SUES FORUM 32: 06/2022


This edition of FORUM is mainly devoted to information and organisation. In the first place, please note that the AGM is now upon us. We intend to keep the business side of this quite short, so that the main part of the meeting will be a talk by Jill Newsham on Modern Art for the Table, details of which are given below.

The purpose of the AGM is to receive reports on developments over the last year, especially a review of our financial position and to elect officers and committee for the coming year. It is helpful to the society if as many members as possible are present for this. The official papers for the meeting will accompany this edition of FORUM, but we have included both the agenda and Chairman’s Report here in order to give them prominence.

Alan Potter’s course on the Human Brain has now been completed and was a great success. Roger Mitchell provides further comments below.

We are glad to report that we have now arranged for visits to Scarisbrick Hall, for which a fee will be charged. Booking procedures are explained.

A report on the last committee meeting is provided, and you will note that arrangements for next year’s programme and renewing membership are nearly complete. The relevant papers will come with next month’s FORUM. Procedures for renewing or applying for membership and for booking courses will be more or less the same as last year.

Finally, we had to have a more light-hearted item from John Sharp who has provided some recollections inspired by the Jubilee.

Annual General Meeting

Friday 24th June at 2:30pm; All Saint’s Church Hall, Park Road


  1. Acceptance of Minutes from 2021 AGM. Minutes are Item 1 of the Documents Section that follows.
  2. Apologies for Absence
  3. Chairman’s Report – Item 2 of the Documents Section
  4. Treasurer’s Report – Item 3 of the Documents Section
  5. Election of Officers and Committee – Item 4 of the Documents Section
  6. Update of Constitution – Item 5 of the Documents Section
  7. Any Other Business

Chairman’s Report

I am pleased to say that this year has been a ‘normal’ year, which is in itself a success after the disruptions to life and learning caused by the COVID pandemic, We have been able to run our full programme at All Saints Church Hall from the start of the autumn term last year with little disruption. We are now ‘key holders’ of the hall and have forged a very fruitful partnership with the helpful and considerate volunteers at the church.

In addition, through John (Sharp’s) thoughtful editorship, SUES has continued to produce a monthly FORUM magazine, both electronically and in paper form, to keep members fully informed and involved. Invariably, it also provides a series of interesting and enjoyable articles from a number of contributors and has been expanded this year to include quizzes, which have proved to be very popular. To adapt to the ‘lockdown’ situation last year, SUES signed up to provide an online programme through Zoom and we have maintained this valuable facility this year. A number of committee meetings have been held ‘over the air’ and members have contributed from various places far and wide – on one occasion Peter (Firth) was able to join in from the Canary Islands!

The year’s programme got off to a fantastic start in September when Christine Vasey gave an illuminating lecture outlining the life and passions of A.E. Housman, which led to his epic work, A Shropshire Lad. The same month also saw the start of Peter Firth’s excellent 10-session course on England Under the Norman Kings which was both well attended and very well received. The calendar year was brought to a close with a lecture on Science and Pseudoscience, which set out to debunk some of the myths circulating in society about what is science, what is clearly not and what just might be.

The 2022 calendar year began in grand style with Roger Mitchell’s 8-session course on The Country House in the 20th Century. These first-class, joyous sessions had high attendances from the start and were very much enjoyed each and every time. Our third lecture of the programme was given by Mary Ormsby on The Life and Times of Scarisbrick Hall, when her remarkable knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject both informed and engaged the audience greatly.

Our third and final course of the year was on The Secret Life of the Human Brain to continue the science dimension to the year’s programme. Those attending were all fully engaged from the start and contributed enthusiastically throughout. At the time of writing, this just leaves our final lecture to look forward to, which is to be given by our own member, Jill Newsham, entitled Art & History – Modern Art for the Table and the Harrod’s Exhibition of 1934.

This year has also seen the continued refreshing and improvement of the SUES website to become the quality ‘face’ of SUES that it is today. In addition, we have now completed our own presentation on the History of the University Extension Movement, which also outlines the development of our own society. This has been a journey of over 100 years and the presentation may be of interest to both our own members and non-members alike. As our formal links with The University of Liverpool were brought to an end during last year, SUES has operated as a stand-alone organisation. This has allowed for greater flexibility in the way we have operated, supported a greater range of provision and enabled regular improvements to be made during the year.

This year we also introduced a strapline for SUES in an effort to ‘sum up’ what we are about in a few words. By choosing enjoying quality learning together, we hope to encapsulate the key elements that make the organisation the inclusive, welcoming and successful learning organisation it is. This strapline is now both on our website and part of a new logo, which has also been created and adopted this year, The new logo also incorporates the date of the foundation of SUES and has a background of pictorial references to Southport.

Currently, we are also well down the road of planning a summer event, which this year will be a visit to Scarisbrick Hall. This will be our annual summer ‘social’ event as well as a learning opportunity with refreshments being included in the modest fee. Members are both welcome and encouraged to come along as a way of bringing the year’s calendar to a close.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank the officers and members of the committee for all their support, hard work and contributions throughout the year. Without their efforts, and especially those of our hard-working Secretary Roger (Mitchell), SUES would not have thrived as it has throughout the challenges of being a stand-alone organisation. The committee members have all taken on the new responsibilities readily and continually look at how we can enhance and enrich what we provide for our members. I am very pleased to hear that all but one member of the committee are willing to serve once again next year.

The exception is Bob Neate, who is stepping down from the role of Treasurer after 15 years’ service. Therefore, I would particularly want to express my gratitude and that of the committee and members to Bob who has, in his quiet and unassuming way, provided a reassuring hand on the financial tiller of SUES for so long. In doing so he has seen that we have continued to make efficient and effective use of the funds available to us while always ensuring the members’ interests came first. Thank you, Bob, for all your freely given time, shrewd advice and skilful work for which we are all very grateful.

To conclude, I would like to thank all our members for the continuing support we receive year after year. Many members kept faith with us throughout our Zoom days last year, while others have kept in regular touch through FORUM. This year we have returned to high attendances for both lectures and courses and received much generous praise for the programme on offer. At each event, members continue to be active from organising the chairs and tables at meetings to purchasing and serving refreshments, which has been a terrific help all year. Thank you all.

This coming year’s programme will once again include talks, courses, lectures and visits and will, in fact, be more extensive than in previous years to reflect our ambition. In this way, SUES will continue to go from strength to strength (we now have over 60 members) especially as we are able to keep costs down with the same small annual fee and low costs for courses. Let us hope that the coming year will again be one when membership blooms so that the high quality, learning opportunities SUES provides can remain available to, and enjoyed by, everyone in the local community.

Alan Potter

Visit to Scarisbrick Hall

3rd and 4th August 2022

Originally planned for April 2020 as a follow up to Roger Mitchell’s course on The Victorian Country House, then delayed by ‘unforeseen circumstances’, this visit will finally go ahead in August 2022. Many thanks for your patience. We are sure that the visit will have been well worth waiting for! There is a lot to see and this is a rare opportunity for a guided tour.

Mary Ormsby has made special arrangements with Scarisbrick Hall. Numbers are limited to 16 people for each tour. We are expecting the visit to be popular and so there will be one tour on Wednesday 3rd August and another tour on Thursday 4th August. Mary is producing a pamphlet providing basic information about the house and the family. This will be given to everybody on arrival. Scarisbrick Hall will provide tea and biscuits at the end of the tour. The cost of the tour, tea and pamphlet will be £12 per person.

Practical Arrangements

Priority will be given to SUES members, but if there are any spare places, guests will be very welcome.

Meeting time on both days will be 2.15pm and tour and tea should be complete by 4.30pm.

We will meet at the main car park at the end of the entrance drive just outside the gates to the Hall. Disabled parking is available nearer to the Hall. The tour involves several flights of stairs up and down assorted staircases and so parts of the route may not be accessible to those with limited mobility.

Rather than asking for cheques or bank transfers, payment will be collected on the day. Please bring a cheque (made payable to SUES) or cash in an envelope with your name on the front. However, please note that places need to be booked in advance and this should be done by an email, phone call or letter to Mary. Her contact details are as follows:


Please provide her with the following information:

  1. Name of Member
  2. if only one date is possible, please specify. (If you can manage either date that will help to balance numbers.
  3. If you would like to bring a guest, please provide name. We will give members until 30th June to book places before allocating spare places to guests.

Places will be allocated as applications are received. Mary will provide an update at the AGM and will confirm places in early July. If, nearer the time, you find that you will not be able to come, please contact her.

Forthcoming Friday Meeting: Art and Industry – Modern Art for the Table – The Harrods Exhibition 1934

Friday 24th June at 2:30pm at All Saints Church Hall

The next Friday talk will be by one of own members, Jill Newsham on the subject of Art and Industry in the 20th Century with particular reference to the Harrods Exhibition of 1934. The relationship between Art and Industry has long been debated and the years between the wars were a dynamic time for British ceramic and glass design. The Harrods exhibition brought together famous artists and manufacturers in calibration for the first time on Britain’s High St. Jill will illustrate her talk with actual pieces from the exhibition.

The Secret Life of the Human Brain

Alan Potter’s 7-session course was genuinely ‘ground-breaking’. SUES has had a number of science-based lectures, but this was the first science course. Traditionally, science has been under-represented in Continuing Education, where arts and humanities have been dominant. How well would a science-based course recruit and how successful would it be?

Any concerns were swiftly resolved. More than 20 members enrolled and attendance and enthusiasm have been extremely good. The reason for this was the quality of the experience. With deep knowledge, a wide range of material and meticulous planning, Alan introduced us to the most complex organ in the human body, the brain. Starting with the simplest of organisms and studying development over the whole of geological time, we were made aware of how the human brain has evolved and what remarkable tasks it can undertake. Biology was the dominant science, but chemistry, geology, psychology and statistics all had a role to play.

Those of us more at home with history or literature were reassured and indeed indulged. Alan showed us how, since the time of the ancient Greeks, man has tried to understand his own brain and discover safe ways to repair it. He drew our attention to some of the pioneering individuals who used new techniques to expand knowledge. Alcmaeon of Croton developed anatomical techniques around 500 BCE. In 17th century Oxford Thomas Willis dissected the brain and developed theories as to how it worked. In North America in the middle of the 20th century Wilder Penfield mapped the various brain regions and their functions, thereby expanding the opportunities for safe brain surgery.

We were encouraged to learn a poem or complete a limerick, because, as the course developed, we moved from the pure to the applied and we gradually realised that Alan was helping us to make the best use of our own brains, particularly as they face the challenges of later life.

The subtitle of Bill Bryson’s book on the human body is ‘A Guide for Occupants’ but we don’t just occupy our brains. Instead, we are our brains and the more we know about them, the more we know about ourselves. This course certainly helped us to achieve this, and it did so in a practical way and in a reassuring environment. Homework was set and completed. It was fun to do and we were allowed to mark our own answers which helped to give us a sense of achievement but also an awareness of how much more benefit we can get from continuing our learning.

I had not expected that my only complaint would be that the course was over too quickly, but I am sure that I speak for the whole group when I say ‘more science please’.

Roger Mitchell

Committee Report

On 23rd May the Committee met for the first in-person meeting since August 2020. It was good to be together again and much useful business was transacted. Rob Firth was welcomed to the committee but he (and the rest of us) will need to be elected at the AGM. Our treasurer, Bob Neate, had already expressed his wish to retire from the Committee after more than 15 years of service. He was thanked for everything that he has done to keep the Society active and solvent. Peter Firth has agreed to take over and he and Bob are working together to ensure a smooth transition. All the other members of the committee are willing to stand for re-election and any further nominations would be warmly welcomed. If you would like to be involved, please contact Roger Mitchell before the day of the AGM.

Much of the Committee’s work related to the AGM and other future events, and details of next year’s programme will be included in the July edition of FORUM.

The Society’s new logo was agreed and you should start to see it on SUES documents.

The Committee continue to work with All Saints Church to improve conditions in the Large Hall. More heating is now provided and we hope to make use of a sound system for the AGM.

Roger Mitchell

Royal Memories

My secondary school was next door to Liverpool Anglican cathedral. One morning just after break we were waiting for a Greek lesson. The teacher was dedicated to his subject but otherwise dry and humourless and showed little sign of any human qualities. As always, he entered the classroom rattling off a series of instructions.

‘In a few minutes the cathedral bell will start ringing. This means that the King is dead. Open Hillard and Botting page 54 and start on exercise 2.’

It was in this manner that I experienced a fairly significant historical event.

I didn’t make so much of the King’s death, though I was intrigued by the idea that succession occurred the second the monarch died. ‘The King is dead. Long live the Queen!’

I remember a little more about the coronation, though our road was a broad avenue and hardly suited for street parties. We were invited to the house of one of my father’s friends. He had a small box with a blue screen, on which we dimly perceived the scenes in Westminster Abbey. I did take part in one event, where I was prevailed upon to recite ‘This royal throne of kings…’ from Richard II. I was precociously a fan of Shakespeare and even at 14 could make a fair shot at the speech. Old ladies wept.

Children were given a coronation cup, saucer and spoon, which I still have, though my sister insists that these are really hers. I don’t remember.

Since then, I have only encountered royalty on two occasions. On the first I was walking through some wild moorland in Scotland, when I noticed a lot of soldiers about. They didn’t seem much bothered about me, and in fact a jeep passed me with an old lady in the back who waved and smiled. Then I came across a shooting party and was asked to stop for a moment as the beat was proceeding. ‘Some sort of house party?’ I inquired. ‘Yes, just over there…. Balmoral.’ ‘Oh, so that’s….’ ‘Yes.’ I realised I was sitting a few feet from Prince Charles. The birds flew over, and sycophantic cries of ‘Oh, well shot, sir!’ rang out. I can’t say that I have much sympathy with people who kill animals for fun but kept these thoughts to myself. Later I realised that the old lady who waved to me was the Queen Mother.

The second occasion was at Singapore Airport. I was in the gift shop and looked up and there next to me was the Duke of Edinburgh, also searching through the gifts. Presents for his grandchildren or duty-free gin for his mother-in-law? I never found out. Soon, however, the Queen appeared in the concourse surrounded by security. I was near enough to take a photograph.

I am sure others have had much closer encounters than mine, but I have a few to look back on at Platinum time.

John Sharp


Chair: Alan Potter
07713 428670

Secretary: Roger Mitchell
01695 423594 (Texts preferred to calls)

Membership Secretary and Forum Editor: Chris Nelson
07960 117719


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