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New season of Insights public lectures starts

Published on: 18 January 2018

A new season of Insights public lectures starts with Rt Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, talking about modern democracy.

The modern democracy

During his talk on Thursday 1 February, Mr Bercow will talk about his work to improve public understanding of the role and function of the Speaker and the changes he has helped introduce to the House of Commons since he was elected to the role in 2009.

His talk takes place 100 years after the 1918 Representation of the People Act was passed. The Act led to significant changes in the electoral system by extending the right to vote to women aged over 30, an issue that had been the subject of much debate and campaigning for a number of years. In her talk on Thursday 8 February, author and social historian Jane Robinson will shed light on the ‘Great Pilgrimage’ a six-week march across the country involving thousands of ordinary men and women, and how the hearts and minds of Parliament and the people were finally won in the campaign for women’s suffrage.

Co-chair of Public Lectures, Dr Martin Farr, said:

“One hundred years after thousands of women and men were given the right to vote, it seems appropriate that we start the new season of Insights public lectures with a look at the modern democracy and one of the untold stories of how it came about.

“Our public lectures are renowned for offering expert insight into a broad range of topical issues, and we’re looking forward to welcoming leading public figures and world-class academics who are all recognised authorities on their subject.

“The programme also features presentations from some of the University’s early career researchers, who will talk about their research around biomedicine and I’d urge people to come along to hear how their findings may underpin the medical treatments of tomorrow.”

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Diverse themes

To coincide with LGBT History month, Mark Nichols, Chairman of Northern Pride, will talk about the history of the Pride march and the obstacles and challenges it has faced.

Other highlights of the Spring programme of Insights public lectures include Professor Sir Simon Wesley’s talk on 27 February. He is the first psychiatrist to become President of the Royal Society of Medicine and his talk will reflect on current awareness of mental health issues in the context of an under-resourced service.

On 13 March, former Defence Secretary, Rt Hon Lord Hutton of Furness, will use his talk to consider Britain’s defence policy in the wake of Brexit and ask whether it is time to reconsider Britain’s role in the world. 

The programme will also feature talks by some of Newcastle University’s own experts. On 19 April, Dr Alton Horsfall will talk about the technology of space exploration, while on 3 May, Dr Rachel Hammersley will trace the history of May Day, a day associated with Englishness, popular action and workers’ rights. 

Live in the King’s Hall

A new Live in the King’s Hall lunchtime concert series also gets underway next month, featuring a range of music. The programme starts on 8 February with frantic Bulgarian dance rhythms and meditative improvisation music from the Balkans, Turkey and Greece, performed by Horovod.

Voices of Hope, 2016 National Choir of the Year, return to the King’s Hall on 15 February with music from their winning performance, as well as works by Will Todd, Paul Mealor and Eric Whitacre.

Other highlights include a mass by Josquin Desprez and motets by Tallis and Byrd as they might have been performed in early 17th-century England by world-famous lutenist Jacob Heringman; and a programme of French Baroque repertoire by Passacaglia. In April, Belfast-born fiddle players Conor Caldwell and Danny Diamond will perform a blend inspired by their northern musical heritage and music from further afield.

On 15 March, the Confucius Institute at Newcastle University supports the Silk and Bamboo Ensemble, who will perform a selection of ensemble and virtuoso solo pieces of traditional, regional and modern Chinese music.

There are also weekly performances by the University’s music students at 4pm on Thursdays, which are also free and open to the public.

Public lectures generally take place on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 5.30pm in the Curtis Auditorium, Herschel Building, Newcastle University. Live in the King’s Hall Lunchtime Concerts take place on Thursdays at 1.10pm.


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