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


Session 1: 19th September
Home Education: Myths & Tips                                                           Bev Fowlston
I home-educated my daughter for 5 years and have learnt a lot through trial and error, and research. It was a positive experience and I would like to share those experiences with others. Are your children or grandchildren, friends or family considering or embarking on their home education journey? Do you want to learn more about the legal aspects of home education? How to facilitate it and support your family or friends during their home education journey? Let me share my research and experiences with you through stories and resources that you can use to enhance your knowledge of home education.
Session 2: 26th September
World Tour of Stories                                                                       Mark Steinhardt
This year, rather than one big story, Mark is going to tell his favourites from 15 years of professional storytelling. In between he’ll speak about his sources, how he has created the stories, and how storytelling still manages to find its place in the modern world. No fairy tales – grown-up storytelling for a mature audience.                                             

Session 3: 3rd October
History of Women’s Football                                                             Paul Nicholson
This illustrated talk will look at the way that women's football has developed over the years, starting with a few international matches in Victorian times and its growth in popularity during World War 1. Munitions factory teams continued into the 1920s, but they became such an attraction that the FA decided to ban the sport. Lifting the ban in the 1970s, the sport has continued to prosper to the extent that Women's FA Cup finals are now held at Wembley, the top teams are fully professional and the England team were 3rd at the last World Cup.

Session 4: 10th October
The Myriad Mysteries of Mary Anne’s Box                                        Marian Maule
What links Charles Dickens and Mesmerism, Jane Austen, the French Revolution and the Unification of Italy with orphaned and abandoned children, soldiers and bankers and villains and heroines?  All will be revealed through the mysterious contents and owners of a Regency workbox!

Session 5: 17th October
Writing about Ghosts and the Paranormal                                         Ruth Roper Wylde
Ruth researches and investigates ghosts, hauntings, and general paranormal happenings, and writes about them. Today she talks about how she came to be involved in this arena of interest, what the various theories are, how she researches for her books, and some of the fascinating accounts and experiences she has come across in her work.

Session 6: 31st October
The Brontes 200 years On                                                             Margaret Norwich
An opportunity to consider again the extraordinary genius of three sisters who brought a breath of fresh Yorkshire air to literary history, publishing poetry and novels first as Currer, Ellis & Acton Bell before revealing themselves as Charlotte, Emily & Anne Bronte whose masterpieces include Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights & The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, works which are as powerful and controversial today as when they were first published 200 years ago

Session 7: 7th November
International Volunteerism – for whose benefit?     Dr Barry Dackombe
Travelling abroad to ‘help’ people in developing countries has increased in popularity in recent decades. Whilst there is inevitably an altruistic aspect to this, many see this as a form of post-colonialism or ‘white saviour complex’. This session will consider the pros and cons of volunteering abroad and attempt to offer solutions from projects that have been more successful.

Session 8: 14th November
Mindfulness                                                                                          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 became so popular in the west, as well as exploring whether it would be of benefit to you.

Session 9: 21st November
Mabel, Millenarianism and Me                                                               Adrian Bean
“When I retired, all I wanted was a life of quiet obscurity, though friends said I'd end up being bored; it didn't work out like that. It's strange how one thing leads to another, and I became interested in Bedford's very own messiah and the Panacea Museum, then Bedford Cemetery and the fascinating characters buried there, then a remarkable Polish heroine and her story ... and eventually writing a book, finding out how hard it is to become an "author." This session will be of interest to anyone who likes the quirkier aspects of Old Bedford, and how by just "following your nose" you can do and find fascinating things that you hadn't imagined existed.”

Session 10: 28th November
Carnivorous Plants                                                                               Tim Parrott
Most plants have few defences against the tongues and teeth of hungry animals, but today we look at the ones that bite back!



Session 11: 9th January
Bedford Cemetery                                                                                 Colin Woolf
Bedford Cemetery situated to the North end of Foster Hill Road opened in June 1855.  I describe it as ‘history below our feet’.  I was ‘volunteered’ to be a Friend in 2013 following my retirement and I have enjoyed an interesting relationship ever since.  There are many stories to be told about ‘our residents’, who lived and worked in Bedford in years gone by.  I will talk about how and why Bedford Cemetery came about and the people that were involved in the early days of its existence. 

Session 12: 16th January
“Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel”                                                      Ruth Hogan
Join us for an afternoon in the company of Bedford born Ruth Hogan, the bestselling author of The Keeper of Lost Things, as she talks about her new novel Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel.    The Keeper of Lost Things which was a big ‘word of mouth’ hit has sold over 830,000 copies. Ruth’s third novel is a tender and heartfelt story of a complicated mother and daughter relationship. An irresistible read, it introduces a new cast of wonderful and charmingly eccentric characters. It has received fantastic reviews since publication:
'A poignant tale of love and family' Good Housekeeping
'Enchanting . . . divine' Prima
'This book really shines . . . laugh-out-loud funny' Stylist
'A moving exploration of the complex relationship between mothers and daughters.' Observer
Ruth will be ready to sign copies of her book and answer any questions you might have about her writing career.

Session 13: 23rd January
The Nobel Prize for Literature (1901-2019): Politics and Art        Dr Stephen Rogers
Seen as the most prestigious of all literary prizes, in recent times the Nobel Prize for Literature has courted controversy. As a result of a scandal in 2018 no prize was awarded, and in 2019 two awards will be made. In 2016 Bob Dylan was awarded the prize. In this talk we will look back over the history of the prize, look at some of the famous winners (Boris Pasternak) and some of the more unlikely ones (Winston Churchill). We will discuss acceptance speeches and try to understand why some writers have received this accolade (Hemingway, T. S. Eliot, etc.), and why others have not (James Joyce, etc.).
Session 14: 30th January
The Moons of Jupiter & 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 15: 6th February
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 16: 13 February
Satellites – Natural & Artificial                                                                Tim Parrott
Until the second half of the twentieth century, Earth had one satellite, the Moon.  Then the Russians launched Sputnik.  Today our daily lives depend on satellite technology.


Session 17: 27th February
3D Street Art                                                                                      Paul Nicholson
Although most street artists work on flat surfaces, a growing number of them have ventured into sculpture in recent years. These include the environmental activist Jonesy, the organic forms of Cityzen Kane and the giant mushrooms created by Christiaan Nagel. Photographs will include many sculptures to be found on the streets of London and others from around the world, from thumb nail-sized artwork to larger than life installations.

Session 18: 5th March
Witness to History, an Eighteenth Century Quaker Marriage Certificate                                                                                                                       Dr Barry Dackombe
The Quaker marriage of William Morris of Ampthill and Ann Marsh of Hitchin in December 1789 was witnessed by 79 people. This session will look at who the Quakers (Society of Friends) were and their significance which was highlighted through personal research into the marriage certificate and those who signed as witnesses to the marriage.

Session 19: 12th March TBA

Session 20: 19th March
Seven Modern Poems                                                                 Margaret Norwich
In 1821 Percy Bysshe Shelley said that "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world."  Almost 200 years later it will be interesting and perhaps informative to turn from the work of our acknowledged legislators, to consider what seven contemporary British poets make of our modern world, and what we make of them!