Leicester Secular Society


Lecture Programme 2006

Secular Hall

75 Humberstone Gate, Leicester LE1 1WB

Except where stated, all meetings are free, open to the general public, and held at Secular Hall. — In accordance with a resolution passed in 2002: If a lecture is cancelled a discussion meeting will be held instead, on topics proposed by those present. — For further details of Events contact: Michael Gerard 0116 210 9027.

First Quarter (January — March 2006)


15 – Allan Hayes leads a discussion on The Threat Of Fundamentalism To Enlightenment Values.

22 – Wilfred Gaunt: A New Common Sense. As a result of Wilfred's email conversations with humanists and secularists across the globe, especially the Brights, he has redefined some of his ideas and published a pamphlet. This evening he lays his new ideas before us for consideration.

29 – Dave Ray: 2:30 to 4:30 pm: Printing for Small Publishers A seminar at Dave's print works providing an insight into the litho printing production process. Spaces limited, (phone Darprint 0116 2603072). Then 6:30pm at Secular Hall: Print Publicity and Design A brief look at marketing through printed material (booklets, leaflets, etc) for those involved with small organisations.


5 – Natasha Ferrari: The Impact of Developing New Information and Communication Technology. [Due to illness the speaker was unable to come (we hope to see her in the Summer – see next panel). Instead we had a discussion about the Mohammed Cartoons controversy.]

12 – Andrew Copson: How Non-Religionists Lose Out. Andrew is Education and Public Affairs Officer for the British Humanist Association.

19 – David Payne: Freethinking Wines. A wine tasting. David is Chairman of The Grand Union Wine Society and has diligently searched to locate wines that combine value with quality. Free to members, 5.00 for non-members. Numbers are limited to 30, so book early (0116 210 9027) so we can plan number of bottles. Please bring a couple of glasses.

– Religious fundamentalists are trying to stop Jerry Springer the Opera and are threatening to picket the Leicester performances (De Montfort Hall, 27 February - 4 March). Your letters of solidarity to De Montfort Hall management will be helpful. Following discussions among the membership, the committee will be announcing their decision on the Society's stance (and possible actions). [We held a mass counter-demonstration on 27th February, displaying a banner 'We Love Free Speech', and maintained a presence for the rest of the week. See the news section and blog for more details and photos.]

26 – Lyn Hurst, President of Leicester Secular Society, introduces matters of topical interest. [These proved to be, mainly, the Mohammed Cartoons and Jerry Springer The Opera]


5LSS Anniversary Lecture. Jim Herrick, former editor, celebrates the 125th anniversary of The Freethinker. The magazine was founded by G. W. Foote in 1881, the same year that Secular Hall was opened. [There was a display of recent Freethinker issues, and George Jelliss gave a short introduction based on Sidney Gimson's account of the happenings on the morning, afternoon and evening of the opening day.]

611: Exhibition of Digital Photographic Art by Bob Hall followed by –

12 – Bob Hall: Digital Pictures. Bob, who is well known in Leicester for his transformations of digital photographs into art works, will demonstrate his art.

19 – Robert Ashby: Why, If There Is No God, Does Religion Survive? Robert is Vice-Chairman of the British Humanist Association. He works to encourage the financing and development of new technology companies.

26 – Richard Johnson: Gramsci Today: His Usefulness for Looking at Present Day Politics. Richard is a local activist (co-Chair of Leicester CND) and political analyst. Gramsci is not a name that trips off everyone's lips; Richard will argue that some of Gramsci's ideas have found their way into mainstream thinking, and that others merit closer attention today.

Second Quarter (April — June 2006)


2Half-Annual General Meeting. Members only (but you can join on the night). Send motions for discussion at least two weeks in advance by post, or pin them to the noticeboard in the Lecture Room. Wine and cheese.

9, 16, 23, 30Open each Sunday at 6:30 pm for general discussions on topics suggested by those in attendance.


7 – Natasha Ferrari: The Impact of Developing New Information and Communication Technology for Military and Defence Purposes: What are the Ethical, Social and Economic Consequences? Natasha has been researching this topic for several years at Leicester University. She will tell us where she has got so far. Is there any cause for optimism beyond the mobile phone? Natasha was indisposed last season - this will have been well worth waiting for.

14 – Dave Ray and Beryl McDowall will talk about their new book Walks in Leicestershire. For further details see the associated website: Walking in Leicestershire. Refreshments provided for this - but you have to get a (free) ticket (phone 2603071) beforehand, so we know how many to cater for. Dave has produced a great book. It is written in a clear style and illustrated with 500 photographs. At the same time it will fit into a large pocket. Come and share this launch of a labour of love by Dave, a hard working committee member for the Society.

21 – Patrick Boylan: The Destruction of Cultural heritage in Times of Armed Conflict: An Accident of War or War Aim? Patrick, Emeritus Professor of inheritance policy and management at City University, London, and long-term adviser to UNESCO, will focus on the Iraq 2003 invasion. "Stuff happens." (Donald Rumsfeld) - versus "Stuff shouldn't happen."

28A Headstrong Meeting: A Member of the Society will lead a discussion on a current topic - come and participate.


4 – Chris Walker: Ecology in Action This is not just about fluffy animals. Chris went to the rain forest in Ecuador for three months to work on a conservation and community development project and found out that saving the rain forest is not just about cute creatures, but oil companies and exploitation of the environment. His talk is, however, illustrated with luxurious photographs of the forest fauna and flora.

11 – 5.00 pm – Special members' only meeting to discuss the progress made by the buildings committee, who will outline current thinking with reference to the regeneration of the Secular Hall. Please come:- we need to share ideas.

11 – George Jelliss introduces a discussion on Countering Creationism. Creationist books and pamphlets will be on display, and the misinformation in them will be indicated and we will discuss ways of countering this propaganda. Creationists will be welcome to take part in the debate and argue for their opposing views.

18 – Clare Wintram: The Palestine I Found. Clare, a leading member of the Just Peace group in Leicester, returned a few weeks ago from an excursion to Palestine to see for herself what life is like in the Occupied Territories. She reports on what she found out.

25 – Steve Bonham: Aboud – A Palestinian Town Under Occupation. Steve has made several visits to Palestine and concentrates on the impact of the Israeli state's illegal occupation and expropriation of Palestinian land on the lives of the people. He will provide a well-balanced mix of anecdote backed up by relevant facts and figures, and illustrate with photographs and digital moving images.

Third Quarter (July — September 2006)

We usually take a break during the hot weather however:


Tuesday 18 6:30pm — Reception for our former President: Fred Lee. — Fred is over here from the USA for a while and would like to meet old friends and new.

Thursday 20 7:30pm — Tony Windross Faith, Fear and Fundamentalism. — Given the way it seems to attract the sad or the mad, can religion in 21st century Britain ever be a real possibility for thoughtful people? Can religion be brought out of the closet and integrated with the sceptical mainstream? Or is it bound to become ever more marginalised, a bastion of mindlessness and fear? Tony Windross is Vicar of St Peter's Sheringham and author of The Thoughtful Guide to Faith. Here is a review by Ronald Pearse of the 'Sea of Faith'. I've not yet found a review from a secular humanist viewpoint.


Sunday 3 Outing for members to Compton Verney Museum The Starry Messenger: Vision of the Universe Exhibition. See the Compton Verney website. The coach will leave Secular Hall at 9:00 am. The inclusive cost is 5. Details have been circulated to all members. Members should reserve a place in advance with the President, Lyn Hurst, to ensure the coach is not over-booked.


Sunday 10Open Day at Secular Hall - in conjunction with English Heritage (10am to 8pm). The day will include guided tours of the building, and an exhibition: find out about the progress of our 2m regeneration programme. Pamphlet, refreshments, and displays by building users. These will include a performance by Greenshoots Ceilidh Orchestra. Also a showing of the BBC video Secular Believers in which the Society features.

Free public lecture at 6:30pm — Dr. Christopher Wakeling, on: The Man Who Built Secular Hall. — Chris Wakeling, an architectural historian, is an expert on Larner Sugden, the architect of this historic building. This will not just be a dry account. He has found writings by Sugden that put flesh on the man who did the drawings.

This is a big event: nationally advertised; part of this year's English Heritage Open Days, which include hundreds of events across the country. We are expecting a large number of visitors, including local dignitaries. Information on English Heritage website, or Leicester page. There are now photos from the event here: open day report.

Sunday 17 6:30pm. Huw Watkins: Paintings, Poetry and a Goat. — Huw is a well known local artist, and his work hangs in several public buildings in Leicester. He is a poet who writes with passion about humanitarian issues. He also fund raises for third world goats. Come and find out more of what this means for third world families. It is hoped to stage an exhibition of some of his art work in the days surrounding his address.

Sunday 24 6:30pm. Headstrong Meeting. — Bring your relevant newspaper clippings, or raise topics of interest. We will fashion an agenda and discuss it. There should also be information to share with reference to the Secular Hall regeneration project.

Fourth Quarter (October — December 2006)


Sunday 1 6:30pm. Sophie Harman: Why Aid for AIDS is not working. — Sophie is a PhD research student at Manchester University, into "The World Bank and Civil Society Relations". Her enquiries have taken her to New York, Washington, Geneva and Africa. She is founding a project to bring much needed transport to villagers in rural Tanzania. This is an important current topic.

Sunday 8 6:30pm. Percy Cohen: Have the Creationists Got it Right? — Percy who spent many years at the Natural History Museum reconstructing hominid skulls from fragments of bone looks deeply into the biological and historical evidence. The lecture he gave a few years ago to the society was superb but under-attended: don't miss his second appearance here.

Sunday 15 6:30pm. Dan McEwen: The Religious Roots of Secularism. — Dan, a former priest, spent years at the University of Louvain, giving him time to think through this topic. He delves deep in his gentle enquiry.

Sunday 22 6:30pm. Film: Secular Believers. — This is a BBC Wales schools programmes 'Religious Education' film that features Leicester Secular Society and is introduced by Julian Baggini. It traverses several projects in its twelve short sections, including a pink painted Atheist station on the main line between New York and Chicago.

Sunday 29 6:30pm. Annual General Meeting of Leicester Secular Society. — This is for members only, or for those who wish to take out membership, or renew it at the meeting. Motions for discussion should be received by the committee two weeks before this date by e-mailing, letter, or placing motion on the noticeboard in the meeting room.


Sunday 5 6:30pm. John Page: Pyrotechnics. — John Page, as a lecturer was well known for his demonstrations of things that went bang. On the most appropriate day of the year he resuscitates his skills in the field. Did Guy Fawkes stand a chance? We hope the venerable Secular Society and its membership will not find out too literally! [Unfortunately the speaker was ill in hospital. We wish him well and hope to see his demonstration in the summer next year. Instead we held a Headstrong discussion meeting.]

Tuesday 7 7:30pm, University of Leicester, Lecture Theatre 3, Ken Edwards Building. — Professor Steve Jones FRS, Why Creationism is Wrong and Evolution is Right. Professor Jones is well-known as a broadcaster: (Reith Lectures 1991) and an author (The Language of the Genes; Almost like a Whale: The Origin of Species Updated; The Descent of Men) as well as a research scientist. He gave an important talk at the Royal Society earlier this year with the same title. [Due to great interest, there was a last minute change of venue to the larger Rattray Lecture Theatre, which was filled to capacity.]

Sunday 12 6:30pm. Headstrong Meeting. — This is an addition to our printed programme. There is a lot happening, so no chance of finding us short of questions of topical or timeless interest to discuss.

Sunday 19 6:30pm. John Newsinger: The Blood Never Dried: A People's History of the British Empire. —His book with the same title, just published, has been hailed by John Pilger: "... a superb and concise antidote to the current attempt to return the British Empire to its false respectability ... challenges the chorus of claims that the British Empire was a kind of gentler force."

Sunday 26 6:30pm, Secular Hall, Maryam Namazie: Secularism and Humanism are not Religions or Belief Systems. — Maryam Namazie will discuss the dangers of regarding secularism and humanism as a form of religion, belief or dogma. She will argue that, in addition to this being untrue, it tends to prevent proponents of these ideas from challenging religion head on and putting human beings first. Maryam was selected as Secularist of the Year in 2005 for her work on women's rights in Iran. [Unfortunately Ms Namazie was indisposed. We hope she will be able to present her talk at a later date. Our member from Nottingham, Ross J. Longhurst, gave a reprise of his talk "Against Religiosity in Politics" originally given in March 2003 and this was followed by a lively discussion.


Friday 1 7:30pm. Stephen Law: Religious Authority in the Classroom. — Stephen Law is author of the book, The War for Children's Minds, about encouraging children to think, published earlier this year. ("Should be read by every teacher, every parent, and every politician": Philip Pullman.) He is also editor of Think, the Royal Institute of Philosophy's journal aimed at the general public.

Programme Page