Harpenden Evening Web Page

Detailed Programme of Lectures 2021-2022

Our next lecture, January 2022, will be on Zoom.  The Lecture will start at 8:00pm.


19th January 2022
Lecturer: Mark Ovenden 

The Woman who Told us Where To Go!
You may not have heard of her, but from the early 1960s a young student called Margaret Calvert began working with designer Jock Kinneir and their work utterly transformed the entire face of modern Britain. They designed the road sign system from the typeface to the colours and shapes. They created the look of British Rail. Their signage was used by every hospital and NHS building. They created the yellow and black wayfinding system of British airports. And all of their ideas were copied around the world. Celebrate Calvert & Kinneir in this revealing lecture and you’ll never look at the UK the same again.

Harpenden Road Sign

Mark Ovenden

Mark Ovenden is a broadcaster and author who specialises in the subjects of graphic design, cartography and architecture in public transport, with an emphasis on underground rapid transit.
His first book Metro Maps of the World published in 2003 is a guide to the diagrams, plans and maps of underground rapid transit system including images ranging from photos of the systems to rare and historical maps. Other books include Paris Metro Style in map and station design, Railway Maps of the World and London Underground by Design published by Penguin Books in January 2013. He published a celebration of the Johnston typeface centenary and 90th Anniversary of Gill Sans in 2016. His broadcasting has included a television documentary for BBC Four in July 2017 on the subject of Johnston and Gill and a documentary for BBC Radio 4 on skyscrapers in November 2018.

The Remainder of Lectures 2022

16th February 2022 
Lecturer: Valerie Shrimplin 

‘Art and Astronomy’. Michelangelo, Copernicus and the Sistine Chapel: The Last Judgement Decoded.

Situated on the altar wall in the most important chapel in Christendom, Michelangelo’s monumental fresco of the Last Judgment (painted 1536-41) in the Sistine Chapel in Rome could easily lay claim to being one of the most significant paintings in the world. In its depiction of the end of the universe, the importance of the fresco was immediately recognised by contemporaries, becoming a focus for controversy as well as admiration. In an attempt to ‘decode’ the fresco and explain its hidden meaning, the Judao-Christian tradition of cosmological symbolism in art and architecture will be examined, and the influence of the astronomer Copernicus will be argued as a key underlying theme. Centred on the depiction of Christ as an Apollonian 'sun-god', the fresco appears to relate to Copernicus’s theory of the sun-centred universe (heliocentricity).

Valerie Shrimplin 

Valerie is currently Senior Research Associate at Gresham College London (previously Registrar and Secretary of the College). Having studied at the Universities of Bristol, Manchester and the Witwatersrand, she has lectured extensively on Byzantine, Medieval and Renaissance art and architecture and published widely on the influence of astronomy and cosmology on art, and wrote a PhD on the influence of Copernican heliocentricity on Michelangelo’s Sistine Last Judgment (the subject of our lecture). After her main career in education management, she now works freelance, in order to pursue her writing and research. She is Chair of the series of Conferences on the Inspiration of Astronomical Phenomena (www.insap.org) and the author of many publications.

16th March 2022
Lecturer: Toby Faber

Faber and Faber: 90 years of Excellence in Cover Design
Since its foundation in 1925, Faber and Faber has built a reputation as one of London’s most important literary publishing houses. Part of that relates to the editorial team that Geoffrey Faber and his successors built around them - TS Eliot was famously an early recruit - but a large part is also due to the firm’s insistence on good design and illustration. This lecture traces the history of Faber and Faber through its illustrations, covers and designs. Early years brought innovations like the Ariel Poems – single poems, beautifully illustrated, sold in their own envelopes. In the 1950s and 1960s, there was an emphasis on typography, led by the firm’s art director Berthold Wolpe; his Albertus font is still used on City of London road signs. In the 1980s, the firm started its association with Pentagram, responsible for the ff logo. Along the way, it has employed some of our most celebrated artists as cover illustrators – from Rex Whistler and Barnett Freedman to Peter Blake and Damien Hirst. Slides will range from book covers, advertisements and photos of key individuals, to illustrations of the concepts behind the designs. The talk will also be peppered with personal insight and anecdote.  

Toby Faber 

Toby is an experienced lecturer and public speaker who has been accredited by The Arts Society since 2012. His career began with Natural Sciences at Cambridge and has been through investment banking, management consulting and five years as managing director of the publishing company founded by his grandfather, Faber and Faber. He is also non-executive Chairman of its sister company, Faber Music and a director of Liverpool University Press.

Faber and Faber is the last of the great publishing houses to remain independent. As the grandson of its founder, Toby grew up steeped in its books. He remains on the board, is passionate about the firm’s success, and intensely proud of his association with it.  Toby has written three narrative histories: Stradivarius – Five Violins, One Cello and a Genius; Faberge’s Eggs; and Faber & Faber – The Untold Story, as well as a novel, Close to the Edge. Of these, only the obvious one is published by the family firm.

20th April 2022
Lecturer: Cynthia Sparke 

‘The Chicken and the Egg’ Fabergé: Objects Of Desire:
A Look At The Enduring Appeal Of The House Of Fabergé, The Business Visionary At Its Helm And The Imperial Patronage That Ensured Its Prestige

Exactly how did a modest jewellery concern with an extremely un-Russian sounding name become an enduring symbol of Romanov luxury?  This talk takes us beyond the legendary Easter eggs to consider the design sources, materials and techniques that distinguished the legendary Russian firm from its contemporaries. We look in particular at Faberge gifts that were selected to convey romantic ties, filial devotion, diplomatic esteem, and even loyalty from a beloved pet. 

Cynthia Sparke 

Cynthia is an independent researcher, author and lecturer on Russian Pre-Revolutionary works of art, consulting regularly on Fabergé for auction houses. Having periodically grown up on and off in Moscow within a family of Russian art collectors, she was destined for a career in Russian art. Previously, she ran the Russian Department for Christie’s in New York and worked for Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens in Washington DC. This was followed by a restoration project at the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo, Nicholas II’s last residence. Her book Russian Decorative Arts was published in 2014 by the Antique Collectors’ Club. Cynthia now lives permanently in London. 

18th May 2022  
Lecturer: Harry Venning 

The Art of the Cartoonist
In 'The Art Of The Cartoonist' Harry will be tracing the history of his profession with examples from early practitioners like Cruickshank and Hogarth, to more contemporary artists such as Giles and Schulz, bringing events right up to date with cartoons produced fresh on the page that day! Yes, Harry will be drawing live. Prepare to hear some tricks of his trade, learn where to put eyebrows for maximum effect and discover exactly what the eskimo brothers said in The Funniest Joke Ever (possibly).

Harry Venning 

Harry has been a professional cartoonist for thirty years, during which time he has provided cartoons for several high profile UK publications (The Guardian, Radio Times) as well as for countless more obscure titles (British Journal Of Wound Care). He was awarded UK Strip Cartoonist of The Year for his Guardian strip Clare In The Community, which he adapted into a Radio 4 sitcom

15th June 2022 
Lecturer: Sarah Burles 

Kettle’s Yard: A Masterpiece of Curatorship
Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge has been described as “one of the country’s most intimate and spellbinding museums, the collection of one man and his unerring eye; restorative, homely yet life-changing”. This man was H.S. ‘Jim’ Ede, curator, writer, collector and friend to artists. In1957, he opened his Cambridge home to university students as “a living place where works of art could be enjoyed… unhampered by the greater austerity of the museum or public art gallery.” His collection included works by Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Christopher Wood, Alfred Wallis and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska which were carefully placed alongside pieces of furniture, ceramics and natural objects. His curated home remains by and large as he left it, characterised by its unique atmosphere, fascinating juxtapositions and personal connections. This lecture will discuss the life of Jim Ede, his collecting, his vision for Kettles Yard and its enduring legacy.

Sarah Burles 

Sarah studied History of Art at Cambridge University before doing a master’s degree at University College London. She went on to have a career in museum and gallery education, establishing new services in three different museums before working at the Fitzwilliam Museum for many years.   Sarah is the founder of Cambridge Art Tours, which runs tours and courses in and around East Anglia. She is also a Tour Director for a travel company and has led tours to Italy, France, Germany, Belgium and America. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Sarah moved her work online, offering art history courses to audiences all over the world. 

20th July  2022
Lecturer: Tessa Boase

The Housekeepers Tale: The Women Who Really Ran the English Country House
As the most senior of upper servants, the housekeeper typically carried a family’s secrets with her to the grave. She ran the English country house, controlled its female servants and conserved its many treasures – and yet she has not been remembered history. Using old letters, secret diaries and neglected archives, Tessa has resurrected a series of fascinating stories from 19th and 20th century domestic service, at some of our most prominent households. The lecture sets this role in its historic context, looks at some of the individual stories uncovered, then focuses more deeply on an individual housekeeper’s tale.

Tessa Boase

Tessa is a freelance lecturer for The Arts Society along with other organisations such as the V&A, English Heritage and the National Trust. She’s the author of two books of social history: The Housekeeper’s Tale – The Women Who Really Ran the English Country House, and Mrs Pankhurst’s Purple Feather – Fashion, Fury and Feminism, Women’s Fight for Change. Her interest lies in uncovering stories of invisible women of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, revealing how they drove industry, propped up high society and manipulated politics. Tessa has an MA in English Literature from Oxford University, a diploma in Art History from the British Institute of Florence, and has enjoyed a long career in journalism for national newspapers and magazines. 

21st September 2022
Lecturer: Richard Burnip

The Flashman Stories and the Film Screenplays of George Macdonald Fraser How the author deployed his impeccable sense of history and feel for character in print and on screen.
Best known for his Flashman series of novels, George MacDonald Fraser possessed a remarkable ear for the voices of the past, and a huge knowledge of, and affection for, popular literature and cinema. From his comic stories of military life based on his own experiences in the Gordon Highlanders, to his nimble and vivid scripts for the 1970s Three Musketeers films, this lecture looks at the way in which Fraser dovetailed fiction with history in his novels and brought a unique perspective to his film work.

Richard Burnip

Richard took a BA Hons in English Language and Literature from the University of Manchester, followed by an acting diploma at the Birmingham School of Speech and Drama. He combines acting, writing and lecturing. He has lectured in many venues including the National Army Museum and the Museum of London, and is currently presenting a variety of virtual lectures online. Richard has contributed to, among others, The Journal of Popular Film and Television, The Sherlock Holmes Journal, and the P G Wodehouse journal Wooster Sauce. A specialist in voice work, he has narrated numerous documentaries and 150 audiobooks.

19th October (TBC) 2022
Lecturer: Rupert Dickens

Norman Rockwell and the Heyday Of the Illustrator 
Norman Rockwell’s folksy images of middle America were dismissed for decades by art critics as over-sentimental and banal.  But his reputation has soared in recent years as a new generation comes to appreciate his humanity and inventiveness and he is revered by film directors George Lucas and Steven Spielberg for his brilliant storytelling. At their best, his paintings reconcile midwestern values with progressive ideals and artistic traditionalism with optimism about the modern world.  This lecture traces the roots of Rockwell’s art through his immediate predecessor and idol J.C. Leyendecker, back to the 19th century work of Winslow Homer and Howard Pyle.    

Rupert Dickens

Rupert Dickens is an art historian based in south London with a special interest in Dutch and Flemish 16th and 17th century painting. He works at the Wallace Collection as a guide conducting public and private tours and lecturing on aspects of the collection. Rupert is also a tour director for a Cambridge-based company accompanying groups on art-themed tours to the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Austria and Italy. He has lectured to large audiences on subjects as diverse as the game of chess in art and Madame de Pompadour’s artistic patronage in 18th century France. He studied art history at Birkbeck College before undertaking a Masters in Dutch Golden Age Studies at University College London. Before that Rupert had a 26-year career as a BBC journalist and finally as an editor in radio news. 

16th November 2022  
Lecturer: Anna Warrillow 

History Of The City Of London As Told Through Its Stained Glass
The history of the City of London is a long and illustrious one, from Medieval plague to the Great Fire of London to the Blitz of the Second World War, we encounter stories as well as known personalities such as Dick Whittington, Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare. The churches, Halls and civic buildings of the City house some of the most interesting stained-glass windows, each of which tells its own part of London’s story. Many of them have withstood the ravages of the Second World War and can chart their history back to the early foundations of the City. We shall be tracing the story of the City of London through its glass windows. Enjoy a fascinating journey through the streets of London to discover its hidden gems and learn about some of the best 19th, 20th and contemporary stained-glass windows in London.

Anna Warrillow 

Anna graduated as a Blue Badge Guide early in 2013 and won an award for the best new guide at Westminster Abbey. Since then she has been conducting bespoke private tours for discerning visitors to London. She established her own guiding company Canvas and Stone Tours in 2018 (www.canvasandstonetours.co.uk). Her background and passion is Art & History. She studied for my BA in History of Art & Italian at the University of Sussex and did her MA in Renaissance Decorative Arts & Design at the Royal College of Art.  She worked for 6 years as a curator in the Sculpture Department at the Victoria & Albert Museum as well as in smaller collections such as the Henry Moore Family Trust. As well as guiding she is an adjunct lecturer at Richmond The American International University in London where she teaches undergraduates The History of London.  She lectures regularly for art, history and academic societies as well as providing training courses and Continual Professional Development courses for students and guide members of the Institute of Tourist Guides.



For the complete years programme click here