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2023/2024 Illustrated Talks

Conference Crowd

Venues will change depending on the lecture.
We will announce the venue here on the website,
by newsletter and on our facebook page well in advance.


Tuesday 26th September 2023

Talk by Sandy Burnett

The Age of Jazz



Urb. La Carolina Ctra. de Cádiz 179km  

Edificio Aries, Local N

29602 Marbella

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Jazz is one of music’s most important genres: a fascinating blend of rigorous structure, free-wheeling creativity, close-knit ensembles and imaginative improvisation. Drawing on his experience both as musicologist and gigging musician, Sandy can shed light on jazz from the inside. His talk covers the early years of jazz up to the Second World War, and touches on the disparate influences which lay behind the emergence of jazz. Musical illustrations range from the blues, ragtime and the very first jazz recordings through to classics by Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and the Duke Ellington Orchestra, and the dawn of the Swing Era.

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Tuesday 31st October 2023

Talk by Simon Williams

Upstairs Downstairs - The Upsides and Downsides



Urb. La Carolina Ctra. de Cádiz 179km  

Edificio Aries, Local N

29602 Marbella

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My first lucky break was the role of Captain James Bellamy in Upstairs Downstairs, my most recent that of Justin Elliott in The Archers. So in 50 years I’ve gone from one cad to another. In between my career has been a roller coaster ride of successes and the flops, the upsides and downsides of a ‘showbiz’ life. I’ve worked with a wide range of people including Peter Sellers, Joan Collins, David Jason, Nigel Havers, Marianne Faithful, Noel Coward, Judi Dench, Alan Bennett, Glenda Jackson. I’ll be sharing some secrets and maybe dishing some dirt.  

Image by José Jóvena

Tuesday 28th November 2023

Talk by Ian Gledhill

Art Nouveau, Gaudi and Barcelona

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It can certainly be said that Antoni Gaudí is the most influential Art Nouveau’s artist in Barcelona. His works are buildings such as Casa Milà (also known as La Pedrera), Casa Batlló and Torre Bellesguard, located at the foot of Mount Tibidabo.  We will be looking at the influence Art Nouveau had in different countries, including Britain, Austria, Spain, Latvia and America. Despite the fact that Art Nouveau was originally largely inspired by British designers, the style found little favour in this country. While French and Belgian architects used plant forms to create organic three dimensional forms, Austrian Art Nouveau is surprisingly flat, and in Barcelona Antoni Gaudi’s buildings seem much more based on animal shapes than plants. The city with more Art Nouveau buildings than any other is Riga in Latvia, where carved stone is much more prominent than the fantastical iron shapes found in Belgium or France. We finish our world tour in America, with the elaborately decorated designs of Louis Tiffany and Louis Sullivan.

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Tuesday 30th January 2024

Talk by Caroline Holmes

Australian Impressionists

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The Heidelberg School shelters under its own unique umbrella taking their academic influences equally from the Royal Academy School in London and the French Impressionists. Key members were Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Frederick McCubbin and Charles Conder whose art evolved from the informal, evocative and naturalistic into a nationalistic expression. In 1901 McCubbin bought a cottage on Mount Macedon, its surroundings became the inspiration for some of his best known works, the family named the property Fontainebleau. Its guest list ranged from Ellen Terry and Dame Nellie Melba to his myriad students who camped in the gardens.

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Tuesday 24th February 2024

Talk by Gavin Plumley

Sinew, Sex and Synapse: The Life & Art of Egon Schiele

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Born in a railway station north of Vienna, Egon Schiele became the imperial capital’s most shocking artist. Defying the authorities, the Academy of Fine Arts and the curvilinear lines of his idol Klimt’s art nouveau, Schiele created his own brand of artistic expression. He got to the very core of human emotion and the restive experience of life at the beginning of the 20th century. Looking at strained portraits, cramped cityscapes and sparse landscapes alike, this talk surveys 28 years of tenacious creativity, as well as the impact Schiele would have on artists such as Francis Bacon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Lucien Freud and Tracey Emin.

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Tuesday 26th March 2024

Talk by Jane Tapley

Taking the Waters: Social Life in the Spa Towns from Roman Times to the Present Day

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The origins of Britain’s Spas go back to pre-Roman times when they developed from mineral springs or holy wells associated with local myths. During the 16C the Tudors started taking the waters as standard medical practise. Then in the 18C the Spa towns were transformed into fashionable watering places for Georgian society who gathered there to dance, gamble, gossip and flirt as well as to take the waters. Splendid architecture, extensive parks and colourful gardens were created to attract the Beau Monde to these beautiful towns. Twelve of these exist today amongst the most famous being Bath, Cheltenham, Harrogate, Buxton and Malvern.

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Tuesday 30th April 2024

Lecturer: Paul Chapman

Picasso and Modern British Art

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Picasso remains the twentieth century’s single most important artistic figure, a towering genius who changed the face of modern art. His influence on modern British Art is undoubtable, artists like Wyndham Lewis, Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland, Francis Bacon and David Hockney have all been indebted to the works of Picasso. Each one of these artists had an epiphany moment when confronted by Picasso’s work. Throughout the 20th century the shape shifting Spanish artist had an enduring influence on these major British artists. We can see how each artist took from and then adapted Picasso’s work, to create their own unique versions of Modern British Art.

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Tuesday 28th May 2024

Lecturer: John Ericson

Art Inspired by Wine


In this lively presentation John shares his knowledge and enthusiasm for wine and the contribution that ‘wine art’ makes to our colourful world. Wine can be a civilising influence upon us and it is made to be shared and enjoyed. As a consequence there are numerous wonderful paintings of wine being made and wine being drunk in celebration but it also lends itself to wicked cartoons and striking posters. In addition we shall examine wine labels from around the world which now display such style and creativity.

Meet our Experts

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Sandy Burnett

Sandy is one of the UK’s most versatile music commentators, enjoying a career that combines broadcasting, performing and lecturing. After studying at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge and working as music director for the RSC, National Theatre and in London’s West End, Sandy Burnett spent a decade as one of the core team of presenters on BBC Radio 3. Combining engaging scholarship with hands-on expertise, he devises and leads cultural holidays all over the world, is the author of the Idler Guide to Classical Music, is a highly sought after double bassist on the London jazz scene, and was appointed the Academy of Ancient Music’s Hogwood Fellow for the 2018-19 season.

Simon Williams

Simon is a British actor known for playing James Bellamy in the period drama Upstairs, Downstairs. Frequently playing upper middle class or aristocratic upper class roles, he is also known for playing Charles Cartwright in the sitcom Don't Wait Up and Charles Merrick in medical drama Holby City. Since 2014, he has played the character of Justin Elliott in the long-running BBC Radio 4 series The Archers.


Ian Gledhill

Ian has had a very varied career, from designing underground railways as an engineer for London Transport, to appearing in pantomime with Julian Clary. In between he has worked in travel and tourism, music publishing, television, and especially the theatre, where he has been an actor, director, set designer, stage manager and opera translator. His main interests include architecture, history, transport and classical music, especially opera and operetta, and these are reflected in the wide ranging list of subjects for his lectures. He began giving lectures in 1997, and now gives on average around 140 a year. 

Caroline Dawes

Caroline has lectured in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Europe, Japan and on cruises to the Baltic, Mediterranean, Caribbean and Indian Ocean. In 2017 she returned to The Arts Society in New Zealand. Lectures for the University of Cambridge ICE (Course Director for International Summer Programme), the Royal Horticultural Society, museums, and specialist travel companies. Consultant designer specializing in evoking historic, artistic and symbolic references. Author of 11 books including Water Lilies and Bory Latour-Marliac, the genius behind Monet’s water lilies; Impressionists in their Gardens; Follies of Europe: Architectural Extravaganzas; Monet at Giverny and Icons of Garden Design. Theatre productions: How does your garden grow Mr. Shakespeare and Impressionists in their Gardens: living light and colour. Presenter and contributor on television and BBC Radio 4. 2017 recipient of the Herb Society of America ‘Elizabeth Crisp Rea Award’.

Gavin Plumley

Gavin is a writer and broadcaster, appearing on BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4 and contributing to newspapers, magazines and opera and concert programmes worldwide. Lectures widely about the culture of Central Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries. Recent talks include the Royal Opera House, the National Gallery, the National Trust, the National Theatre, the British Museum, the V&A, the Southbank Centre, the Tate and the Neue Galerie, New York, as well as for history of art societies and The Art Fund. 

Jane Tapley

Jane is currently Special Events Organiser, Theatre Royal Bath. Interviews visiting actors, writers, directors. Lectures regularly to theatre going societies, NT and history and fine arts groups. West Country Tourist Board Registered Blue Badge Guide and Lecturer. Author and researcher of theatre programme notes on Hamlet, Sheridan's The Rivals and Jane Austen's Emma. Theatrical landlady! Home Economist. Consultant to various TV productions of Jane Austen adaptations on food in the 18th and 19th centuries. Hosts and cooks period meals in her Regency house in Bath for the Jane Austen Festival and other literary groups.

Paul Chapman

Paul is an Art Historian and a National Gallery trained guide with many years of experience working in education. As a freelance Paul delivers courses and lectures for a wide range of educational organisations. Paul has also given talks and tours for art associations/ societies in Museums and Galleries in the UK and Europe. As a writer, Paul has published a book, which examines the subject of cultural crossovers and appropriations in 20th century painting. Paul has a long-standing commitment, in conjunction with the National Gallery as a tour guide at the Longford Castle art collection and he is also a visiting tutor at Marlborough College and a tutor at MCSS.   

John Ericson


Formerly a lecturer at the University of Bath where he was Director of Studies in the School of Education with responsibility for the professional development of teachers. He has worked extensively overseas as an educational consultant and this has given him the opportunity to give lectures and presentations at conferences all over the world. Illustrated and presented with warmth and humour.

Image by Robert Keane
For those members who cannot wait a whole month for a cultural "fix", click here for an up-to-date listing of art exhibitions and other cultural events in the local area - kindly supplied by the Sur in English.
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