Lecture Reviews

Scroll down or click on the jump links below to read a short review of each of our recent 2023-24 talks.

Kate Peake - Gloucestershire events and traditions

While Kate describes herself as an amateur videographer, her series of short films were of professional quality, carefully edited and with some stunning shots, certainly justifying the variety of awards she has received. Besides the time filming, by hand and with a drone, she reckons that a finished five-minute video with voice over can take another six hours or more to prepare. Amongst those she played were the Tewkesbury Civil War re-enactment, Brockworth Cheese-rolling, and the Gloucester Tall Ships. The particular historic value of recording such events was brought home to us when, after showing the 2019 Wassailing ceremony in Stroud, she mentioned that it had not been repeated since. Kate has made a number of other short films and we look forward to inviting her back to see her work on the Cotswold countryside from a completely new perspective.

Alison Lister – Textile Conservation


Visiting National Trust and other historic houses, Churches, Museums and Galleries, we may be unaware of the vast amount of background work required to maintain the fabric of the buildings and preserve their contents to continue the memories. We were given a fascinating insight to an important part of this. Alison moved to the SouthWest 20 years ago, having begun her training in conservation some years before with Dame Karen Finch at the Textile Conservation Centre, then based in Hampton Court. Progressing through internships and then leading the TCC’s MA course, she joined the Textile Conservation Studio, now Bristol’s Textile Conservation Limited, of which she is the owner and director, employing a permanent staff of two and a variety of other freelance conservators as needed. Alison’s enthusiasm was evident as she took us through the training and knowledge required before describing the breadth of work undertaken by her team, from the interventive restoration of embroideries, through the stabilisation of World War II flags to the cleaning of huge tapestries, such as Graham Sutherland’s Christ in Glory at Coventry Cathedral. Along the way Alison enumerated the many challenges faced in her work on the practical side of conservation, and concluded by highlighting the challenges faced by her small business, competing for contracts in our uncertain times. 

Angela Lerwill - Tales of a Sussex Family Farm

It is not often that one of our own members features on our programme, so it was a particular pleasure to hear from Angela Lerwill. Recently turned author, Angela self-published her first book ‘Tales of a Sussex Family Farm’ in June 2023. Her writing was a product of Lockdown during the Covid pandemic, and she began by telling us how she progressed from short accounts in a local newsletter to the completed book, and how her style was influenced by James Rebanks’ writings about Cumbria. After leading us through family life with her parents Berns and Counsello and her elder brother and sister during the latter part of the 20th C, Angela then talked about the changing face of agriculture during this time. Despite the challenges, mixed farming at Frithwood in the Arun valley remained true to the old fashioned ways, and so all the better for the welfare of the pigs, the beef cattle, and the 1400 free range Christmas Bronze Turkeys. Reading a small selection of tales from her book Angela, with some emotion, highlighted happy, sad and funny episodes on the farm. Sadly the farmhouse is now a weekend cottage and the fields taken over by others. An inspirational presentation from Angela and her husband Brian, which evoked fond memories for us all.

John Huggins - Backstreet Bronze Casting: don't try this at home!

In 1976 John forsook his career in teaching to become a full-time sculptor, working in bronze. So, on a tight budget, he set up his own garage studio, recycling and repurposing second-hand equipment to build a kiln and furnace. Over the last 50 years, while remaining close to his roots in Gloucestershire, John has developed immense skill and craftsmanship, becoming a Fellow of the Royal Society of Sculptors, and is now a mentor of his art. During his move to Frampton eight years ago he rediscovered a number of boxes of slides and prints, recording his sculpting life. His talk, from ‘Bronze Casting Marshfield 1979’, allowed us a fascinating insight to Cire Perdue, the lost-wax casting process. He lead us from preparation of the wax former, incorporating the piece, through mould building with plaster grog, onto draining the hot wax and then pouring in the molten bronze (often recovered gas taps). Despite the last being a potentially explosive experience if all the wax has not been removed, John has survived to tell us his amusing tale. (Perhaps because he favoured running shoes for a fast escape, rather than expensive leather protective gear). After allowing the bronze to cool, he accounted for three to four days of cutting out the piece, cleaning and polishing, and perhaps patination. Following a barrage of questions from a much enthused audience, John passed around two small abstract sculptures, both, as usual, inspired by natural forms. The earlier piece, from his bird series, was polished bronze, while the more recent, the representation of the head of a woman, had a wonderful speckled olive green/brown patina. The second was also surprisingly light, being a thin bronze (and so the better surface), just a few mm depth, formed in between the mould and an inert, readily removed core. Though now well past the normal age of retirement John continues sculpting, and offers his pieces through two agents, one nearby in Bristol, Clifton Fine Art. John proved a superb raconteur and received much warm appreciation.

Lecture Secretary - the SouthWest Film and Television Archive

As the planned speaker was unable to attend, at short notice, a presentation about the SWFTA was given, to inform members about films featuring the more recent history of our region, which might be included in a future Club programme, as well as highlighting an outstanding location for a Club visit.

The SouthWest Film and Television Archive, founded in 1993, is the regional film archive for the SouthWest of England (covering the area from the Isles of Scilly to Gloucestershire in the North and as far East as Bournemouth). In 2020, as part of the Plymouth History Centre Project, the Archive found a new home at the wonderful Museum and cultural hub, the Box, in Plymouth. Their moving image collection is recognised nationally as the largest and one of the most valued regional heritage film archives in the UK. It comprises over 250,000 titles; the originals are conserved in a specialist cold store within the Box. The films date from 1898 (a travelogue from Ilfracombe to Barnstaple), though the core collections are the Television SouthWest Film and Video Library (which includes all Channel 3 material for the area from 1961 to 1992 for the ITV franchises Westward TV and TSW) and the BBC SouthWest Film Collection (dating from 1961 onward). There are also many other amateur and professional collections, such as the Major Digby collection, recording the changing life of Cornwall in the 1930s through the lens of a Truro shopkeeper, and the Page collection, showing the travels in a caravan and home life of Bristol-based Frank Page from the 1930s to the 1950s. While much of the collection can be viewed at the Box, many films are now digitised, so there is a wealth of material to hire on DVD, and there are some online resources, the Box on Screen, conversations about film clip compilations, such as ‘Women on Film’, which includes items from the 1930s to the 1990s.