Event Reviews

Primrose Hill Summer Lectures: another great season

As ever on Wednesday evenings in June, St Mary’s was the place to be in North West London. As the early evening sunshine shone through the West windows and wine was sipped by the bar, we gathered to hear some of this country’s most interesting commentators talk about their lives and opinions.

It was standing room-only when the friendly, postman-turned politician, Alan Johnson regaled the audience with his tales of growing up. Many questions were posed by the audience, with the most popular being “why don’t you stand as Labour leader?”. Unfortunately we failed to illicit any greater response than many a journalist. Copies of his two autobiographies, retailed by Primrose Hill Books, sold out during the evening and a long queue formed for those wanting them signed. He was interviewed by ITV correspondent Libby Weiner , who lives locally

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Shami Chakrabati, the leading human rights campaigner, congratulated the audience on being in the best possible place in the cool interior of the church on what was the hottest day of the year (in the midst of what now seems a very brief heatwave!). Shami inspired us with her force of conviction, and grabbed attention with her very up-to-date examples of social injustice and current issues such as internet monitoring and the Human Rights Act, as well as her experience since joining Liberty on the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In a neat tie-up, the first lecture of the series given by cookery writer, Claudia Roden, was accompanied by the sale of orange and almond cake from one her early cookbooks, very generously baked for us by the Greenbury Café. Claudia explained how the provenance of this cake was influenced by Arabian cooking and she found the recipe when researching in Spain. It is the influence of so many different regional populations on dishes that made her fascinated in cookery.

Orlando Figes, expert of Russian history, waved to one of his old primary school teachers in the audience as he explained he lived locally as a young boy. His historical novels have been very popular in recent years and the audience came from across London to hear about the research behind Orlando’s books including “The Whisperers” and “Crimea”. Amongst the Q&A was an explanation of how past experience in the Soviet Union can help explain modern-day behaviour by Russians.

Polly Toynbee, Guardian columnist, divided opinion on her lecture, delighting the majority of the left-leaning audience, but upsetting others with vociferous talk of the impact of a smaller state and the extension of the private market in the UK. The speech drew on examples from her book “Cameron’s Coup” written ahead of this year’s General Election and elicited lots of comments.

All of the lectures were recorded and are available online at http://www.smvph.org.uk

A great many thanks to our distinguished speakers and interviewers for their time, to the Lectures Committee (led by Annabel Huxley) for organising the season, and the volunteers (led by Celyn and Elaine) who ensured the events went so smoothly.  The proceeds of the lectures collected by the Friends of St Mary’s are being used for redecoration of the youth centre and its valuable service provided there.

by Rebecca Chesworth

Wine Tasting with Jancis Robinson – Wednesday 8th October 2014
Another First for the Friends of St Mary’s
On Wednesday evening, October 8th, our church was transformed for our first Wine Tasting. Our host was the world renowned Master of Wine, writer and broadcaster Jancis Robinson. Over 100 guests sat at tables all elegantly laid out with table cloths and flower arrangements. A beautiful sparkling white wine was served as people arrived – Chateau de L’Aulee Intense Touraine Brut NV
6 French red wines were tasted from the more expensive like Mercurey Premier Cru Clos du Roy Faiveley 2012 to the more affordable Cotes du Rousillon Rouge Authentique Domaine Lafage 2012.
Whether wine buffs or beginners we all learnt much from the evening.
Jancis was a charming and of course knowledgeable host together with Ben Collins of Bibendum Fine Wine, who most generously sponsored our event.
By Malcolm Craddock

Family friendly Barn Dance, Sunday 5th October 2014
On Sunday evening, over a hundred kids and adults gathered in St Mary’s for a lively Barn Dance, with music from the brilliant “Cut and Shine” band. Organiser Bob Gordon ran the bar, whilst the clever banjo player, guitarist, fiddler and caller got everyone tapping their feet and onto the dance floor. Tiny tots to cowboy-hat wearing adults all got chance to join in. And there was plenty of food, from pulled pork, mac’ and cheese to a table full of cakes and fruit. Many of the kids were pupils at St Paul’s school and had a great time racing around together. At the end of the evening a fantastic sum was raised to help with the upkeep of the Church and the Friends of St Mary’s valuable community outreach programmes. Next year promises to be bigger and better, so do come along, Harvest Festival Sunday 2015. By Caroline Hepker

Sir Roger Tomkys – Thursday 2nd October 2014

Sir Roger’s talk was a tour de force covering a wide spread of Middle Eastern countries, politics and history, explaining the current religious tensions and their very long roots. He explained the background to the Arab Spring and how the protests that broke out in a number of countries in 2011 were all ignited by different frustrations. He spoke not just of the atrocities being committed in Syria but also how many other countries in the region stand on shaky ground. He candidly suggested that Great Britain, having made a mess in Syria and Iraq several times before, were not best placed to pursue the situation alone. Nevertheless he was definite about our need to do something in the current crisis, preferably as part of an international conference (not just with the Americans).
The questions were many and varied, covering democracy, progress, Iran and personal experiences. We thank Sir Roger for the great education and explanation of some of the complexities. It was pleasing to have welcomed so many neighbours to the talk alongside a regular and much valued regular supporters.
By Rebecca Chesworth

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