The Arts Society Wirral lectures are held at Heswall Hall on the 3rd Monday of every month. They start at 2pm and the doors are open from 1.00pm.  The lectures will run for approximately 1 hour. There are no lectures in the summer months of July and August.

May we remind all our members that from Friday 10th December, it is a requirement that all those attending events at a Community Centre, which of course Heswall Hall is, should wear a mask.

We also ask that you are double vaccinated before attending any of our lectures. To ensure the safety of others please take a lateral flow test within 24 hours before you come to Heswall Hall.

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Mad Men and the Artists- how the advertising industry has exploited fine art

Tony Rawlins

21 Feb 2022

Fine art has provided advertisers and their agencies with a great deal of material to use in their creative campaigns. Tony describes some of the processes by which these advertisements have been created and why the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo have been a particularly rich source. From the Renaissance through to the present day fine art continues to provide opportunities to enhance Brand imagery with admiration, humour, satire and irony.

In an entertaining and informative lecture Tony uses a wide range of visuals and video to show examples of the original works, the creative process and the (not always entirely successful) advertisements that are the end result.

Tony was educated at Highgate School, starting his career in advertising in 1965 as a mail boy in J.Walter Thompson. He graduated through the training system there to become an account director and subsequently worked in a number of agencies before setting up on his own in 1985. There he handled primarily Guinness advertising in Africa and the Caribbean, where he produced many commercials and print ads for them over a period of 15 years. He remains active as a consultant in the industry, but now concentrates on more philanthropic projects - producing a film in the rural villages of Nigeria for the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. More recently he has completed a sanitation project in Haiti after it was devastated by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.  

He has been a member of The Arts Society for many years. His earlier lecturing experience includes presenting to client groups, sales conferences and students of creative advertising in the UK and overseas. More recently he has been lecturing to Arts Societies in the UK and Europe.

Sarah Dunant

The Borgias: The most Infamous family in history

21 Mar 2022

Murder, poison, corruption and incest: all perfect ingredients for sensational popular culture. But in an age known for its brutality and church corruption were the Borgias really so bad? This lecture reveals the real family that dominated the Papacy and Italian politics during the last decade of the 15th century: the charismatic figure of Pope Alexander VI, living inside his sumptuously decorated apartments, the career of his son, Cesare, cardinal, general, employer of Da Vinci and the model for Machiavelli’s The Prince, and the journey of Lucrezia Borgia from “the greatest whore in Rome” to a devout and treasured duchess of the city Ferrara. Sometimes truth is more intoxicating than myth.


Novelist, broadcaster and critic.  Sarah read history at Cambridge, then worked for many years as a cultural journalist in radio and television on such programmes as Kaleidoscope (BBC Radio 4), The Late Show (BBC 2), and Night Waves (BBC Radio 3). She has published thirteen  novels, taught renaissance studies at Washington University, St Louis, is a visiting tutor on the MA in creative writing at Oxford Brooks and has lectured around the world at festivals and conferences. Her last five novels have been set within the Italian Renaissance. Her next, In the Name of the Family (to be published in 2017)  completes the story of the Borgia family and the remarkable period of Italian history in which they lived.​


Shimmering Splendour: Silk in SE Asia

Denise Heywood 

25 Apr 2022

Luxurious, sumptuous silk, beloved of kings and courts, priests and princesses, is a miracle of nature. The thread of silkworms, woven into fabric, a process guarded in China when discovered, became so valuable it was a source of currency. This sensual material, created in countries from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam to Thailand, Burma, Bali and Philippines, embellishes all who wear it. But its origins were sacred, a gift from the gods, to cover holy manuscripts, adorn sacred dancers in rituals and protect wearers with auspicious symbols. This lecture shows the origins of silk, most dazzling of all natural creations, revealing its transformation from silkworm cocoons, dyed and woven in glorious colours and complex patterns. Images of sartorial splendour, glamorising handsome film stars, ennobling monarchs at royal courts and enhancing dancers’ ethereal beauty in Hindu temples, illustrate how human and divine forms have been enriched by this shimmering material.

Denise is an Art historian, author, lecturer, photographer and journalist. Worked in Cambodia in the 1990s and has been a scholar of Southeast Asian art ever since. Her books include one on the Buddhist temples of Laos, Ancient Luang Prabang and Laos, also in French, and Cambodian Dance Celebration of the Gods, with a foreword by the daughter of King Sihanouk. Lectures for the Art Fund, the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) on their post graduate Asian Art Course and for Madingley Hall (University of Cambridge); also for organisations such as the British Museum, the Royal Society for Asian Affairs, Asia House, the National Trust, the Royal Geographical Society and has lectured worldwide for universities, museums, colleges, art institutions, literary societies and travel organisations. She writes for many art, literary and travel publications and has appeared on television and radio. She has led cultural tours to Southeast Asia and France for the Royal Academy, the Art Fund, Asia House and many more and lectures on cruise ships. A member of the Association of Southeast Asian Studies in the UK, Asia House and the Royal Geographical Society.


Simon Seligman

From Venice to Sheffield: John Ruskin’s Passion for Art, Craft and Social Justice 

16 May 2022

Inspired by the bicentenary of the birth of John Ruskin (1819 – 1900) in 2019, this lecture celebrates the extraordinary life and work of this visionary Victorian. As writer, teacher, artist, collector, patron and critic, Ruskin was perhaps the most complete polymath of the 19th century. He left behind a dazzling range of writing and collections that continue to inspire and generate debate around the world. Perhaps most famous today as a champion of Turner and admirer of Venice, Ruskin’s impact ranged far and wide; his ideas inspired the Arts and Crafts Movement and the foundling of the National Trust, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and the Labour Movement. George Eliot wrote ‘I venerate him as one of the great teachers of the day’, and he influenced the thinking of Tolstoy, Proust and Gandhi among others.

Alongside this international reach, Ruskin became deeply concerned by what he saw as the negative impacts of the industrialisation of 19th century England, and as a teacher, thinker and philanthropist he set up projects that aspired to give the working man access to beauty, art, craft and the land. In 1871, he founded what became the Guild of St George, the charity for arts, crafts and the rural economy, and gave it a sizeable collection of art, books and minerals for public display and education in Sheffield. Today, cared for by Museums Sheffield, the collection continues to honour his legacy, sharing something of Ruskin’s encyclopedic European sensibility for the benefit of a 21st century city. This lecture spans Ruskin’s life and work from the timeless and global to the intimate and exquisite, to paint a portrait of a great life.


Simon Seligman studied art and architectural history at Warwick University, including a semester in Venice. He is also Graduate of the Attingham Summer school. From 1991 until 2010, Simon worked at Chatsworth, in a variety of roles, latterly as Head of Communications. He has lectured about Chatsworth, the Devonshire Collection and associated topics, throughout the UK and on several US tours (including the Metropolitan Museum and the National Gallery of Art). He has given numerous public presentations and interviews with the late Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire. Publications include written or edited guidebooks and  articles for and about Chatsworth.


English Women and the French Revolution

Karin Fernald

20 Jun 2022

Early in the French Revolution, English women of letters visit Paris. Some stay there. Mary Wollstonecraft is there for the execution of Louis XVI. Grace Dalrymple hides the governor of the Tuileries Palace between two mattresses in her own bed, and stays in the bed for four hours while her apartment is searched. Painted by Gainsborough, her portrait is in the Frick Museum, New York. Fanny Burney, Hannah Moore and Helen Maria Williams are among others and we shall see their portraits by contemporary French artists such as Louis-Leopold Boilly and Jean-Baptiste Lesueur. 

Karin Fernald, actor, writer and speaker, has an excellent reputation as a solo performer on arts and literary subjects.  She researches and writes her own material to create a spell-binding recreation of a character and a historical period. She also works with musicians and performers to combine words and music. She has appeared at festivals all over England; on tour in Japan, Australia and Europe, and at the University of Cape Town Summer School. London venues include the National Portrait Gallery, the Foundling Museum, Dr. Johnson’s House and the Hurlingham Club. She is a speaker for The Arts Society on Fanny Burney, Jane Austen, Queen Victoria, Hans Christian Andersen, Florence Nightingale and other  l8th and l9th century writers and correspondents connected with the arts; some are artists themselves.  Extensive researches into diaries and letters bring subjects to vivid life. Most recently-researched subjects are Perdita Robinson; poet, actress, fashion icon and first mistress of George lV; and that unending source of instruction and fascination, Virginia Woolf.

Karin trained as an actor at RADA and worked in theatre, TV and radio until branching out with her solo show on Fanny Burney and then turning it into a popular lecture, the first of many.  She  has a distinguished theatrical background, having appeared at  London’s Haymarket theatre with Sir Ralph Richardson, and at the Savoy Theatre opposite Robert Morley in his hit comedy A GHOST ON TIPTOE. She has  played ISABELLA in MEASURE FOR MEASURE and MARIANE in TARTUFFE at Stratford, Ontario; SALLY BOWLES in the first production of CABARET outside London, and ELIZABETH BENNET in a nation-wide tour of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.  TV roles include ANNE WILMOT FORSYTE in THE FORSYTE SAGA.  More recently she became  a member of John Calder’s Theatre of Literature, and  has appeared in Michael Friend Productions at Leonie Scott Matthews’  well-known Fringe 


Indians Buffalo and Storms: The American West in 19th century art. 

Toby Faber

19th September 2022

Artists were never far behind the explorers who opened up the west of America in the 19th Century. Sometimes they painted what they saw. Sometimes they painted what they wished they saw. Either way, painters like Alfred Miller, Frederick Church and Albert Bierstadt have left us a powerful, if romanticised, record of the country and people that the settlers found. Now we can use their pictures to chart the  history of the opening of America’s west - the arrival of the railroad, the confinement of native Americans into reservations, and the extermination of the buffalo.

This is a story on a big scale and it seems appropriate that among the pictures illustrating the lecture are some of the largest and most grandiloquent paintings of the era. After a period of deep neglect, they are now very much back in vogue, but whatever one thinks of their artistic merits, I hope audiences will agree with me that they are, above all, great fun. 

Toby, a frequent visitor to Wirral, has written two works of narrative history, Stradivarius and Fabergé's Eggs, published by Macmillan in the UK and Random House in the US, and given lectures associated with these two subjects at venues including The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Library of Congress and the Huntington Library, as well as a number of literary festivals. 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, where he remains on the board. He is also non-executive Chairman of its sister company, Faber Music and a director of Liverpool University Press and the Copyright Licensing Agency.


Portmeirion: A Welsh Italianate Fantasy

Matthew Williams

17th October 2022

Portmeirion is an extraordinary surprise; a colourful and delightful fantasy village on the coast of north Wales.   Created from the 1920s by the remarkable architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, Portmeirion was his personal defiance against the advance of modernism and what he saw as the despoilment of Britain. By the 1950s it had become the playground of artists, intellectuals, aristocrats and the merely rich. Regular visitors included H G Wells, Bertand Russell and Noel Coward (who wrote Blithe Spirit at Portmeirion).

Sir Clough’s daughter Susan created Portmeirion Pottery, which during the 1960s and 70s, was synonymous with cutting-edge ceramic style.


This lecture looks at the place, its architecture and associations. Matthew also draws on some personal memories, as his uncle was Resident Director of Portmeirion for 30 years.

Mathew lectures widely on the subject of design, and is especially interested in that of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A recognised expert in the work of the designer William Burges, he has been the Curator of Cardiff Castle since 1990 and has published widely in art and architectural journals. A long standing member of The Arts Society, Matthew has been a Volunteers Representative, a Programme Secretary and a Chairman. He has been an accredited lecturer of The Arts Society since 2001.


William Morris and Wallpapers

Joanna Banham

21 Nov 2022

William Morris was a one-man pattern-making phenomenon whose work had a powerful and lasting impact on many areas of interior design. He is probably best-known today as a designer of wallpapers and this lecture examines the development and production of his work in this genre from his early medievalising patterns to his more elegant mature style. It explores the sources and inspiration for his wallpapers, changes in style, and how and where they were used, all within the context of 19th century design.

Jo Banham is a freelance curator, lecturer and writer. From 2006-2016 she was Head of Adult Learning at the Victoria & Albert Museum, and before that Head of Learning and Access at the National Portrait Gallery, and Head of Public Programmes at Tate Britain. She has also been Curator of Leighton House and Assistant Keeper at the Whitworth Art Gallery. She has published on many aspects of Victorian and early 20th century decoration and interiors. She is currently curating an exhibition on William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement for the Juan March Fundacion in Madrid and the Museu Nacional d’Art Catalunya in Barcelona. She is also Director of the Victorian Society Summer School.


The Kingdom of the Sweets: All about the Nutcracker.

Nigel Bates

5th December 2022

The Nutcracker has delighted audiences at Christmas for many decades yet it was deemed a failure at its first performances.  We take a close look at how this well-loved ballet now takes its rightful place on stage and how the music of Tchaikovsky along with story-telling, design and dance all come together to make the most magical escape for young and old alike.  Includes several performance video clips.

Nigel Bates is the Music Administrator of The Royal Ballet and has been a performer for nearly forty years in and out of the Royal Opera House, including seventeen years as Principal Percussionist with the Orchestra. He has worked with many of the leading figures in the classical music industry and was also a producer for both the BBC'sMaestro at the Opera and Pappano's Classical Voices documentary series.


Venice - Queen of the Adriatic

Hugh Ellwood

16th January 2023

What was once a refugee camp on the coast of the Adriatic became a wealthy republic and trade centre. A link between east and west, it produced some of the finest art, architecture and music in the world. 

Hugh studied philosophy in Rome, followed by a degree in architecture at the University of Manchester. Previously an architect partner with Building Design Partnership, the largest multi-discipline design organisation in the UK, and was for some years an external examiner in architecture at the University of Manchester. For several years he was a visiting lecturer in the history of art and architecture at the University of Central Lancashire. A watercolourist, and has also lectured extensively to various societies and organisations, including cruises, on art and architecture.


The Power of Photography

Roger Mendham

20th February 2023

Photographs have the ability to stop time, to provide a freeze-frame of a moment in time and space. They give the observer the opportunity to think, to react, to feel and to soak in the details of the circumstances surrounding the image. This talk examines some the most important images and photographers of the past century. It explores why these images are so powerful and influential in our understanding of history. 

A keen and accomplished photographer Roger is now retired and has many years’ experience of public speaking. His interest in art was sparked by his wife’s academic studies into the History of Art and has a particular interest in 20th century art. Because of his passion for photography he tends to focus on the visual aspects of art and is currently studying public art.  He has researched numerous statues and monuments and is interested in how they have evolved in response to cultural changes over the past century. 


Berthe Morisot: "Une Finesse Fragonardienne"

Lois Oliver

20th March 2023

Impressionist Berthe Morisot is known for her light-filled canvases of modern life: afternoons boating on a lake, young women in ballgowns, children playing. Yet, her contemporaries perceived a connection with the eighteenth century. Renoir considered her ‘the last elegant and ‘feminine’ artist that we have had since Fragonard.’ And the art critic Paul Girard, surveying the 1896 retrospective of her work in Paris,  declared, ‘it is the eighteenth century modernised.’

Eighteenth-century art fell from favour following the French Revolution but was ‘rediscovered’ in the mid-nineteenth century by collectors including Louis La Caze and Hippolyte Walferdin. Morisot copied works by Boucher in the Musée du Louvre and elsewhere; she experimented with red chalk, a technique closely associated with Rococo drawings. She also greatly admired the English painters Gainsborough, Reynolds and Romney, whose work she first encountered on honeymoon in the Isle of Wight and London in 1875.

Complementing an exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery, this lecture traces Morisot’s engagement with eighteenth-century culture, and highlights what set her apart from her predecessors and contemporaries.

Dr Lois Oliver studied English Literature at Cambridge University, and History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art, completing an MA in Venetian Renaissance Art and a PhD thesis on The Image of the Artist, Paris 1815-1855. She worked at the Harvard Art Museums before joining the curatorial team at the V&A and then the National Gallery, where she curated several exhibitions and contributed to major re-displays of the collections. Currently Curator of Paintings and Sculpture at the Royal Academy, Associate Professor in History of Art at the University of Notre Dame in London, and a Visiting Lecturer at the Courtauld Institute, Lois also writes audio and multimedia tours for clients including the National Gallery, Royal Academy, Royal Collection, and Tate, and has appeared on BBC Radio and TV. Also a keen violinist, Lois plays regularly with Kensington Chamber Orchestra and the Endellion Festival Orchestra.