same day. The Guardian said his expulsion was linked with his critical articles on Russia, a claim denied by the Russian government. After the reversal of the decision on 9 February and the granting of a short-term visa, Harding chose not to seek a further visa extension. His 2011 book Mafia State discusses his experience in Russia and the political system under Vladimir Putin, which he describes as a mafia state.

 

His subsequent books include WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy, The Snowden Files and now Invasion.
 

A Q&A Session will follow.

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Sir Chris Bryant in conversation with Norman Baker - former MP for Lewes
Code of Conduct
Saturday 11th May 18.50 – 20.00

The extraordinary turmoil we have seen in British politics in the last few years has set records. We have had the fastest turnover of ministers in our history and more MPs suspended from the House than ever. Rules have been flouted repeatedly, sometimes in plain sight. The government seems unable to escape the brush of sleaze. And just when we think it's all going to calm down a bit, another scandal breaks.

Having spent years as Chair of the Committees on Standards and Privileges, Sir Chris has had a front-row seat for the battle over standards in parliament. Cronyism, nepotism, conflicts of interest, misconduct and lying: politicians are engaging in these activities more frequently and more publicly than ever before. The result? The work of honest and accountable MPs is tarnished. Public trust is worn thin. And when nearly two thirds of voters think that MPs are out for themselves, democracy is in trouble.

It is time for a better brand of politics. Taking us inside the Pugin-carpeted corridors of Westminster, from the prime minister's office to the Strangers' Bar, this talk examines how parliament has got into this mess and suggests how it might - at last - get its house in order.

‘My life has been full of careers’, notes Chris Bryant. I have been a priest in the Church of England, Head of European Affairs at the BBC, Minister for Europe, London Manager for the educational charity Common Purpose, Hackney Councillor, author and (from 2001 to today) MP for the Rhondda. I was the one who asked Rebekah Brooks whether the News of the World had ever paid police officers for information - and asked Boris Johnson whether the Russians had ever tried to influence British elections and referendums. I was the first MP to perform his civil partnership in the Palace of Westminster - and then wrote a two volume history of Parliament. And I'm now the Chair of the House of Commons Committee on Standards.

Sir Chris Bryant, who was knighted in the 2023 New Year's Honours list, returned to the Labour front bench in September 2023 when Keir Starmer appointed him Shadow Minister for Creative Industries and Digital.  


A Q&A Session will follow.

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Vanessa Forero
An evening with Vanessa Forero – musician and home-builder on a mountain above the jungle in Northern Colombia. She is also the daughter of Marina Chapman who after kidnap as a small girl, was brought up alone with Capuchin monkeys, also in the Colombian jungle.
Saturday 11th May 20.20 – 21.30


Vanessa Forero returns to Lewes after presenting with her mother at the festival 2 years ago. She has since built her own home up a mountain in a jaguar reserve above the jungle in northern Colombia and was featured for a whole episode in January 2024 on Channel 5 TV in Ben Fogle’s: New Lives In The Wild. It was formerly an area controlled by a guerilla Marxist army called the FARC.  She scored some of music for the series and even co-wrote a song with Ben, live on the episode. Vanessa will speak about her life in Colombia and that of her mother and play some of her original songs for us. Each has a story to tell. There will also be an exclusive peak into a follow-up book on her mother, "Out Of The Wild", which she hopes to complete this year.


Briefly here is the story of her mother Marina: In 1954, in a remote South American village, a four-year-old girl was abducted and then abandoned deep in the Colombian rainforest. So began the incredible true story of Marina Chapman, who went on to spend several years alone in the jungle, her only family a troop of capuchin monkeys. Using instinct to guide her, she copied everything they did and soon learned to fend for herself. At around 10 years old, a completely feral Marina was returned to civilisation by hunters, who sold her as a slave to a brothel until she escaped - to live the perilous existence of a Colombian city street kid until eventually she came to the UK where she is married to an English microbiologist.


Vanessa Forero is a composer, singer-songwriter and co-author of the bestseller: 'The Girl With No Name: The Incredible True Story of a Child Raised by Monkeys' - the story about her mother, with whom she co-wrote the book. Together they went on an investigative trip back to Colombia to piece together Marina's memories and Vanessa will be telling us of the many events and stories that came out of that trip and the documentary made of it that was featured on National Geographic. She will also tell the stories of her own relationship with Colombia and the calling of her roots in the wild.  Vanessa spends her time composing music and re-foresting the cow-pasture where she built her home but will be flying into the UK to kick off her UK music tour with us in Lewes.

A Q&A Session will follow.

Click Here to purchase tickets

Sunday 21st January 2024

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Robert Hardman
Charles III: New King. New Court. The Inside Story.
Sunday 12th May 9.50 – 11.00

Based on a book that The Mail described as ‘fascinating’ which ‘everyone is talking about’ by acclaimed royal biographer Robert Hardman, this talk gives a brilliant account of a tumultuous period in British history, full of intriguing insider detail and the real stories behind the sadness, the dazzling pomp, the challenges and the triumphs as Charles III sets out to make his mark.

How would – or could – he fill the shoes of the record-breaking Elizabeth II? With fresh debates about the monarchy, political upheavals and a steady flow of damning headlines unleashed by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Charles could not afford to put a foot wrong. Hardman draws on unrivalled access to the Royal Family, friends of the King and Queen, key officials and courtiers, plus unpublished royal papers, to chart the transition from those emotionally charged days following the death of the late Queen all through that make or break first year on the throne.

This talk also reveals how Charles III is determined to move ahead at speed, the vital role played by Queen Camilla, the King’s relationships with his sons and the rest of his family, his plans for reforming the monarchy and how he is taking his place on the world stage.

Charles III is a fascinating portrait of a hard-working, modern monarch, determined to remain true to himself and to his Queen, to make a difference, to weather the storms – and, what’s more, to enjoy it.

Robert Hardman is an internationally renowned writer and broadcaster, specializing in royalty and history for more than twenty five years. He has previously written the acclaimed books Monarchy: The Royal Family at Work, Our Queen and Queen of the World, along with the BBC and ITV television documentaries of the same name.

Among other television credits, he wrote and presented the BBC Two documentary George III – The Genius of the Mad King and wrote the BBC series, The Queen’s Castle. Hardman interviewed the Prince of Wales for the BBC’s Charles at 60, the Duke of Edinburgh for the BBC’s The Duke: In His Own Words and the Princess Royal for ITV’s Anne: The Princess Royal at 70.

 

He wrote and co-produced the BBC’s Prince Philip: The Royal Family Remembers, for which he interviewed a dozen members of the Royal Family. He is also an award-winning newspaper journalist for the Daily Mail in London. Queen of Our Times: The Life of Queen Elizabeth II is his fourth book.

 

A Q&A Session will follow.

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Helen Russell
How to Raise a Viking: The Secrets of Parenting the World’s Happiest Children
Sunday 12th May 11.20 - 12.30

What do Vikings know about raising children? Turns out, quite a lot…
After a decade of living in Denmark and raising a family there, Helen Russell noticed that Nordic children are different. They eat differently. They learn differently. They run, jump and climb out in nature for hours a day, even though the weather is terrible and it's dark October to March. And then they grow up to be some of the happiest adults on the planet. Her question was: how?


In this talk, Russell takes a deep dive into the parenting culture of Denmark and the other Nordic nations, from parental leave policies to school structure, screen time, and the surprising customs that lead to happy, well-adjusted humans. This fascinating peek behind the cultural curtain allows readers a glimpse of another world, where babies sleep outside in their prams up to -20°C and pre-schoolers wield axes.


Refreshingly funny and unfailingly optimistic about the new generation of humans growing up in the world right now, this is a heart-warming love letter to Russell’s adopted homeland and proof that we could all use a bit more Viking in our lives.

Helen Russell is a bestselling author, journalist, speaker and host. Formerly editor of marieclaire.co.uk turned Scandinavia correspondent for the Guardian. She's the author of five critically acclaimed books, translated into 21 languages including ‘How to Live Danishly’ which was a bestseller.

 

Helen now writes for magazines and newspapers globally, including The Times and The Sunday Times, the Telegraph, the Independent, National Geographic, Wall Street Journal, the Observer, Metro, Grazia, Stylist and Stella. She’s spent the last ten years studying cultural approaches to emotions and speaks about her work internationally.

 

A Q&A Session will follow.

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Theodore Dalrymple
Buried But Not Quite Dead: Forgotten Writers of Père Lachaise
Sunday 12th May 12.50 - 14.00
     
While many famous writers – Balzac, Proust, Oscar Wilde – are buried at Paris’s Père Lachaise Cemetery, ‘there are also writers, many more of them in fact, buried there who have been completely forgotten, not necessarily because they were not good but because cultural memory is necessarily limited.’  


In this talk the conservative writer, Theodore Dalrymple discusses some forgotten writers of Père Lachaise, exploring their literary merit and the amusing byways of history, aiming ‘to entertain while illustrating the inexhaustible depth of our past’.

Here are some of the characters:

Eugene-Melchior de Vogue was a prisoner of war for 6 months after the Franco-Prussian war. After his release, he wrote a travel book about Syria and Lebanon, published in 1872, which suggests that not much has changed. Then he went as a diplomat to Russia, where he learned Russian and studied the Russian novel, introducing it to France. He returned to France, became a deputy in the parliament, hated it and wrote a scathing novel about it.

Jean-Richard Bloch was a prolific Alsatian Jewish novelist, playwright and essayist, who witnessed anti-semitic riots during the Dreyfus affair and described them in his work. A socialist who became a communist, he visited the Soviet Union and varnished the truth about it. He wrote an anti-capitalist novel that was translated into English. He spent the war years in Moscow, and returned to found and edit a daily paper with the poet Louis Aragon.

Emile Souvestre was a Breton novelist who also wrote a dystopian novel about the year 3000 (published in the 1840s). He wrote many novels, dying at an early age. His complete works run to 58 volumes.

Alice-René Brouillhet was a novelist whose doctor husband died in the First World War, and wrote a book commemorating the 1600 French doctors killed in the war, including one who served on the French mission to eradicate the typhus epidemic in Serbia which had killed a half of all the doctors in the country.

Francois-Vincent Raspail (after whom the Boulevard Raspail in Paris was named) was a scientist who invented histochemistry. He was a toxicologist who appeared in cases involving arsenic and was a revolutionary who spent several years in prison under different regimes. He invented a system of medicine based on camphor, and was exiled to Belgium where he collected Rubens and Breughel, and died a rich man, though he had absolutely no interest in money.

Charles Loudon was a Scottish doctor who retired to Paris where he died, but not before he published a book (in French) trying to refute Malthus, suggesting that birth should be controlled by women breastfeeding for three years. His wife was an unsuccessful Irish novelist, the protagonist of one of whose novels was a swindler and impostor - called Colonel Trump!

Theodore Dalrymple is a editor of City Journal. He is a retired physician who, most recently, practiced in a British inner-city hospital and prison. Dalrymple has written a column for The Spectator (London) for many years and writes regularly for National Review. Denis Dutton, editor of Arts & Letters Daily, called Dalrymple the “Orwell of our time.”


A Q&A Session will follow.

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Peter Foster
What Went Wrong with Brexit: And What We Can Do About It
Sunday 12th May 14.20 – 15.30

Six years after Brexit, it can feel like we’re still having the same conversations contends Foster in this talk. This is the explainer we need to move on. And we do need to move on, because in the meantime so much has changed. The economic realities that are making the UK less competitive, less productive and less well-off are ever more obvious – and more and more people are finding out the Brexit they were sold was based on falsehoods and fantasy.  


So what exactly went wrong with Brexit?  


In this talk, Peter Foster dispels the myths and, most importantly, shows what a better future for Britain after Brexit might look like. With clear-headed practicality, he considers the real costs of leaving the EU, how we can recover international trust in the UK, how to improve cooperation and trade with our neighbours, and how to begin to build the Global Britain that Brexit promised but failed to deliver.  
The politicians won’t talk about it, so we need to.

Peter Foster is the public policy editor of the Financial Times. His brief is to break out of the bubbles of Westminster and Whitehall to cover all aspects of UK policy, including the implementation of Brexit, the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and the economic and 'levelling up' agendas of the Rishi Sunak government.

He joined the FT in April 2020 from the Telegraph Media Group where he had held the position of Europe editor since 2015, focusing on the Brexit negotiations. He has more than two decades of experience covering global affairs from all sides of the world, based in New Delhi (2004-2008) and Beijing (2008-2012), as well as Washington DC, where he served as The Telegraph's US editor from 2012.

He also writes the FT's weekly Britain After Brexit newsletter


A Q&A Session will follow.

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Katya Hoyer
Beyond the Wall: East Germany, 1949-1990
Sunday 12th May 15.50 – 17.00

This talk is based on the book which was an instant Sunday Times bestseller, Sunday Times, Telegraph and Spectator book of the year and is authored by someone Andrew Roberts called ‘one of the best young historians writing in English today’

In 1990, a country disappeared. When the iron curtain fell, East Germany simply ceased to be. For over forty years, from the ruin of the Second World War to the cusp of a new millennium, the GDR presented a radically different German identity to anything that had come before, and anything that exists today. Socialist solidarity, secret police, central planning, barbed wire: this was a Germany forged on the fault lines of ideology and geopolitics.

In this talk, acclaimed historian Katja Hoyer offers a kaleidoscopic new vision of this vanished country. Beginning with the bitter experience of German Marxists exiled by Hitler, she traces the arc of the state they would go on to create, first under the watchful eye of Stalin, and then in an increasingly distinctive German fashion. From the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961, to the relative prosperity of the 1970s, and on to the creaking foundations of socialism in the mid-1980s, Hoyer argues that amid oppression and frequent hardship, East Germany was yet home to a rich political, social and cultural landscape, a place far more dynamic than the Cold War caricature often painted in the West.

Powerfully told, and drawing on a vast array of never-before-seen interviews, letters and records, this is the definitive history of the other Germany, the one beyond the Wall.

Katja Hoyer is a German-British historian specialising in modern German history. She was born in East Germany and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in London and a Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College London. She is a columnist for the Washington Post and has written for History Today and the BBC’s History Extra. Her debut book Blood and Iron: The Rise and Fall of the German Empire 1871-1918 became a bestseller in the UK


A Q&A Session will follow.
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Matthew Goodwin
Values, Voice and Virtue: The New British Politics
Sunday 12th May 17.20 - 18.30

In this talk, which is based on the book which was a Sunday Times bestseller of 2023,
Matthew Goodwin asks what has caused the recent seismic changes in British politics, including Brexit and a series of populist revolts against the elite? Why did so many people want to overturn the status quo? Where has the Left gone wrong? And what deeper trends are driving these changes?

British politics is coming apart. A country once known for its stability has recently experienced a series of shocking upheavals. Matthew Goodwin, acclaimed political scientist and co-author of National Populism, shows that the reason is not economic hardship, personalities or dark money. It is a far wider political realignment that will be with us for years to come. An increasingly leftist, liberalised, globalised ruling class has lost touch with millions, who found their values ignored, their voices unheard and their virtue denied. Now, this new alliance of voters is set to determine Britain's fate.

Professor Matthew Goodwin is an academic, writer and speaker known for his work on Britain and Europe, political volatility and risk, populism, Brexit and elections. He is Professor of Politics at Rutherford College, University of Kent, Senior Visiting Fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House and Senior Fellow with the UK In a Changing Europe academic programme. He appears frequently in media such as BBC News, Financial Times, New York Times and Politico. He lives in London and tweets @GoodwinMJ.


A Q&A Session will follow.

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Professor Nigel Biggar
Colonialism: A Moral Reckoning
Sunday 12th May 18.50 – 20.00

Based on the Sunday Times bestselling book, Professor Biggar attempts a new assessment of the West’s colonial record.


In the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet empire in 1989, many believed that we had arrived at the ‘End of History’ – that the global dominance of liberal democracy had been secured forever.


Now however, with Russia rattling its sabre on the borders of Europe and China rising to challenge the post-1945 world order, the liberal West faces major threats.
These threats are not only external. Especially in the Anglosphere, the ‘decolonisation’ movement corrodes the West’s self-confidence by retelling the history of European and American colonial dominance as a litany of racism, exploitation, and massively murderous violence.


Nigel Biggar tests this indictment, addressing the crucial questions in eight chapters: Was the British Empire driven primarily by greed and the lust to dominate? Should we speak of ‘colonialism and slavery’ in the same breath, as if they were identical? Was the Empire essentially racist? How far was it based on the theft of land? Did it involve genocide? Was it driven fundamentally by the motive of economic exploitation? Was undemocratic colonial government necessarily illegitimate? and, was the Empire essentially violent, and its violence pervasively racist and terroristic?


Professor Biggar makes clear that, like any other long-standing state, the British Empire involved elements of injustice, sometimes appalling. On occasions it was culpably incompetent and presided over moments of dreadful tragedy.
Nevertheless, from the early 1800s the Empire was committed to abolishing the slave trade in the name of a Christian conviction of the basic equality of all human beings. It ended endemic inter-tribal warfare, opened local economies to the opportunities of global trade, moderated the impact of inescapable modernisation, established the rule of law and liberal institutions such as a free press, and spent itself in defeating the murderously racist Nazi and Japanese empires in the Second World War.


As encyclopaedic in historical breadth as it is penetrating in analytical depth, Colonialism offers a moral inquest into the colonial past, forensically contesting damaging falsehoods and thereby helping to rejuvenate faith in the West’s future.
Nigel Biggar is Regius Professor Emeritus of Moral and Pastoral Theology at the University of Oxford, where he directs the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics, and Public Life. He holds a B.A. in Modern History from Oxford University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Christian Theology & Ethics from the University of Chicago.


A Q&A Session will follow.

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