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

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

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

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.