Showroom lecture reviews

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April’s Lecture on Chamber Music

Here as promised are Alex Burns’ top ten picks (all linked to a Youtube video for ease)

Classical Style 

  1. Joseph Haydn: String Quartet Op.76, No.1
  2. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: String Quintet in C minor, K.406, No.2
  3. Luigi Boccherini: String Quintet in E major, Op.11, No.5

Late Classical-Early/Mid Romantic Style

  1. Ludwig van Beethoven: String Quartet Op.132, No.15
  2. Felix Mendelssohn: Piano Trio No.1 in D minor
  3. Johannes Brahms: Piano Trio No.1, Op.8 in B major

Late Romantic & Beyond!

  1. Amy Beach: Quartet for Strings
  2. Gustav Mahler: Piano Quartet in A minor
  3. Dmitri Shostakovich: String Quartet No.8
  4. Malcolm Arnold: Sea Shanties (Wind Quintet)
  5. Chris Hazel: Three Brass Cats (Brass Dectet)

Alex’s Desert Island Chamber Music Track

Jean Sibelius: Andante Festivo (String Quartet)


15 March 2019 – A New Life – Wentworth Woodhouse:  Sarah McCleod,  CEO,  Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust (WWPT)

Wentworth Woodhouse, the largest private house in the country and former home of the immensely wealthy Fitzwilliam family,   fell into decline after the devastation caused by open-cast coal mining after the 2nd World War and the death of the 6th Earl in 1948.

The National Trust were unable to take such a large project, so following further decline, the house was leased to the Local Authority for the Lady Mabel College of Physical Education.  In 1989 the house was sold but the scale of restoration and maintenance required proved too much for successive owners.  In 2014 the WWPT was set up to secure the future of Wentworth Woodhouse for the benefit of the nation.  A £7.6m grant awarded by the Chancellor in the 2016 Autumn Statement enabled the Trust to proceed with the purchase of the house and halt the worst of the decline of the house,   finally taking over in March 2017 with one phone line,  one intermittent internet connection, one vacuum cleaner and 2 cleaners.

Funding from Funds, Trusts and donors has enabled a thriving business unit to be established,  now with 22 full-time and 160 voluntary staff.   Revenue raising currently includes weddings (36 in year 1),  film and TV locations,  house tours,  an events programme (including music festivals and concerts,  art exhibitions, car shows, gin festival),  a café and retail shop.

The Capital Works Programme is in 3 phases,  the first of which is almost completed and the second is well underway.  Scaffolding costing £1.1m is currently in place to enable the extensive roof to be restored and provide roof tours for visitors.    As with everything else at Wentworth,  the scale and cost of the restoration programme is enormous,   not least as each stage reveals yet more work to be completed, as for example the current asbestos and dry rot problems.

The Masterplan sets out the longterm vision for the site.  Extensive consultations take place at each stage of the plan to ensure the interest and involvement of all stakeholders, including the public,  in the restoration and development of a mixed-use site.

Over 100 Volunteers have been recruited, trained and are now involved in a wide range of different activities at Wentworth including events, gardens, housekeeping, retail and weddings.   Their involvement is invaluable and greatly appreciated.

Unemployed young people from Rotherham and surrounding areas are encouraged to participate in a variety of projects.  It is hoped that these will help local people gain a commitment and interest in the house and the work of the Trust.

Finally,  some interesting statistics include:  110 tons of Westmoreland roof slates ordered;   9,852 volunteer hours worked from January to July 2018;  1,700 visitors attended the Gemini Car Show;  47 public events held in 2017,  10,718 visitors took a tour from April 2017 to July 2018, 5,100 people attended the 2017 Christmas Market,  35% of visitors February to June 2018 were National Trust members.

We are very grateful that Sarah has offered to return to give us an update on progress, especially as so many people had to be turned away this time.

Deborah Beetham


Friday Lecture 15 February 2019


Plastics:   Prof. Anthony J. Ryan, OBE Professor of Physical Chemistry at The University of Sheffield and currently Director of the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures


If everyone in the room were asked to remove any article of clothing containing plastic, most would be naked.


What aspects of plastics do we want to keep?  Do we want an unfettered free market?  Will we accept regulation? Are we willing to develop policies and put in place regulations that limit our ‘throw away’ lifestyle?


Each type of plastic is different and needs recycling differently and I think that’s where this theory comes in: ‘Flory-Huggins theory means entropy of mixing is too small.’   The economics of recycling plastics depends on ‘provenance’. Consequently if you collect a wheelbarrow of random plastic items from a beach, you have no chance of recycling them economically. But if you collect fishing nets from the ocean floor  and you know what plastic they are made from, then there is a good chance you could recycle them, for instance to make spectacles, and label them ‘green’.


Possible techniques that can be used to examine the issues are: ‘Life Cycle assessment’ and ‘Environmental Impact assessment’.  For instance you could look at the energy used to make a product.  That might make plastic look ‘greener’ than aluminium (as aluminium production involves very high energy input). You might consider how that energy was sourced and classify energy produced by solar or nuclear as ‘green’ and that produced by burning fossil fuels as ‘bad’.  If you discover that a cucumber wrapped in plastic lasts longer, does that justify using that plastic for that purpose?


Could we each carry a reusable bag? Should we ‘buy a product but rent the packaging’?  Do we bring back glass bottles and ‘reinvent the milkman’?


Should we involve a wide range of professions in the discussion of managing plastics? Should we involve accountants and economists as well as scientists?  Is it true that presenting evidence to politicians doesn’t work?  Is it time to get more regulations in place and insist that we force responsibility for recycling back up the supply chain to the makers?


Maybe the problem is not so much about ‘plastics’ and more about ‘people’.


Elizabeth Birks


​​​​‘Lightspeed Universe’ – Showroom Lecture by Dennis Ashton FRAS  August 2018


​Dennis Ashton: Astronomer, writer, journalist and broadcaster, intrigued and delighted us with a fascinating insight into the universe using an amazing array of slides.  He took an audience of 160 on an imaginary journey from earth to the outer edge of the universe. We travelled at the speed of light in a spacecraft with its windows looking onto the sun, moon, planets and stars. Our journey of many billion miles took just 40 minutes.


Part 1. He gave a general outline of the universe and explained the huge telescopes, spectroscopes and various types of spacecraft used in deep space exploration.


Part 2. Next came the planets in what he dubbed ‘our local ​​​​neighbourhood’:


➢ Mercury, closest to the sun – a hot airless planet;

➢ Venus with an atmosphere so thick that its greenhouse effect makes it even more hostile than Mercury;

➢ Mars which long ago had water with the possibility of life;

➢ Jupiter, a giant gas planet with its many moons, interesting because beneath the icy surface of its moon Europa there may be water and therefore life;

➢ Saturn with its wonderful rings;

➢ and finally Uranus and Neptune, both gas giants with their own moons.


This section finished with a view of the outer solar system looking back, and included Pluto, now reclassed as a dwarf planet – and the millions of comets which are giant icebergs swirling light years away from the sun.


Part 3 – Our galaxy the ‘Milky Way’.

We travelled past millions of beautiful star clusters. They are born in ‘nebulae,’ by compressing huge clouds of dust and gas. They last for billions of years but when they die they swell into red giants and then shed their outer layers to leave a dead remnant known as ‘white dwarf’. However, the universe does have its superstars for example Betelgeuse in Orion. Superstars die in huge explosions called supernova. They leave neutron stars so dense that a teaspoonful weighs 100 million tons and they can collapse even further to form Black Holes.


Part 4. Having travelled 100,000 years across the Milky Way we entered the mysterious world of deep space. After 2.5 million years we reached our nearest galaxy the Andromeda Spiral, home to 400,000 stars. Dennis told us that Andromeda and the Milky Way are due to collide. But don’t worry it will be in 5 billion years. He then explained that galaxies are in clusters, held together by gravity but these galaxies in themselves cannot create that gravity. Thus an unknown, undetected form of ‘stuff’ appears to exist which has been named ‘Dark Matter’. No one knows what it is – not even scientists!


13.8 billion years ago the universe was just a tiny pinpoint but suddenly started expanding with what we now call ‘The Big Bang’, and it is still expanding by virtue of a force called ‘Dark Energy’, otherwise known as antigravity.


Our journey ended. We have travelled 14 billion years and reached the edge of the universe. We returned gazing in awe through the spacecraft windows at the clusters of galaxies spread out below us through the cosmos, 28 billion years after our journey began but just 40 minutes in the showroom. What a ride!


​​​Sue Knighton  21st. August 2018.



Deeds Not Words, Helen Pankhurst, February 16th 2018

Remember the scene in ‘Suffragettes’ where Emeline addresses the crowds and has to be protected to avoid police arrest? Later she offers to take personal responsibility from crimes committed in the cause of suffrage. This was no ordinary speaker and Helen Pankhurst has elected to keep her family name, the great granddaughter of Sylvia, was no ordinary speaker. Introduced as a dynasty, she is the modern day relay relation, the bearer of the torch and the ‘story’ was actually an invitation to reflect on where we are now.

The opportunity to share experiences was welcomed by many of the capacity audience, but the invitation to ask questions came at a price. Helen’s time was constrained so that she had less time to explore the here and the now, the Equality Party and the action which is still required today. Just as in 1918 only a nominal offer of votes to propertied women over 30 was passed in recognition of the women’s invaluable support in the war effort, so 2018 is witnessing long overdue challenges to a status quo of abuse and pay restraint. Personally, I would strongly recommend that Helen Pankhurst should be invited to return with a byline not of a story, but of a call to action, to explore more fully the issues raised in her seminal social documentary, ‘Deeds Not Words’.


Lorraine Wickham