After a bumper Primrose Hill Lecture Series (PHLS) in the summer of 2019, and successfully moving the whole series online in the autumn of 2020 to very positive feedback, the PHLS committee had a few things to consider for 2021. Sadly, all but one of our deliberations in the last twelve months have been by Zoom. Hence, the tradition of making decisions over a glass of red wine and some excellent mushroom pate from Pate Moi (and available from Flip Dunning at the Primrose Hill Food Market) has been put on hold. However, we soldiered on with intent, keen to deliver another memorable programme.
We were confident that we could deliver a great experience online. The highly skilled volunteer team, led by Steve Reynolds, Ross Gilmour and Cornelius Koundouris, delivered an excellent YouTube experience in 2020. Testament to this was the 500 views of the Julia Samuels and Stephen Grosz session on coping with Change and Uncertainty, plus similar attendance for a couple of other lectures. We’d also marketed a boxset for the first time ever.
However, we all missed the live event experience in many ways, including having drinks with old friends plus welcoming new people into St Mary’s. So we fixed on making the 2021 series ‘Live and Online’ and are taking bookings for both. With this in mind, the majority of sessions will follow the ‘in conversation’ format we favoured last year, as this seems to work especially well online.
Another consideration was sponsorship. Although we have a dream to have a title sponsor for the PHLS, it feels that 2021 is the wrong year to ask. So we settled on working with our established list of partners – Primrose Hill Books, St Mary’s Brewery and Earth Natural Foods – plus adding another: Lume restaurant and wine shop. So through the generosity of Giuseppe, Goldy and the team there, we will have some exceptional Italian wines on sale before and after the lectures. Every penny spent on these wines will go to aid St Mary’s church – a vital base for local outreach services to vulnerable people.
Then there’s the lectures themselves. We always look to blend themes and speakers that are both diverse and also reflect some of the hot topics of the day. With that in mind, we are delighted with this year’s line-up.
We start on 9 June with Lorraine Candy, journalist and mother of four (three of whom are now teenagers), who has been writing about parenting for over a decade. Her frank and very funny new memoir, Mum, What’s Wrong with You?,offers insights from her own experience together with reassuring, practical tips from other experts in the field. This promises to be an evening of witty personal stories interwoven with shrewd advice on how to approach day-to-day domestic dramas calmly and tackle all manner of family challenges with aplomb.
Wednesday 16 June sees the intriguingly entitled ‘Behind the Seen’. This features Walter Murch, acknowledged as one of the most respected film editors, directors, writers and sound designers in the business. During his long career, his many films have included Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I, II and III, American Graffiti and The English Patient; he has been nominated for nine Academy awards and won 3 Oscars. He will show clips from his work and discuss the craft of film-making with Guardian journalist and film reviewer, Catherine Shoard.
On 23 June we host a man described by The Voice newspaper as one of the ‘black officers who helped change the Met’. Leroy Logan is a former Superintendent who has spent 30 years working in London. His story of survival, in what was frequently a hostile work environment, was recently the subject of one of the films in Steve McQueen’s BBC1 Small Axe series. In his compelling book Closing Ranks, he argues that there is still much work to do to create a more equitable criminal justice system.
On 30 June, the last of the month, we will hear how the discovery of a shoebox filled with treasured letters and photographs prompted Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman to research the life story of her grandmother, Sala Glass. House of Glass, the ensuing memoir, is an engrossing, often surprising and deeply moving account of one Jewish family’s experience of a tumultuous period in recent European history, which deftly explores issues of assimilation, identity and the complex concept of home. Hadley will be in conversation discussing ‘The Story and Secrets of a 20th Century Jewish Family’ with journalist and sociologist Anne Karpf, author of The War After.
On 7 July we will learn ‘How Spies Think’. What does it take to think clearly and analytically when faced with contradictory or incomplete information? Join David Omand, former director of GCHQ and one of the most senior public servants to have served in British intelligence, as he chats to Jon Snow, long-running presenter of Channel 4 News, about his new book How Spies Think: Ten Lessons in Intelligence. Expect a masterclass in spycraft and the ways in which techniques and strategies used in secret intelligence can be usefully applied to everyday situations.
And finally in this series of six, on 14 July we will ask how decency and kindness can prevail in uncertain, difficult times: is it possible to succeed, get results and still be a good person? In his new book The Art of Fairness: The Power of Decency in a World Turned Mean,David Bodanis, bestselling author and inspirational thinker, uses a range of examples from the worlds of politics, business, medicine and the media to show that success doesn’t have to equate with misuses of power or tyrannical displays of ego. A cheering, inspirational and refreshing approach to achieving one’s goals with integrity.
One other difference in 2021 is that we plan a 7th ‘bonus’ lecture, on 21 July, plus a couple of ‘pop-up’ lectures in the autumn. All these last talks will be delivered by some well-known past and present local residents who have shown enthusiasm to support us. Keep a look-out for details.
As in past years, the audience will once more be able to interact with the speakers and get their books signed. Books will be on sale on the night, and in advance or online from Primrose Hill Books. They can also be sent to people who aren’t attending in person. All the titles are listed on the home page and on the events page of the bookshop’s website.
We look forward to seeing you again over the summer.
By Giles Watkins