Unless otherwise stated, meetings are held on Tuesdays at Aldington Village Hall. Coffee and booking time for visits and other events from 10.15am. Pre-lecture presentation and Chairman’s remarks at 11.00am. Lectures begin at 11.15am
Guests may attend two lectures in any one year at £5 per visit by prior arrangement with the Membership Secretary.
Click on the lecturer’s name if in purple for more information.



September 17th

250 Years of the Royal Academy


Rosalind Whyte

In 2018 The Royal Academy of Arts celebrated its 250th anniversary, so it is an opportune time to explore its history and the role it has played in the development of British art.  We will look at the position of artists in London before and after the formation of the Academy in 1768 and some of the characters involved, from the first President, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and other establishment figures, to artists who have taken a more oppositional stance, whether individually, such as Reynolds’ great contemporary and rival, Gainsborough, or as a group, such as the initially clandestine Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of young rebel artists who sought to subvert the Academy from within.  Like any important institution, the Academy has been embroiled in intrigue and controversy over the course of its history and no scandal or outrage will remain unexposed as we trace the history of one of Britain’s most important cultural bodies, from inception to the present day.


October 15th

The Astonishing Mozart Comes to London


Graham Griffiths

This lecture tells of the Mozart family’s residence in London (1764-5), during which time the 8-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus, already a prolific composer, amazed the royal guests of George III and performed musical tricks in pubs (and was even the subject of medical research). All this is described with surprising images of 18th century Chelsea and of Mozart’s earliest musical handwriting. Furthermore, Dr Griffiths illustrates his talk at the keyboard with explanations and performances of over a dozen of Mozart’s witty miniatures. The equally-astonishing Polonaise Mélancolique by Mozart’s own child-prodigy, Franz Xaver. (whom he never knew) brings the presentation to an emotional conclusion.

This is the ideal introduction to the inimitable style of Griffiths’s presentations, where the experienced concert-goer and the musical new-comer are informed and entertained in equal measure.

November 19th

The Field of the Cloth of Gold


Joanna Mabbutt

In June 1520 Henry VIII and Francis I met to ratify an Anglo-French alliance and celebrate the betrothal of Henry’s daughter, Mary, to the Dauphin. The two handsome ‘Renaissance Princes’ were in their 20’s with similar reputations in military prowess, sport and as patrons of the arts.  Both had imperial ambitions and were eager to display themselves as magnificent nobleman and warrior kings.  Each brought an entourage of 6,000 to a field south of Calais for 18 days of various events and entertainments, staged to display the skill and splendour of each King and country.  The logistics of transporting, accommodating, ordering, feeding and watering, protecting and entertaining the English contingent for this spectacular event were staggering and the supply chain, often through the City of London Guilds, is equally fascinating: 3,217 horses shipped across the ‘Narrow Sea’ to Calais; a vast quantity of wood sourced from Flanders and floated along the coast; a huge temporary palace built on stone foundations with brick and timber-framed walls reaching to 40 feet.  Royal palaces were virtually emptied of their silver, gold, tapestries and furniture to decorate the temporary palace; other principal tents and a chapel (with an organ); gold and silver cloth, velvet and sables, jewels and pearls were imported to ‘dress and impress’.

How was it all achieved?

2020 is the 500th Anniversary of this extraordinary event

December 10th

Doors open 10.00am

Concert by flautist Trevor Wye and his students at 10.30am
followed by

Picturing the Nativity, Painting By Numbers


Shirley Smith

The description of the Nativity in St. Luke is brief, mentioning only the Holy Family. However, this did not prevent artists including a full supporting cast and incidental props to embellish both the mystical and maternal aspects, thereby capturing the imagination and empathy of the believer. So, by the 15th century the story had been expanded to include animals, shepherds, midwives, even contemporary portraits. The lecture will explore this by looking at Italian and Flemish paintings on the subject and the writings which supplied the stories. The result is touching, amusing, at times bordering on the blasphemous, but never dull.


January 21st

Mad Men and the Artists      


  Tony Rawlins

Fine art has provided advertisers and their agencies with a great deal of material to use in their creative campaigns. Tony will describe some of the processes by which these advertisements have been created and why the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo have been a particularly rich source. From the Renaissance through to the present day fine art continues to provide opportunities to enhance brand imagery with admiration, humour, satire and irony.


February 18th

The Dowager Empress Cixi 1835-1908. Ruling From Behind the Yellow Silk Screen


David Rosier

His lecture seeks to provide a balanced insight into the life and achievements of one of the most important women in Chinese imperial history. From relative obscurity as a low-ranking consort, we will explore the events that led to her confirmation as Dowager Empress Cixi in 1861 and her strategy to preserve, T then revitalise, imperial rule after a series of humiliating military defeats by Western Colonial Powers, in addition to several brutal ethnic uprisings. We will trace the distinct cycles of Cixi’s power, as emperors came and went, whilst the Dowager Empress moved periodically from a position of influence to full authority and then into times of enforced retirement. Looking beyond Cixi’s desire to force China into the modern world, we will gain an insight into her life within her beloved Summer Palace, focussing on her passion for painting, embroidery, fashion design and the extensive gardens. Here Cixi forged some extraordinarily close relationships with leading western women.

March 17th – CANCELLED


AGM 10.45 (coffee 10.00)

A Concise History of Our Great  British Parks


Paul Rabbitts

This is a fascinating insight into the history of one of our greatest ever institutions, our Great British Public Parks. We have all enjoyed them at some time in our lives, but what do we really know about them? What are their origins? This talk illustrates their origins from the great Royal Parks to the Pleasure Gardens of the eighteenth century and to their Victorian heyday. It discusses what makes a great park, its ‘parkitecture’, with examples of lodges, lakes, bandstands, fountains, lidos, palm houses and their wonderful floral displays. The lecture includes their great decline in the sixties, seventies and eighties and the subsequent revival, which has led to a major shift in interest in our parks, so that once again we are very much in love with them. This is a highly illustrative lecture, accompanied by slides with examples of parks from across the UK and their designs and architecture.

April 21st – CANCELLED

Understanding Modern Art

Frank Woodgate

A light-hearted and entertaining look at some of the avant garde art movements formed between 1900 and 2000, some of the best known Modern works of this period and the lives of the artists who produced them.

The beginning of the 20th century saw the spread of the artistic revolution which had started in the second half of the 19th and produced the works of the Impressionists. Artists like Matisse and Picasso created some of their most important and influential works and Duchamp produced art which still has an influence on artists today. In the second and third decades of the century the artistic response to political and social upheaval produced some of the masterpieces of modern art, including many works, such as those of Surrealists like Ernst and Magritte, which were designed deliberately to shock and mystify. In the 1930s the Spanish Civil War was a great influence on artists such as Picasso and Dali, while the deep pessimism of the years following the Second World War is reflected in the work of artists like Bacon and Dubuffet. Pop Art brought a return to optimism in the sixties, while some of Warhol’s pictures reveal a darker side of modern life. The last decades of the 20th century and the first of the 21st have seen an intense questioning of the nature and language of art, as well as serious consideration of ecological issues and the state of the planet, among artists like Beuys and Kiefer. In the context of British art we shall look at the Turner Prize, which since 1984 has helped bring this country to the forefront of international modern art.


May 19th – CANCELLED

The Borgias – The Most Infamous Family in History                        

                             Sarah Dunant

In an age known for its brutality and church corruption, were the Borgias really so bad? This lecture considers the evidence and reveals the real family that dominated the papacy and Italian politics during the last decade of the 15th century.

June 16th – CANCELLED

The Paintings and Wit of Winston Churchill and Noël Coward

                                Nicholas Reed

Both Winston Churchill and Noël Coward were keen amateur artists with homes in Kent. Both were also men of legendary wit. This lecture combines an examination of their paintings with examples of their undoubted sense of humour.




September 15th

The Hazards of the Journey

Imogen Corrigan

What possessed people to trudge hundreds of miles, often in appalling conditions and sometimes perishing on the way? This lecture considers this question and also how there was a shift from spiritual wandering in the Anglo-Saxon period to religious tourism in the days of Chaucer’s pilgrims. It also looks closely at travel in general and the hazards of the journey: how did people organise themselves for long journeys and how safe was it? How should they provide for themselves and where might they find help? From maps and motivation to souvenirs and shrines, this lecture discusses travel in the round as well as specifically for spiritual reasons

October 20th

This is Wren – the Classical, the Baroque and the City of London Churches

Tony Tucker

This lecture analyses Wren’s life and his career as a scientist, astronomer and architect. It features all his buildings in London, Oxford and Cambridge, before focusing on his City of London churches. In addition to photographs of most of Wren’s buildings, the lecture includes original research into the work of architects in Rome and Paris, which influenced Wren and provided much of his inspiration.

November 17th

As Good as Gold

Alexandra Epps

Experience the story of gold and its significance and symbolism within the history of art: as the colour of the sun; the colour of divinity; the colour of status and the colour of love. From creations ancient and contemporary, sacred and profane, all that glitters is certainly gold…

December 8th

Played in London – charting the heritage of a city at play

Simon Inglis

London’s great drivers have always been finance and culture, but while the arts are celebrated in the capital, physical culture is often overlooked. In this lecture, Simon traces London’s sporting culture back to the 12th century, taking in manuscripts in the British Library, records of jousting at the College of Arms, and the obscure game of Pall Mall, from which the current thoroughfare takes its name. Much of this story concerns the battle for open space, an issue for the Finsbury Archers of the 17th century no less than campaigners for playing fields in the 20th century East End slums, boathouses on the Thames, the mania for lidos in the 1930s, the Olympics, Wimbledon and the University Boat Race.


January 19th

A brief history of wine

David Wright

Wine has been part of our global society for over 7,000 years. The lecture examines its origin and appearance in all societies across the Mediterranean and through Europe. There is rich evidence of the role wine has played in these societies and how it became an important component of faith, well-being and festivity. From the kwevris of Georgia in 5,000 B.C., the symposia in ancient Greece, the thermopolia of Pompeii and the hospices of Europe to the dining tables of fine society, wine has been ever-present. Drawings, paintings, engravings, buildings, pottery and wine labels themselves all contribute to the story.

February 16th

The subtle science and exact art of colour in English garden design

Timothy Walker

In 1888 Gertrude Jekyll wrote a short but seminal article in ‘The Garden’, in which she urged the readers to “remember that in a garden we are painting a picture”. As an accomplished watercolour artist, Miss Jekyll was familiar with the principles of using colours, but she felt that in gardens these principles “had been greatly neglected”. This talk looks at how to apply these principles in designing a border, but it also looks at the ways in which a border is different from a painting. However, it goes further than this and looks at how contemporary work of the likes of Turner, Monet, Rothko, Jackson Pollack, and Hockney evolved in parallel with ideas about what a garden or border should look like.

March 16th

The Magnificent Maya – Fact and Fantasy

Dr Diane Davies

The Maya created one of the most sophisticated civilizations in the ancient world. Their achievements in the arts and sciences, along with their complex social, political and economic systems, make them one of the most remarkable culture groups in the Precolumbian Americas. These people brought us an intricate calendar system, complex hieroglyphic writing, some of the largest pyramids in the world, a form of ball game that was like no other and, most importantly, chocolate! This lecture will discuss the major achievements of the Maya, as well as pointing out the common misunderstandings we have of this remarkable civilization.

April 20th

Bravos and Breastplates – the Evolution of Opera

Sandy Burnett

Starting with a look at the origins of opera as a form of courtly entertainment in Italy in the early years of the C17th, this overview takes in the opulent spectacles at the French court of Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV, the “Sun King”, and pokes its nose into opera houses across Europe in the Baroque era, including those in London, where Italian opera gained an unlikely foothold and was memorably described by Dr Johnson as an “exotic and irrational entertainment”. Sandy examines the legacy of those two creative giants of the nineteen century, Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, and takes us up towards our own time, where surtitles and HD cinema transmissions have made opera more widely accessible than ever before. Undeniably a major step forward – but has this come at a cost?

May 18th

Faces, Figures and Forms – Exploring Sculpture in the UK’s Public Art Collections

Mary Rose Rivett-Carnac

Sculpture has the power to stop us in our tracks. It can be awe-inspiring, thought-provoking or fun and amusing. Many sculptures are imbued with historical and cultural reference; statues, for example, representing remarkable men and women of the past. Modern sculpture sees the world from different perspectives that may be perplexing or enlightening. The UK’s national collection of sculpture is arguably the finest in the world and is being catalogued in a unique and ambitious project called ‘Art UK’ (www.artuk.org). The lecture explores a range of works from across the country and recounts some of the fascinating stories behind them.

June 15th

Undressing Antiques

Mark Hill

Antiques.”I don’t understand them and they’re beyond my budget. They’re not for me.” A persuasive introduction to buying antiques and integrating and using them in today’s homes. The state of the antiques market and the different meanings of the word value are considered, and we take a look at what current and future generations of collectors are buying, why they are buying it and how they are displaying it.