Elizabeth Woodcraft : Hi-Heel Sneakers – Morals, Motown and Milkshakes in the early 60s
Elizabeth’s talk invoked a few memories for those who grew up in and could remember the late 1950s and early 1960s. She described what it was like to be a mod girl from an Essex council estate when morals and society were changing. It was the era of Aldermaston marches, mods and rockers battling on the beaches of Brighton, Clacton and Margate, Soho coffee bars, and a new American-influenced music played through transistor radios tuned to Radio Luxemburg, and later the pirate radio stations, Radio Caroline and Radio London. The talk was accompanied by a set of slides featuring fashion trends and culinary delights, featuring Frey Bentos canned meat products, evaporated milk and bottles of Camp Coffee, as well as some sexist advertisements for household appliances.
Francine Bates : The golden age of the music halls – the stars, the theatres and the songs
The talk briefly covered the history of the music halls culminating in their heyday in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the emergence of super stars like Marie Lloyd and Gus Elen. Francine Bates, accompanied by Ben Coleman on piano illustrated the talk with some popular songs of the era, with help from the audience participation.
David Hunter : Poetry and passion on the front line – a French poet at war
Guillaume Apollinaire is now recognised as France’s greatest WW1 poet. His vivid, often highly erotic, poems were inspired by his service as an artilleryman and infantry officer on the Champagne front, as well as by two passionate wartime love affairs. In the centenary year of both the signing of the Armistice and Apollinaire’s death, Crouch End & District U3A member David Hunter’s absorbing presentation explored the poet’s life during 1914-1918, and asked what his poetry told us about Apollinaire’s poetry can tell us about France’s distinctive experience of the Great War. We learnt also about his connections with Picasso and Cubism, and his experiments in the use of typography to express his poetry. The talk was accompanied by readings in French of a selection of his work by Marie-Pierre Pérez, and concluded with a recording of Hugues Cuenod of Apollinaire’s poem Bleuet set to music by the composer Francis Poulenc
Margaret Greenfields : Britain as a nation of migrants … A 2000 year old history of migration to the UK in record-breaking time
Margaret presented a history of known migration waves to the UK: commencing with the Roman era and concluding with an exploration of the patterns and impacts of 21st century migration, on British demographics, social engagement and ‘public trust’. Within this talk she highlighted both typical push/pull factors associated with migration (ranging from being a member of a conquering army to economic opportunities; or as a result of war in countries of origin) and invited the audience to reflect with her on how policy and public discourse have developed (or recycled) narratives and responses to the ever controversial issue of engagement with ‘new Britons’.
Luke Alder : The Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
The speaker, Gallery Director, Roberta Cremonchini, was unable to attend, but her assistant Luke Alder took on the task at the last minute. He was a very good presenter of the talk with great slides showing examples of the Collection, housed in a beautiful Georgian building in Islington. The Collection is some 120 Futurist paintings, drawings etc by Italian artists collected by American Eric Estorick and his wife Salome. They set up a foundation for their collection which was eventually housed at 39a Canonbury Square. Luke also told us that as well as the permanent collection they have regular special exhibitions, the current one being The Art of Campari – a collection of advertising material for the company founded in 1860.
Carl Parker : What is terrorism?
▶︎ Download a summary of the talk
This month’s speaker was Louise Stewart, the Chief Executive of Alexandra Park and Palace Charitable Trust. This Grade II listed “Palace of the People” was built in 1873, its subsequent history defined by fire. It was second of these on 10 July 1980 (remembered by many in the audience) that provided the impetus for a long-term restoration programme, which, with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund grant in 2013, has allowed the refurbishment of the Victorian theatre, the redevelopment of the East Wing, home to the historic BBC studios, in to a social and vibrant space fun and entertainment Louise stressed that that it was not all about the theatre, and that the 196-acre park was equally important.
This month’s speaker was former St Petersburg university lecturer, BBC World Service employee since 1991, and Crouch End & District U3A member Alexander Zhuravlyov. The theme of his talk was the rise and rise of Vladimir Putin, and he asked the question: Putin forever? How did this former KGB agent become long-serving President of Russia? Alexander looked at Vladimir Putin as a manifestation of the major trauma that Russian society went through following the collapse of the USSR. He also challenged the perception of many people that Russia is a communist, or, at best, a post-communist country, and discussed the sociology and pychology of his mass support. Alex answered his question by opining that what Putin represents is forever. Alexander gave his views on a number of questions from the audience, including Putin’s relationship with Donald Trump, the Russian mafia and the State, and impossiblity of democracy ever being established in Putin’s Russia.
Our speaker in April was Graham Bennett, a member of the Crouch End &District U3A. He took us back to a time when an exciting and groundbreaking Dance Company came out of Russia, created and led by the impresario Serge Diaghilev. This was the Ballet Russes, which for 20 years brought together some of the greatest artists, composers and choreographers of the time to collaborate on the creation of dances that shocked, entertained and enthralled audiences and which had a very special relationship with London. The talk described the careers of two of Diaghilev’s leading dancers, Lydia Lopokova from St Petersburg and Hilda Munnings from Wanstead, whose name would be changed to Lydia Sokolova. Lydia Lopokova was to marry the leading Economist, John Maynard Keynes. Graham pointed out many places around London that had close association with the Ballet Russes, including the studio in Floral Street where Pablo Picasso painted a frontcloth for the ballet Le Tricorne, The Three Cornered Hat, and the many venues where the company performed, including the Coliseum, Royal Opera House and the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. The talk was illustrated with images of the imaginative sets and costumes that the company created, many of which have survived to this day, and, most importantly, looked at the legacy that Diaghilev left behind which created the dance scene we enjoy today. The founders of some of our major dance companies were all members of Ballet Russes at various times, Marie Rambert, Ninette de Valois, Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin.
Our speaker this month was Robin Lustig, long-time presenter of BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight. He talked about his career as a newsman and the major events that he reported on – for example, the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the inauguration of Barack Obama, when he visited Alabama to gauge to reaction to this event by interviewing African Americans and white racists. He had visited over 90 countries, including Afghanistan and pre- and post-Saddam Iraq. Looking over his long career, first in print and later in radio journalism, Robin gave an insight into the how technology was revolutionized the business of reporting stories. He explained that when he first started out, there was not the immediacy of digital technology, and one of essential aids to getting information was the public telephone box! Now of course everything was now so different: the internet has totally changed the way people got their news. He warned, however of the dangers of fake news, and made a plea for people to still buy print newspapers before they disappeared. The world still needed investigative reporting. Robin recalled that his favourite interviewee was Nelson Mandela, and his most distasteful Serbian war criminal Radovan Karadžić. He had also been moved by interviewing young people in Africa, and learning about their ambitions. Speaking about the BBC, Robin explained that it was unable to compete with the power of FANG – Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google, although for about 42p a day for the licence fee payer it represented great value, particularly in the delivery of news. One of his concerns was that budding journalists were no longer coming from all walks of life: often such people had be supported financially in the early years of their careers perhaps by family members who had the means to support them. After his talk, which was interspersed with readings from his autobiography, Robin took a number of questions from an attentive audience.
Jennifer Bell, John Hinshelwood, Valerie Flessati and Joanna Bornat from Haringey First World War Peace Forum, described the work of the group. Since 2014 they have been researching the lives of men who resisted conscription during the First World War in what is now the London Borough of Haringey. They shared the fascinating and hidden stories of a part of London which saw the highest proportion of conscientious objectors in Britain between 1916 and 1918, and spoke about a successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid to erect a local memorial to the 350 local men who stood out against war.
Our first meeting of the year in our new venue attracted a record turn-out of members, to hear a polished presentation on the plans for Hornsey Town Hall by the project architect, Katy Ghahremani, a director of Make Architects. Planning permission for the scheme was granted by Haringey Council in December 2017, and work is expected by carried between 2018 and 2020. The main thrust of the presentation was how an at-risk and Grade II* listed building from 1935, built to the designs of architect Reginald Uren and an outstanding example of Modernist architecture, was to be restored to its former glory. With the help of specialist conservation teams and drawing on archive sources, Make Architects will oversee the restoration of the former town hall to include workspaces, event venues and a hotel. The scheme also includes the redevelopment of the square in front of the building. The cost of the restoration will be funded by a number of residential blocks to the rear of the town hall. Judging from the questions posed by a number of U3A members, the residential element of the scheme seems to be the most controversial.