Talks & Lectures

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Image of The Ancestors Trail

Special Events

The Ancestors Trail

Fri 29 Aug 2014, 19.00

The BHA, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science and the Central London Humanist Group presents

The Ancestors Trail Evening Lectures

To mark the start of our weekend’s entertainment we are hosting a series of evening lectures that you are welcome to attend, irrespective of whether you can join us for rest of the weekend's events.


7pm - Andrew Copson - Chief Executive British Humanist Association

Andrew became Chief Executive in January 2010 having coordinated BHA’s education and public affairs work for five years. Andrew writes about secularist issues for journals and newspapers and has appeared widely on television and radio representing the BHA. 

8pm - Professor Armand Leroi – Professor of Evolutionary Development Biology at Imperial college, author and broadcaster.

Armand Leroi is not your average Professor of Evolutionary Developmental Biology. As a scientist, his expertise lies in tiny worms and why they grow to precisely the same size. But outside the lab he has written about human mutants, presented several TV shows and done (serious) research into the evolution of pop music. In 2004, Leroi adapted his book into a television series called Human Mutants for Channel 4. This became the first of a number of successful documentaries he has presented, covering fascinating subjects such as “What Darwin didn’t know” and “Aristotle’s Lagoon”, about the groundbreaking studies of the ancient Greek philosopher/naturalist.

9pm - Dr Yan Wong – Evolutionary Biologist, co-author of 'the Ancestor's Tale' and broadcaster for TV’s ‘Bang Goes the Theory’.

Dr Yan Wong’s work on modelling the evolutionary effects of self-recognition systems in plants led to him being a research contributor to the Ancestor’s Tale book. Yan is well-informed over an extensive set of scientific disciplines, including maths, chemistry and ecology. In 2009 Yan joined the presenting team of BBC1's prime-time series "Bang Goes the Theory" and demonstrated a wide and eclectic range of scientific ideas to members of the public.  He delights in the challenges of live science demonstrations and often incorporates live science demonstrations into his talks.

Our knowledge of our evolutionary history is advancing all the time and Yan will be updating us on the Ancestor’s Tale and also demonstrating how to use OneZoom, a piece of software that he has developed to highlight the diversity of life on Earth. 

BHA Members, children and students:           £12:00

Non BHA Members:                                         £17:00

The annual Ancestor’s Trail evolutionary pilgrimage takes place in Epping Forest and the Lea valley over this weekend.  Based on Richard Dawkin’s book, The Ancestor’s Tale, details of the free walks, youth hostel accommodation, talks and celebrations can be found on the Ancestors Trail website.

The centrepiece to the week-end is the walk and combined with entertainment in the evening and lectures the following morning, a stay at Cheshunt YHA over Saturday evening is the best way to fully relax and enjoy everything. Friday night accommodation is bookable separately at Cheshunt YHA should you want to join in early or need somewhere convenient to stay in the area. The YHA is next to Cheshunt railway station on the Liverpool Street line.

Image of WFTV Writers Group With Rachelle Constant

Talks & Lectures

WFTV Writers Group With Rachelle Constant

Wed 3 Sep 2014, 18:30

The WFTV presents

WFTV Writers Group With Rachelle Constant

The WFTV Writers' Group meets on the first Wednesday of the month for an informal gathering to give writers a chance to share experiences, swap tips, and reconnect with the world for a couple of hours.

For September we welcome Rachelle Constant, Development Editor (New Talent, BBC Drama Production) to talk about writing Continuing Drama Series at the BBC.

Continuing Drama Series is the department that produces EastEnders, Casualty, Holby City and Doctors - producing a huge volume of drama – nearly 400 hours per year made up of four episodes of EastEnders per week, 52 episodes of Holby per year, 48 of Casualty, and 236 of Doctors. Continuing Drama Series are currently working on a formal structure to the way that they try writers on the shows. This trial process is called a ‘Shadow Scheme’. The Shadow Schemes are a way to mirror the show’s writing process by producing an episode from which the writer will be assessed for a commission. One Shadow Scheme for each show is run over the course of the year.

This session is a must for anyone who wants to write TV drama!

6.30pm - 8.30pm | Brockway Room

This event is for WFTV Members only. To join the Writers’ Group mailing list please email

Image of Living, Loving and Leaving - How to Celebrate without God

Talks & Lectures

Living, Loving and Leaving - How to Celebrate without God

Fri 12 Sep 2014, 19:30

London GALHA: LGBT Humanists presents

Living, Loving and Leaving - How to Celebrate without God

The BHA has around 300 accredited celebrants up and down the country providing namings, weddings and funerals for the non-religious. New research published by Stonewall and The Co-operative Funeralcare suggests that LGBT people fear discrimination when it comes to arranging funerals, and a recent study suggests that demand for all types of humanist ceremonies will accelerate even if humanist weddings don't become legalised soon. But with registry offices offering secular arrangements, why are humanist ceremonies so important?


Steve Emmett - BHA Ceremonies Training Coordinator, a funeral celebrant and Galha committee member

Mary Porter - BHA funeral celebrant, BHA Trustee and Galha committee member

Janice Thornton - BHA funeral, weddings and namings celebrant, and Yorkshire Regional Coordinator (ceremonies)

All welcome.

Image of Sunday Sermon - Richard Hytner on Leading from the Shadows

Special Events

Sunday Sermon - Richard Hytner on Leading from the Shadows

Sun 14 Sept 2014, 11.15

The School of Life presents

Sunday Sermon - Richard Hytner on Leading from the Shadows

The key to success lies in getting to the top – right? Deputy Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi, Richard Hytner doesn’t agree. Not everyone can be No. 1, and more importantly not everyone wants to be. This doesn’t mean that everyone else has failed. Not lusting to be the out and out leader? This doesn’t mean you lack ambition or that you cannot find success or fulfilment from other leadership roles. What Richard will show is that there is great strength in being a number two and that much can be achieved from what some dismiss as the side lines.

Join Richard Hytner in this Sunday Sermon celebrating the second-in-commands, the ‘consiglieri’: Merlin to King Arthur, Al Gore to Bill Clinton, Rasputin to the Russian Royal Family. These are the deputies, Vice-Presidents, Personal Assistants, Chief Operating Officers, Chief Financial Officers, Department Heads, First Lieutenants and First Violins whose influence determines the fate of countries, companies and individual ventures all over the world.

We’ll learn how to lead from behind and what it is about being a number two that many of us, whatever our number, can apply to our work and personal lives. This talk will cover thoughts and ideas not shared before and developed especially for the School of Life.

Since 2008 The School of Life has presented strictly secular Sunday Sermons exploring the values we should live by today. We ask maverick cultural figures to give us their take on the virtues to cling to or the vices to be wary of in our complex world. Expect persuasive polemics, pop-song hymns and artist-made buns and biscuits.

Richard is deputy chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi and adjunct associate professor of marketing at London Business School. He co-founded the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust to promote fan ownership of the club; is a trustee of Planting Promise, a sustainable educational enterprise in Sierra Leone; and a trustee of the British Heart Foundation. Consiglieri: Leading from the Shadows was published by Profile Book on June 5th.

Tickets £15

11.15 Doors open 
11.30 Sermon starts
12.30 Refreshments served 
13.00 End

Image of Susanna Halonen: Unlock Your Passion to Live a More Fulfilling Life

Talks & Lectures

Susanna Halonen: Unlock Your Passion to Live a More Fulfilling Life

Mon 15 Sep 2014, 19:00

NOW Live events presents

Susanna Halonen: Unlock Your Passion to Live a More Fulfilling Life

A self-development workshop with Susanna Halonen

Think you need to find and follow your one and only passion to be happy? Coach, trainer and speaker Susanna Halonen offers an alternative to this approach by helping you to unlock your inner passion and express it in everything you do.

At this event, discover the five key components which bring out your passion and help you live a more fulfilling life. During the session you can start creating your own unique action plan to learn to find love in what you do and live a more passionate, successful life.

Susanna runs Happyologist (, contributes to several psychology titles, and has spoken about passion at TEDx.

Tickets: £15

Image of The Dotted Line: Understanding music industry contracts

Talks & Lectures

The Dotted Line: Understanding music industry contracts

Mon 15 Sep 2014, 18:30

Musician's Union presents

The Dotted Line: Understanding music industry contracts

As a musician, you may be required to enter into complex and often long term agreements. This can mean making a career-changing commitment which can seem even more daunting when you’re faced with pages of legal terminology. 

Music industry solicitor Mark Melton of P. Russell & Co will be in conversation with the MU’s Ben Jones, lifting the lid on music industry agreements and demystifying the key clauses. 

Mark and Ben will look at Recording and Publishing agreements specifically, so if you’re an artist, performer or music writer you won’t want to miss this seminar. There’ll also be a chance to get your questions about these topics answered too.  

Mark Melton

Mark is an entertainment lawyer with P. Russell & Co Solicitors.  He has over 25 years of experience in copyright law and negotiating music business and other entertainment agreements at every level.

Mark has previously worked as a Musicians’ Union Official and as an Artist Manager. Amongst others, he managed the singer and television presenter Charlotte Church for many years, overseeing her recording career and co-executive producing three series of her award winning television show for Channel 4.  

6.30 – 8.30pm (6pm doors)

Image of Your Humanism is a Thoughtcrime

Talks & Lectures

Your Humanism is a Thoughtcrime

Wed 17 Sep 2014, 19:00

Central London Humanist Group presents

Your humanism is a thoughtcrime - Bob Churchill 

Around the world the non-religious are discriminated against by government-backed religious privilege, laws prohibiting advocacy or criticism, even the outright demonizing of atheism, humanism and secularism by authorities. In 13 countries you can even be put to death for "leaving" your presumed religion. Bob Churchill is the editor of the IHEU Freedom of Thought Report, an annual analysis of the violations of freedom against non-religious people globally. Bob will outline the basis for "freedom of thought and expression", the theme of this year's World Humanist Congress, and show how humanists are working globally for these freedoms, and other human rights.

Bob Churchill works in policy and communications at the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU, having previously worked at both the British Humanist Association and the Uganda Humanist Association. He studied philosophy at the University of Warwick and Queen's University, Canada, and has long-standing interests in secularism, Humanism, ethics and epistemology. He has appeared as a spokesperson on BBC News, Channel 4 News and Al Jazeera, and as a speaker at Skepticon, the Institute of Fundraising Technology, the Conway Hall Ethical Society, and the European Humanist Youth Days.

He tweets as @bobchurchill

Doors at 6.30 pm for talk at 7.00 pm

Entry: Free/Donation

Please arrive early to have a glass of wine from our charity wine bar find your seat and chat with other members.

Donations to the wine bar will go to Bob's chosen charity which is: Humanist Empowerment for Livelihoods Uganda

All our talks are open to the general public and free to attend but we do rely on those who can, to make a donation of what they can afford, to cover the costs of room, equipment hire and help keep our talks free to all.

Image of Thinking on Sunday - 'Nothing to be frightened of'

Talks & Lectures

Thinking on Sunday - 'Nothing to be frightened of'

Sun 21 Sept 2014, 11.00

Conway Hall Ethical Society presents

'Nothing to be frightened of' 

Chris Bratcher

My talk is a sampling of novelist Julian Barnes' touching and very personal memoir of his experiences of death in the family, and the demise of the famous and obscure in literature and life, plus his own fears and ruminations on his own, entitled 'Nothing to be Frightened of', published in 2008 (available in paperback).    

I will give a brief introduction to the book and some snippets from it, with comments to set the ball rolling.  For example, the book begins with what he claims to be his standard response to questions about what he believes: “I don’t believe in God, but I miss Him”; a statement (actually about the cultural and artistic legacy of others’ belief) which Barnes’ philosopher brother considers “soppy”.  Do you agree?

It would nice if attendees were familiar with the book, so that they could give their own take on it and recount bits they liked or otherwise.

Chris Bratcher is a former Chair and Treasurer of Conway Hall Ethical Society, and practised Sunday session talks giver and lecturer on a wide range of topics born of his academic philosophical discipline of Ethics and the Philosophy of Mind, and from his studies in Literature and Fine Arts. 

Manu Bazzano

I will discuss this subject from a Zen perspective. Living-and-dying is one word in Zen (shoji), a river running towards the sea, a river that cannot go back to the source. Our suffering is often caused by wanting to stand by the riverbank. The task of the psychotherapist is often thankless: urging the client back to the river of life thus renewing the promise of death. Even more thankless is the task of the philosopher: remembering the initial commitment to remain attentive of the delicate labour of death. Memento mori – “remember that you will die” --not the shrill overtones of religion but as a tonic of remembrance urging us towards a fuller and more meaningful life. 

Manu Bazzano is an existential psychotherapist and an ordained Zen monk. He lectures in philosophy and psychology and facilitates seminars and workshops worldwide. He is the author and editor of several books including Zen Poems (2002); Haiku for Lovers (2004);  Buddha is Dead (2006); The Speed of Angels (2009); Spectre of the Stranger (2012);  After Mindfulness: New Perspectives on Psychology and Meditation (2014).

Chair – Prof. Evan Parker

Evan is a new trustee of Conway Hall Ethical Society.  He has worked in industry and in academe. He currently works on nano-technology and also on climate change. He has held leadership roles in several European programmes and has published widely. 

Doors 10.30, £3 in advance, £2 concs./Free to Ethical Society members.

Tea, Coffee & biscuits will be available.

Image of Thinking on Sunday - A new dawn in secondary education

Talks & Lectures

Thinking on Sunday - A new dawn in secondary education

Sun 28 Sep 2014, 11.00

Conway Hall Ethical Society presents

A new dawn in secondary education 

Prof Evan Parker 

Our present education system is a catastrophic failure, not fit for purpose and its ethos is deeply flawed.

I will present a new and radical approach to secondary education, designed to be engaging and fulfilling and to enhance the student's contribution and experience in society. The teacher's role is redefined and their interaction with the students is based on new principles. The school infrastructure, along with its embedded technology is key to remodeling the whole-school experience.

The "syllabus” and the way it is delivered and student assessments are subject to profound revision compared to what is done today, ultimately making them relevant to advancing our society.

These ideas go well beyond any previous proposals/concepts, and discussions on how they might be developed and taken forward are most welcome.

Ever since being a 6th former Evan Parker has had abiding interests in how we might improve society and, in religion (although he is not religious). He has worked in industry and has spun out a company on solar energy. He held the Chair in Semiconductor Physics at the University of Warwick for 24 years and is currently Professorial Research Fellow. He currently works on nano-technology for medical applications and also on climate change. He has held leadership roles in many European programmes and published widely on scientific matters and also written a book on his childhood in a remote Cotswold village.

Chair - Tom Rubens

Tom a semi-retired teacher of English and Philosophy. He has worked as a university and college lecturer, and as a private tutor, and is still active in the latter field.

He has been a member of Conway Hall Ethical Society since the 1980s, and has been active at Conway Hall in a number of ways: serving a brief period as editor of the Ethical Record: delivering a large number of Sunday morning lectures; and doing archive work on material in the Society's journals from the 1870s onwards.

Doors 10.30, £3 in advance, £2 concs./Free to Ethical Society members

Tea, Coffee & biscuits will be available.

Image of Stop the First World War

Talks & Lectures

Stop the First World War

Tue 30 Sept 2014, 19:00

Oppositions to the Great War

A series of talks and discussions every Tuesday evening at 7pm from September 30th to November 11th 2014.

Curated by Deborah Lavin, and presented by Conway Hall Ethical Society and the Socialist History Society.

Until the very day before the British government declared war on Germany, the Liberal foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey was claiming that despite the Ententes with Republican France and Tsarist Russia, Britain had no binding commitments to join them in the threatened war against Germany. And many, including a substantial number of  M.P.s in the ruling Liberal Party, believed Britain not only could, but would remain neutral; as it had done in the Russo-Turkish War of 1878-1879 and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871.

There is no doubt that when war was declared on August 4th 1914, there was a great wave of patriotic feeling, but the now conventional myth that the First World War was supported patriotically throughout by the overwhelming majority of all classes and political groupings in Britain and the British Empire, is merely that, a myth.

With the long prepared “Defence of the Realm Act” (DORA) passed within days of the declaration of war "No person shall by word of mouth or in writing spread reports likely to cause disaffection or alarm among any of His Majesty's forces or among the civilian population”  allowing for the imprisonment of anti-war dissidents, there was from the start serious opposition to the war

Week 1: Norman Angell - liberal, radical, socialist, pacifist or patriot?

Prof Martin Ceadel

Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1933, Norman Angell, journalist, peace pundit was a founding member of the “neutralist” Union for Democratic Control, Initially a Liberal from 1929-1931, he was Labour M.P. for Bradford 

The best-seller of 1910 that made Norman Angell’s name as a peace pundit, The Great Illusion, combined pacifist and pro-defence arguments in a fashion which later caused him much intellectual grief.  And the neutralist campaign in response to the First World War that identified him as a rising star of the British left was based on a mix of often contradictory ideas.  

Martin Ceadel is a Professor of Politics at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of New College where he has taught since 1979. His research has concentrated on the politics of war prevention with special reference to Britain’s peace movement. The most recent of his five single-authored books is Living the Great Illusion: Sir Norman Angell, 1872-1967 (2009).

Entry £5/£3 (Ethical Society and Social History Society members)

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