Speakers Season 2019 – 2020


6 October 2019

Anglophiles: addicts, fools or the right kind?

Inez van Gisteren has been passionate about England ever since she visited a friend’s family in Kent in 1992. During the year she lived and worked as a carer in England, she had an inside view of the people; their customs, habits, lifestyle etc. Though she loves the country, she doesn’t always approve. But love takes you unawares and makes you blind, doesn’t it? She spent many holidays in England, cycling round and visiting gardens, stately homes, quaint little villages, towns and other places of interest. She worked as a tour guide for SRC Cultuurvakanties in 2002 and since 2013 she has worked for Garden Tours. In her spare time she used to be a guide at the St. Janskathedraal in ‘s-Hertogenbosch for many years when she lived in Brabant. She has lived in Deventer since 2012 and is now a guide at the IJssellinie in Olst.

What is it that makes England so special to us? Ever since I was there for the first time England has moved me far more than any other country I ever visited. Yet the country is far from perfect. So what is it that makes us cross the North Sea time and again? Even though they drive on the wrong side of the road, use their forks upside down and don’t want to be with us in the EU any more. Still we can’t seem to go wrong as long as we are over there and a feeling of general happiness comes over us as soon as we start talking about England. Or do we simply have the wrong (or right?) genes? A talk about happiness and madness, about who is right and who is wrong, with lots of pride and prejudice and perhaps not so much sense and sensibility. Not for the seriously minded!



10 November 2019

To Eritrea & Ethiopia: retracing a Victorian Expedition

John Pilkington has been called “one of Britain’s greatest tellers of travellers’ tales”.
In 1983, after journeys in Africa and Latin America, he completed a 500-mile solo crossing of the western Nepal Himalaya, and told the story in his first book Into Thin Air. His interest in Asia grew further with the opening in 1986 of the border between Pakistan and China, making it possible – for the first time in forty years – to retrace virtually the whole of the Silk Road. John was one of the first modern travellers to do so, and he wrote about the journey in An Adventure on the Old Silk Road. This was followed in 1991 by An Englishman in Patagonia; recounting eight months spent exploring the southern most tip of South America.
In 2000 he became one of only four people in modern times to walk the 1,600-mile Royal Road of the Incas in the Andes of Ecuador and Peru. In 2003 he explored the Mekong River and, with two Tibetans, reached and mapped its source at over 17,000 feet. In 2006 he turned his attention to the Sahara Desert, and joined a camel caravan carrying salt for 450 miles from the mines of Taoudenni to Timbuktu.


In 1868 the British government mounted an extraordinary bid to rescue a clutch of European hostages in the Ethiopian highlands. They built a Red Sea port, then a railway across the coastal plain, and finally imported 44 Indian elephants and commissioned 26,000 local people to serve the soldiers and carry their heavy guns into the heart of Africa. A hundred and fifty years later, John has been following their route, partly on foot with a donkey, and has been comparing Eritrea and Ethiopia then and now. He found today’s people spirited and charming, living in dramatic and extremely challenging lands. It was history and adventure combined!

On his return he said, “The walking part of the trip was one of the most difficult I’ve ever done. In both countries, ox-ploughs and mud-and-thatch houses are the norm over wide areas, and these would have been familiar to the soldiers who marched through the Abyssinian mountains all those years ago. But towns like Gonder and Lalibela are a joyous mix of ancient and new. If you haven’t been to this part of the Horn of Africa, you’re missing a treat.



19 January 2020

Dream on! – Kunst en Cultuur in het Victoriaanse Tijdperk (deze lezing is in het Nederlands)

Muriel de Beer studeerde Algemene Kunstgeschiedenis (periode: 1500-1900) aan de Universiteit Utrecht. Na haar doctoraal examen voltooide zij de postdoctorale universitaire lerarenopleiding. Met een eerstegraads lesbevoegdheid op zak kon Muriel direct aan de slag: zij kreeg een tijdelijke aanstelling als universitair docent bij het IVLOS. Daarnaast gaf zij les aan studenten van de Hogeschool voor de Kunsten in Kampen (tegenwoordig ArtEZ Zwolle). Sinds 1992 is Muriel als freelancer werkzaam in het volwassenenonderwijs. Een van haar eerste opdrachtgevers was de Vrije Academie en voor dat instituut is zij nog steeds actief. Andere opdrachtgevers volgden snel.

De lezing biedt een overzicht van de meest significante kunsthistorische ontwikkelingen in Engeland tijdens de regeringsperiode van Queen Victoria en haar prins-gemaal (zo’n beetje de gehele tweede helft van de 19e eeuw).

Inhoudelijk zullen o.a. aan bod komen:

– Een kennismaking met het Britse koningspaar Victoria & Albert en hun persoonlijke artistieke voorkeuren (o.a. de schilders Leighton, Winterhalter, Landseer)

– De merkwaardige ‘spreidstand’ waarin Groot-Brittannië destijds verkeerde: een voorliefde voor  neorenaissance en neogotiek, gecombineerd met de  nieuwste verworvenheden van de industriële revolutie (o.a. het Crystal Palace voor de Wereldtentoonstelling, een initiatief van Prince Albert)

–  In de tweede helft van deze lezing: ruim aandacht voor twee bijzondere Britse fenomenen van de 19e eeuw: de PRB (Pre Rafaelite Brotherhood; ook bekend als de Prerafaëlieten) en de Arts &Craft Movement van Morris en Burne-Jones .

Schilderkunst, architectuur, beeldhouwkunst en kunstnijverheid wisselen elkaar in deze lezing af. Daarnaast zijn er literaire  verwijzingen naar John Keats, William Shakespeare en Geoffrey Chaucer.



22 March 2020

Experiences of British Classical Music – as a performer and a professional

Simon Wales is the General Manager of Waddesdon manor. With a background in music and the performing arts, Simon previously held the position of General Manager of Town Hall Birmingham, a 1000-seat concert hall. He was the founding Centre Director of LSO St Luke’s, the London Symphony Orchestra’s music education centre. He sings in the London Symphony Chorus in the tenor section.

As part of a musical family, Simon Wales grew up being surrounded by choirs, orchestras and opera productions throughout his childhood. After studying Music as his university degree, since then he has performed as an amateur singer and cellist. as well as working professionally with some of the most famous names in the Classical Music world.

Having worked for the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) for over 10 years in three different roles, Simon worked closely with conductors and soloists including Sir Colin Davis, Andre Previn, Mstislav Rostropovich, Pierre Boulez and Sir Georg Solti. He was involved in the planning and management of many international tours across Europe and to an annual New York residency, and recording sessions at the famous Abbey Road Studios.

As well as working for the LSO, Simon also sang with their Chorus of 120 singers, and performed on stage in London and internationally in televised and recorded performances. Having taken an extended break, he is now once again a Tenor in the London Symphony Chorus, and he is singing regularly with conductors including Sir Simon Rattle, Gianandrea Noseda and Antonio Pappano, appearing in the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, and in February 2020 in Paris, Luxembourg, Baden Baden and Hamburg performing Beethoven with Sir Simon Rattle.

After the LSO, Simon was responsible for the re-opening of the important Birmingham Town Hall, a historic classical concert hall which hosted the world premieres of some of the most famous works by composers including Mendelssohn, Elgar, Dvorak and Saint-Seans. Now a modern hall with a mixed programme, Simon managed the 1,000 seat hall for over five years, before taking up his position at Waddesdon Manor.

Having now worked and performed in the British music sector for 30 years, Simon will reflect on some of his experiences and give behind the scenes examples into the worlds of professional orchestras, amateur choruses, and concert halls.


Season 2018-2019

Sissinghurst Garden and its History

Sunday 11 November 2018 at 3 pm

Monique Wolak studied Garden and Landscape Architecture at Wageningen University & Research. There she combined the study of architecture with heritage research and environmental psychology. This combination stands at the base of all her work which centers around her own garden, landscape and heritage company. Listed gardens, parks and landscapes are the core of her projects. Her love for Britain, its people, landscape and gardens culminated from January 2014 onwards in the loveliest work she could imagine: working with the head gardener of National Trust’s Sissinghurst Castle Garden, one of the world’s most famous gardens. At the beginning of 2018 she has been asked by Professor Dr. Erik A. de Jong to work with him on a worldwide garden history project, which she now combines with her other work.

In the spring of 1930 Vita Sackville-West saw the property of Sissinghurst Castle, fell in love with it, bought it and made it her home and garden. And she did a fabulous job! This Arts & Crafts garden is now one of the most famous gardens in the world. It has a certain spell which moves people and continues to do so, although Vita is long gone. But her garden has been well tended for by several Head Gardeners, each of whom has put his or her stamp on it. This, and the fact that Sissinghurst became a National Trust garden in 1967, has resulted though, that the garden gradually drifted away from its original plan. Therefore Troy Scott Smith and Monique set up a seven year plan to ‘Revitalize Vita’.  Monique talks about Vita’s ideas and the development of the garden under the different head gardeners.

Season 2018-2019

The Canterbury Tales & Geoffrey Chaucer

Sunday 20 January 2019, 3 pm

Gregor Dijkhuis (Haaksbergen, 1953) studied English literature at Amsterdam University. After a thirty-odd year career in secondary schools as a teacher and a (deputy) headmaster, he now devotes most of his time to his lifelong passion: medieval history, especially the period of the High Middle Ages. His book on Frederick II  (‘Stupor Mundi – Kroniek van een eigenzinnige Keizer’ , 2015) was the first book in the Dutch language on the life and times of this formidable emperor. Gregor Dijkhuis lectures on a wide range of medieval subjects for U3L (the Overijssel branch of HOVO) and delivers talks for all kinds of groups and organisations with cultural-historical interests.

In the Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer (± 1345-1400) tells us about a group of pilgrims on their way to Canterbury. Before starting on their pilgrimage, it is agreed that they will all tell two stories on their way to Canterbury, and two on their way back. The person who tells the best tale will win a free meal. Then they set out. A colourful group of pilgrims, all with their individual backgrounds and their own stories.

A unique cross section of Medieval English society. Craftsmen, monks, merchants, women, nuns and knights….

This lecture provides a general outline of this masterpiece of medieval literature. The characters are introduced, you will get a colourful glimpse of their lives and a closer look at some of the tales.


Season 2018-2019

  Sunday 17 March 2019, 3 pm

  A Year in the Life of Waddesdon Manor

Simon Wales is the General Manager of Waddesdon Manor, the historic National Trust property based in Buckinghamshire which is managed by a Rothschild family charitable trust. With a background in music and the performing arts, Simon previously held the position of General Manager of Town Hall Birmingham, a 1,000-seat concert hall. He was the founding Centre Director of LSO St Luke’s, the London Symphony Orchestra’s music education centre. He was also a Clore Fellow in the second year of the Clore Leadership Programme. Simon is also the Chair of the dance-circus company Motionhouse, and he sings in the London Symphony Chorus in the tenor section.

Waddesdon was created by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in the 1880s to display his outstanding collection of art treasures, and to entertain fashionable society. Fast-forward to 2019, and Waddesdon welcomes nearly half a million visitors annually to a year-round programme of events and temporary exhibitions. Now one of the most-visited National Trust sites and managed by The Rothschild Foundation charity, there are hundreds of staff and volunteers who are responsible for looking after visitors throughout the season, plus managing the constant planning, maintenance, conservation, investment and challenges that are involved.

In his talk, Simon will share some of his own experiences of working at Waddesdon, and he will illustrate many of the highlights of the Waddesdon year.


Season 2018-2019

The Mansion House, City of London

Sunday 14 April 2019 at 3 pm

Nicholas Thompson B Arch (Hons), RIBA, is a British architect who has specialised in the refurbishment and redecoration of historic buildings in the UK.  Having trained at Edinburgh University and with pre-qualification experience in Chicago, he joined in 1974 the specialist London architectural practice founded 60 years ago by Sir Donald Insall which went on to direct the post-fire restoration of Windsor Castle between 1992 and 1997.  Since his retirement as chairman of the practice from 1998 to 2012, he has acted as consultant to the firm and continues architectural work from his home in rural Herefordshire, where he moved to in 2015.

Whilst working for the firm in London, he was involved in repair and refurbishment projects at many of the capital’s major historic buildings, including the Palace of Westminster, The Public Record Office, The Mansion House, Somerset House, St Bartholomew’s Hospital and The Royal Albert Hall, as well as the public open space of Trafalgar Square. He has also been responsible for a number of important country house projects, both privately-owned and belonging to the National Trust.

During this time he has also been able to write and lecture, to serve on advisory boards and to contribute to the activities of such charitable organisations as The Georgian Group and The Irish Georgian Society.  He was a trustee of the Brooking Architectural Museum and chairman of a trust founded in the UK to support the work of the Czech government at an historic neo-gothic castle in Bohemia.


The Mansion House was built between 1739 and 1752 to designs derived from Palladian prototypes by the architect, George Dance the Elder as a grand home for the City’s Lord Mayor during his term of office.  It is currently the home of the City’s 690th Lord Mayor, Charles Bowman, who will hand over to his successor in November.  As well as being the Lord Mayor’s home for a year, it is also the base from which he and his staff work and where he entertains on behalf of the City and of the Nation. The house is appropriately and richly furnished and houses the important collection of Dutch and Flemish paintings, mostly of the 17th century, bequeathed to the City by the property developer, Lord Samuel in 1987.

The house was closed in 1991-93 for a major programme of repair, refurbishment and redecoration, for which Donald Insall Associates were conservation architects and interior designers under the direction of Nicholas Thompson.

Nicholas Thompson’s illustrated lecture will refer to the building’s architecture, history and collections, its purpose and use, and will describe the extensive works carried out in 1991-93.

The lesser known Hanyanling terracotta Army

The lesser known Hanyanling terracotta Army

Sunday 5 November 2017, 3 pm


Bob Ollis is an expert in ceramics and Chinese antiquities . After a professional career in the British Army having served in various countries, the lure of the history of the Eastern Mediterranian prompted an interest in the silk road and cultures further east. China soon became the subject of study and, after obtaining a solid base in ancient Chinese cultures, founded an antique company specialising in items from the Neolithic period (3000 BC) to the Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644 AD).

After a short period, the business was joined by Anne-Marie Oostermeijer who herself dealt in Chinese furniture, and Ollis and Oostermeijer Chinese Antiquities was born. We have shown at various European Antique fairs for more than 20 years and, continue to provide items of quality to collectors and institutions but, also continue to update, on a daily basis, our knowledge of one of the worlds most fascinating cultures.

Considered to be the most important discovery of the last 25 years, the Yangling Mausoleum is the joint tomb of the Western Han Dynasty Emperor JingDi (Liuqi) and his Empress, Wang.

This short account is intended to highlight the importance of this discovery and of its significance in MINGQI. Most people are aware of the terracotta army of the First Emperor, Qin. Whilst digging for water in 1974, peasant farmers near Xian stumbled across what was to become the most famous discovery in Chinese history.

About 1 km from the mausoleum  pits were disovered,  containing life-size, terracotta statues of soldiers. Subsequent excavation revealed a complete army of about 6,000 in battle formation and accompanied by horses and chariots. This was the army that was to accompany Qin in the afterlife.

Now a National treasure, the excavated pits and reconstructed statues can be viewed by the public. Excavations are still continuing at the site and it is expected that further discoveries are imminent.

When Qin died in 206 BC the Imperial Han dynasty was born. The Han were only too aware of the existence of the army as it took over 25 years to complete and required thousands of workmen and vast amounts of materials to construct. They continued the practice of burying terracotta statues in underground chambers for use in the afterlife but never on such a grand scale as Qin’s army.

The first three Han Emperors were known to have had lavish burials with all that they could need in the next life but it was fourth Emperor, JingDi, who died in 141 BC, who attempted to emulate Qin and his vast, subterranean army.


The Housekeepers’s Tips, Tales & Tipples

The Housekeeper’s Tips, Tales & Tipples

Sunday 21 January 2018, 3 pm

2015-01-09_1600Christine Robinson, who spoke to us twice before, entered service at Chatsworth in 1974. Nestling in the heart of the beautiful Peak District and home of the Cavendish family and the Dukes of Devonshire for nearly 500 years, Chatsworth House is perhaps one of Britain’s greatest stately homes. Christine Robinson spent three summer vacations working at Chatsworth whilst a student of history at Newcastle upon Tyne University, and on her graduation in 1977 she began working full-time with the Chatsworth team. Intending only to stay for one year, she, like many others before and since, fell under Chatsworth’s spell and she retired as Head Housekeeper in 2015 after 38 years’ service. She still lives in the Estate village of Edensor in the heart of Chatsworth’s vibrant community.

In 2014 Christine published her memoirs, Chatsworth: The Housekeeper’s Tale, and following the success of this book, she was prompted to write a second book – Chatsworth: The Housekeeper’s Tips, Tales and Tipples (2017).

Her talk by the same title is an illustrated PowerPoint talk taking a light-hearted tour of Chatsworth, exploring the history of everyday objects in all our homes, and revealing more of Chatsworth’s hidden stories from her 40 years’ experience of working at one of the best-loved houses in England.

Christine is still involved with life at Chatsworth, volunteering for special events and giving talks at Chatsworth from time to time, and she also enjoys delivering talks about Chatsworth and the Chatsworth Estate to a variety of groups of all sizes, from 20 to 900, both locally and further afield, including successful lecture tours of the Netherlands and Switzerland.






The City of London, its Traditions & History

The City of London, its Traditions & History

Sunday 18th March 2018, 3 pm

Chris Allen is a senior guide at St Paul’s Cathedral with responsibility for one of the 9 teams of volunteers and guides who greet and assist visitors to the cathedral.  He is also one of the teachers  who train new guides and is the editor and co-writer of the cathedral’s Guide Training Handbook.  Chris is a London University graduate in Economics and Politics who worked for Hoechst, a German Chemical Company, for over thirty years becoming the Chairman and Managing Director of one of their IT subsidiary companies, HiServ UK .  He retired in 2001 and soon after became involved in St Paul’s Cathedral as a working volunteer.  In addition to his guiding responsibilities he is Assistant Secretary of the Cathedral Wandsmen, a group of sixty men and women who act as Ushers for the Sunday services as well as for the many ceremonial and special services. Active in the City of London, where he  is a Freeman of  the  City, he is a Liveryman and a  member of the Court  of the Worshipful Company of Tobacco Pipemakers, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Bakers and immediate past Chairman of the Queenhithe Ward Club, one of the twenty four ward clubs of the City.

The City of  London is unique in the UK in having a separate governance structure dating back over 800 years. It has its own Lord Mayor elected each year by the Liverymen of the City who meet in the ancient Guildhall in the heart of the city on midsummer day to choose the candidates.

There are over 100 Livery Companies ancient and modern representing trades old and new and some representing trades which no longer exist.  They all support charitable causes raising over £45 million last year.

There are two Sheriffs also elected by the Liverymen whose office is more ancient than the Lord Mayor’s. They support the Lord Mayor in his year of office and live in the Old Bailey which is the central criminal court, where they look after the Judges.

National Trust’s Eyam Hall

National Trust’s Eyam Hall

Sunday 15 April 2018, 3pm

Eyam HallLois McGill is a retired higher education lecturer in I.T. with a keen interest in history and the theatre.  Since retirement, she volunteers as a guide at Eyam Hall, the village being better known as the Plague Village whose inhabitants chose to isolate themselves in the 17th century, so stopping the spread of the plague but at a great cost to themselves.  She also helps at the beautifully restored Victorian Buxton Opera House.  She is a keen walker and has walked many of the UK’s long distance paths and belongs to a local dance team keeping alive the clog dancing and Appalachian dancing traditions.

The small village of Eyam nestles in the Derbyshire hills and you need to make a detour to get there as it is not on the road to anywhere else, but in the 17th century it was a bustling village with 12 pubs and village green stocks to keep the rowdiness of the local lead-miners in check.

Then in September 1665 the plague arrived.  A bundle of cloth from London, where the plague had already killed 25,000, arrived at the cottage of George Vicars.  Within a  week several of the family were dead.  More died that Autumn and then the numbers lessened over the winter to begin again with a vengeance the next Spring.  The Vicar, William Mompesson, came up with a plan.  He persuaded the villagers to quarantine themselves – this they did for a year at a great cost – about 300 villagers died.  It did halt the spread of the disease in the area.  The tales of grief and sacrifice, but also greed and shame are many.

Living in Eyam at the time of the plague was one Thomas Wright, a wealthy landowner and 5 years after the plague he bought a dwelling and farmland from a Thomas Brae. He rebuilt the house in the Jacobean style and gave it to his son, John, as a wedding present on his marriage to Elizabeth Kniveton (much more to say of this lady).  The house has remained in the Wright family for 12 generations and still belongs to them; the National Trust just look after it and open it to the public.

It is the stories of these 12 generations which tell the story of England through four centuries.  The Wrights began as wealthy lead mine owners, then military men then in the 19th and 20th century became middle class professionals – doctors, lawyers, farmers and vicars.

The house has barely altered – the last major change was in 1700 when the kitchen was changed to a dining room (previously the main hall was more medieval in usage and multi-purpose – everyone from the lowest to the highest dining together) and the kitchen wing added.  Since then a corridor was put in upstairs, (in 1672 corridors would have been considered a waste of space);  privacy was not an issue and minor cosmetic changes have occurred but Elizabeth, the first lady of the house, would still recognise it today.


Shakespeare’s Literary Lives: The Author as Character in Fiction & Film

Shakespeare’s Literary Lives: The author as Character in Fiction & Film

Sunday 12th March 2017, 3 pm


paul_franssen_smallPaul Franssen (1955) is a lecturer in older English literature at the English Department of Utrecht University. He has written many articles on the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, co-edited scholarly volumes of articles on Shakespeare and War (Palgrave, 2008) and Shakespeare and European Politics (Associated University Press, 2008), and has recently published a monograph on Shakespeare as a literary character, entitled Shakespeare’s Literary Lives (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

On 23 April 2016, we celebrated the four hundredth anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death (1564-1616). Dr. Paul Franssen will speak about the genius of Shakespeare. After a brief biographical introduction, he will first address Shakespeare’s rise to canonical status, both in the UK and on the Continent, particularly the Low Countries. Finally, he will investigate Shakespeare’s current fame, and ask what is its basis? Continue reading