General Studies: Various Speakers

An assortment of subjects each week a different speaker and topic covering everything from Popular Culture to Quantum Mechanics. The ideal course for those new to the REC and anyone likely to be absent for a few sessions

Tutor: Various Speakers

Autumn Term 2018

Session 1 Thursday 13th September
Adventures of a Ghost Hunter                                            Damien O’Dell
Personal encounters with ghosts. The most interesting cases of haunted properties that I have investigated over 20 years.

Session 2 Thursday 20th September                                                
Why Is Veganism on the rise?                                            James Peter
The number of vegans globally has increased tremendously over the last few years. The reasons have a massive impact for the planet. 

Session 3 Thursday 27th September
The Glory that was Greece                                                  Andy Gibbs
This talk will cover the golden age of Classical Athens                                                                                                                     

Session 4 Thursday 4th October    
Mothers of Pharaoh: The Great Queens of Ancient Egypt   
Ruth Thomas
In ancient Egypt, the role of mother was greatly respected and this was particularly true of the “Mother of Pharaoh”. Since the king was regarded as divine their mothers were accorded an elevated status. Throughout the long history of Egypt great queens have shaped the history of this civilisation. We shall look in more detail at these charismatic women.

Session 5 Thursday 11th October
Interesting Bedfordians                                                       Paul Nicholson
This talk will look at the lives of people born in Bedford who have led interesting lives.  It will include the usual suspects (Bunyan, Burnaby, Barker etc) but also many more unheralded characters who have gained notoriety in fields such as exploration, sport and entertainment.

Session 6 Thursday 18th October
The Story of Heloise and Abelard                                      Mark Steinhardt
Mark will deliver another of his popular afternoons of story telling.  This year he will perform his version of the true story of Heliose and Abelard, star-crossed lovers of the 12th century.  In this era of gender fluidity, he will flit with utter conviction between the two as they exchange their tortured letters.  Only one performance!  Book your seat now!


Session 7 Thursday 1st November
Bedford - the most cosmopolitan town in the UK            Dr Graham McFarlane
Find out how Bedford has become a community of communities with astonishing diversity.  We will look at historical sources as well as the last 2011 Census information to give you the reasons why.


Session 8 Thursday 8th November
Teaching English to novice Buddhist monks in Laos     Elizabeth Butler
The experience of living as a volunteer and teaching English to Novice Buddhist Monks in Luan Prabang.

Session 9 Thursday 15th November
The Great Fire of Northampton 1675                                 Ruth Thomas
On a warm and sunny September day in 1675 a great fire destroyed most of the county town of Northampton. This single event was to mark the end of the old medieval town and the emergence of a smart and confident Northampton. John Morton the historian visited in 1712 and wrote “since that dismal conflagration which desolated and consumed almost the whole town it has been re-edified and nobly improved and is now universally owned to be one of the neatest towns in the kingdom‘.

Session 10 Thursday 22nd November
July 1969                                                                                Tim Parrott
We all remember the excitement worldwide when Neil Armstrong took his “small step” on to the lunar surface.  Today we look at the technology that made it possible.

Session 11 Thursday 29th November
Can Politicians Tell the Truth?                                           Phil Lotan
A look at Politics from outside the box.

Session 12 Thursday 6th December
Chicksands Priory                                                                Damien O’Dell
1,000 years of history - from medieval monastery to Osborn family home to top secret military base. Secrets revealed and myths broken!

Spring Term 2019

Session 13 Thursday 10th January
Rameses II: An Egyptian Superman                                  Ruth Thomas
Everything about Ramses II was great. His reign was the longest of any pharaoh, his building works were the most colossal, his military successes were outstanding, his children numbered over one hundred and his self-praise was unlimited. This was a superman of the ancient world whose great life is worth celebrating.

Session 14 Thursday 17th January
Northampton at War 1939-45                                              Ruth Thomas
The impact of the second world war on the market town of Northampton had many different aspects – rationing, largescale rehoming of evacuated children, conscription, limited transport and public lighting, even the occasional bomb drop and plane crash. This is the story of the effect of war on the domestic scene.

Session 15 Thursday 24th January
Music and Literature                                                                        Dr Stephen Rogers
Literature sometimes seems to aspire to the condition of music (think of how many poems are described as ‘songs’), and the music sometimes seems to aspire to the condition of literature (think of programme music).  In this talk, with music, Dr Stephen Rogers will attempt to make sense of how the arts of words and sound interact with each other.



Session 16 Thursday 31st January
The National Health Service                                                            Deidre Higgins
An examination of the effect on the NHS of the introduction of accountable care systems (ACOs).  Is this a further step on the road to privatization of the NHS or a sensible policy which will save money and make it more efficient?

Session 17 Thursday 7th February
Inspired by Birds I                                                                Peter Holden MBE
Birds have been studied since earliest times but not always as a science. The overall theme of this talk is ‘birds and people’ and it will look at wide variety of topics as diverse as Egyptian hieroglyphs, bird paintings from the earliest times, birds that inspired composers and birds in both fine and contemporary Art.             




Session 18 Thursday 21st February
Inspired by Birds II                                                               Peter Holden MBE
The second part of the talk about birds and people.

Session 19 Thursday 28th February
Poetry & Memory                                                                  Margaret Norwich
Many of us can recite a verse or two of poetry from memory, perhaps a poem learned by rote at school, or one we have chosen to memorise because of associations with people, places and events in our lives.  Recent research has suggested that there may be remarkable benefits to committing poetry to memory: we will explore the process and consider the multifaceted resource of the memorised poem for us all!

Session 20 Thursday 7th March
The Secret Lives of Butterflies and Moths                        Tim Parrott
These beautiful insects have a fascinating life cycle which throws fresh light on how evolution works.

Session 21 Thursday 14th March
Rasputin                                                                                Steve Lowe
Who was he, where did he come from, why was he so notorious, who killed him – why and how?  We shall unpack the whole story of this infamous character, including truths and myths and his influence on the Romanovs and Russian revolution.

Session 22 Thursday 21st March
Squares & Triangles:  An afternoon in Bloomsbury        Margaret Norwich
We will spend time in the company of the artists, writers and intellectuals who made up the Bloomsbury set:  Virginia Woolf,  Vanessa bell,  EM Forster,  John Maynard Keynes and others, who celebrated freedom, informality and a fierce devotion to the life of the mind, while living unconventional and extraordinary lives in the leafy squares close to the British Museum.  There are several connections with Bedford to explore too!


Session 23 Thursday 28th March
Current Environmental Issues                                            Deidre Higgins
We will look at the environmental policies of the government of the day and the changes which may be underway after the UK leaves the EU.

Summer Term 2019

Session 24 Thursday 2nd May
Gardens in the time of Jane Austen                                   Michael Brown
Jane Austen uses gardens to set the scene as her characters go about their daily lives.  We will look at the gardens of taste, where size did matter.  What did the gardens look like?  How were they looked after by the invisible gardeners?  All will be revealed.


Session 25 Thursday 9th May
From darkness in to light                                                    Paul Palmer
Examining some fascinating stories behind some recent archaeological discoveries in this country, and their eventual display to the public.

Session 26 Thursday 16th May
The moons of Jupiter and Saturn – places for life?         Dr Mark Chamberlain
Liquid water oceans underneath the outer icy crusts may be the best places to search for life elsewhere in our Solar System. However considerable technological challenges will have to be overcome.

Session 27 Thursday 23rd May
Mindfulness                                                                           Dr Adrian Page
The buzz-word of the moment is Mindfulness, which has its origins in Buddhism.  This talk will chart the origins and how it came to be so popular in the west, as well as exploring whether it would be of benefit to you.


Session 28 Thursday 6th June                                            
Eat your greens!                                                                   Michael Brown
The story of vegetables in England.  New exotics, such as the now humble potato, and how vegetables were grown.

Session 29 Thursday 13th June
Portraits of the Lake  District                                              Hemant Jariwala
A ‘photo-essay’ on the beauty of the Lake District with his own unique photography style.  The presentation will cover iconic locations and Hemant will give an insight in to the photographic processes and equipment he employs.

Session 30 Thursday 20th June
The remarkable history of the paper-clip                          Caroline Bacon
The humble paper-clip – it has over 1,000 uses, from a symbol of rebellion against a repressive regime to an avant-garde art work. You may never look at one in the same way again.