Special Interest Courses

The following courses are all run by highly qualified tutors and lecturers. Some of them have taught or are teaching for The Cambridge University Institute of Continuing Education or other Institutes of Further or Higher Education or the WEA. Students are encouraged to take an active part in learning through class discussion and reading. Some tutors may give students the option to do written work but this is entirely at the tutor’s discretion and there may be a marking fee payable directly to the tutor. Other than for Creative Writing, written work will NOT be compulsory on any course. A syllabus and book list may be provided by the tutor prior to the start of the course. 

Summer 2024

Short Stories by Women 15/04/24 (5 Weeks)

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Tutor: Sharon Priestley
Mondays from 13:00 to 15:00
15th Apr 2024
£70.00 per 5 weeks term.

How are people depicted in contemporary short stories? Do the stories reflect how real individuals behave in today’s world? Through informal discussions of stories dealing with comedy, tragedy and more, we will address those questions and discover how resonant short fiction can be. This course is suitable for beginners new to reading short stories and for more experienced readers of this genre. The stories we will read come from ‘The Story: Life: Great Short Stories by Women chosen by Victoria Hislop’. This book contains 35 stories. The stories discussed can also be found in Hislop’s longer volume entitled ‘The Story: Love, Loss and the Lives of Women,’ which contains 100 stories. What to Bring : Pen and paper, and ideally, a copy of one of the books specified above. Dr Sharon Priestley has taught a number of literature and writing courses at The Settlement, The Rothsay Education Centre, at Cambridge’s Institute of Continuing Education and elsewhere. Her background is in Eighteenth-Century British literature and she has presented numerous papers on Boswell and Johnson at literary conferences. Her discussion-based courses in American and English literature range from biography, nature writing and prize-winning novels to classic and modern fairy tales. Contemporary women’s writing is one of Sharon’s special interests.

Walking With History 16/4/24 (5 Weeks)

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Tutor: Anne Rowe
Tuesdays from 10:00 to 12:00
16th Apr 2024
£70.00 per 5 weeks term.

A series of 5 walks with landscape historian Dr Anne Rowe exploring the multi-faceted history of the Hertfordshire countryside. Topics covered during the walks will include settlement history, open fields, commons, parks, rabbit warrens and the management of woodland and hedgerows. Each walk will be in a different area and will take about two hours and cover approximately 3-4 miles, starting and finishing at a point where cars can be parked. • sturdy footwear and clothing appropriate to the weather conditions and for protecting you from nettles, brambles, ticks and other hazards encountered on a normal country walk • any refreshments you might need to get you to the end of the walk – and home again afterwards • modern OS map (if you wish – not essential) • car park charge on one of the walks (£2.50 in 2023) • any relevant knowledge and experience you might have to share with the group • moderate level of fitness and a cheerful smile (whatever the weather!) Anne is a freelance landscape historian who has coordinated the research work of the Hertfordshire Gardens Trust since 1998 and lectures in landscape and garden history. She has written two books about Hertfordshire’s deer parks – one on parks in the Medieval period and the other about Tudor and Early Stuart Parks. She has also co-authored books on the county’s landscape history, on the 1766 county map by Dury and Andrews and on Hertfordshire’s garden history as well as contributing to the Historical Atlas of Hertfordshire. She was thrilled to be awarded a PhD in 2020. This series of walks was last completed in 2019.

Tai Chi & Qigong 16/04/24 (10 Weeks)

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Tutor: Stephen Lyall
Tuesdays from 10:00 to 11:00
16th Apr 2024
£70.00 per 10 weeks term.

This course will continue to cover the basic principles and practical movements of both Tai Chi and Qigong (Dao Yin Yang Sheng Gong). Exercise involves: Physical Movement, Breathing, Mental understanding and attention. Steve Lyall taught Tai Chi and Qigong as leader of the Luton Tai Chi Club from 2007 to 2020. He belongs to The Tai Chi & Qigong Union for Great Britain (Advanced Instructor membership), The British Council for Chinese Martial Arts (Level 2 coaching) and The Longfei Taijiquan Association of Great Britain (Instructor).

Walking With History 17/4/24 (5 Weeks)

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Tutor: Anne Rowe
Wednesdays from 10:00 to 12:00
17th Apr 2024
£70.00 per 5 weeks term.

A series of 5 walks with landscape historian Dr Anne Rowe exploring the multi-faceted history of the Hertfordshire countryside. Topics covered during the walks will include settlement history, open fields, commons, parks, rabbit warrens and the management of woodland and hedgerows. Each walk will be in a different area and will take about two hours and cover approximately 3-4 miles, starting and finishing at a point where cars can be parked. • sturdy footwear and clothing appropriate to the weather conditions and for protecting you from nettles, brambles, ticks and other hazards encountered on a normal country walk • any refreshments you might need to get you to the end of the walk – and home again afterwards • modern OS map (if you wish – not essential) • car park charge on one of the walks (£2.50 in 2023) • any relevant knowledge and experience you might have to share with the group • moderate level of fitness and a cheerful smile (whatever the weather!) Anne is a freelance landscape historian who has coordinated the research work of the Hertfordshire Gardens Trust since 1998 and lectures in landscape and garden history. She has written two books about Hertfordshire’s deer parks – one on parks in the Medieval period and the other about Tudor and Early Stuart Parks. She has also co-authored books on the county’s landscape history, on the 1766 county map by Dury and Andrews and on Hertfordshire’s garden history as well as contributing to the Historical Atlas of Hertfordshire. She was thrilled to be awarded a PhD in 2020. Please note that this series of walks was last completed in 2019.

The Poetry of Thomas Hardy – 17/04/24 – 5 Weeks

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Tutor: Steven Pollard
Wednesdays from 13:00 to 15:00
17th Apr 2024
£70.00 per 5 weeks term.

Although best known as a novelist, Thomas Hardy was a fine poet and, indeed, spent the latter part of his life writing only poetry. This course will be arranged thematically, covering his life and his surroundings. About 6 or 7 poems will be discussed in each session so that, by the end of the course, a wide appreciation of his work will be attained. What to bring : Pen and notebook Brought up in Hampshire, Steven read English Literature at Oxford University where he was heavily involved in drama, including producing the World Premiere of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Lessness’. On graduation he embarked on a career in teaching, working in places as disparate as Sudan, Ethiopia and East Sussex before spending 22 years as Head of English at Kimbolton School. When he retired from school teaching he moved to teaching adults as well as chairing a Riding for the Disabled group. More importantly he also was able to get a season ticket at Portsmouth FC!

Women Artists Through Their Words 17/4/24 – (5 Weeks)

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Tutor: Anna McNay
Wednesdays from 19:00 to 21:00
17th Apr 2024
£70.00 per 5 weeks term.

Continuing with five more fabulous and fascinating better- and lesser-well known women artists, from across the ages and working in different mediums, we will look at their work afresh, listening to them talk about it – and their lives more generally – in their own words. (NB: this series is completely independent of the preceding series, so new faces are welcome in class!) We are amid a lively period of ‘discovery’ (more accurately, ‘recovery’) of the women artists hitherto missing from our art-historical canon. Yet, even as these artists and their works are celebrated, they continue to be critiqued from the clear standpoint of their being token females in a male-dominated arena. Many of these artists do exploit their sex and gender through their work, but is it right to always view and interpret their art through this lens? We will take as our source material these artists’ letters, journals, poetry, interviews and memoirs – alongside their visual works – to build up a picture of their identity and artistic goals – in their own words. Artists to be studied: 1.     Monica Sjöö 2.     Angelica Kauffman 3.     Zanele Muholi 4.     Camille Claudel 5.     Louise Bourgeois Notebook and pen Anna McNay is a writer, editor and international curator, who contributes regularly to a variety of print and online art and photography journals, including Studio International, Art Quarterly and The Flux Review. She writes catalogue essays, hosts panels and in conversation events at galleries, art schools and online, and has judged numerous art prizes, both nationally and internationally. McNay originally worked in academia as an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow in linguistics at the Humboldt University in Berlin and a Heath Harrison Teaching Fellow at the University of Oxford, where she lectured and gave tutorials and seminars in undergraduate and postgraduate linguistics and German translation. annamcnay.art @annamcnay #TheCriticWithTheDog

Women Artists Through Their Words 5/6/24 – (5 Weeks)

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Tutor: Anna McNay
Wednesdays from 19:00 to 21:00
5th Jun 2024
£70.00 per 5 weeks term.

Continuing with five more fabulous and fascinating better- and lesser-well known women artists, from across the ages and working in different mediums, we will look at their work afresh, listening to them talk about it – and their lives more generally – in their own words. (NB: this series is completely independent of the preceding series, so new faces are welcome in class!) We are amid a lively period of ‘discovery’ (more accurately, ‘recovery’) of the women artists hitherto missing from our art-historical canon. Yet, even as these artists and their works are celebrated, they continue to be critiqued from the clear standpoint of their being token females in a male-dominated arena. Many of these artists do exploit their sex and gender through their work, but is it right to always view and interpret their art through this lens? We will take as our source material these artists’ letters, journals, poetry, interviews and memoirs – alongside their visual works – to build up a picture of their identity and artistic goals – in their own words. Artists to be studied: 1.     Niki de Saint Phalle 2.     Claude Cahun 3.     Paula Rego 4.     Yayoi Kusama 5.     Agnes Martin Notebook and pen Anna McNay is a writer, editor and international curator, who contributes regularly to a variety of print and online art and photography journals, including Studio International, Art Quarterly and The Flux Review. She writes catalogue essays, hosts panels and in conversation events at galleries, art schools and online, and has judged numerous art prizes, both nationally and internationally. McNay originally worked in academia as an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow in linguistics at the Humboldt University in Berlin and a Heath Harrison Teaching Fellow at the University of Oxford, where she lectured and gave tutorials and seminars in undergraduate and postgraduate linguistics and German translation. annamcnay.art @annamcnay #TheCriticWithTheDog

Paul Simon : His Life, Times, and Music – 5 Weeks – 18/04/24

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Tutor: Stephen Barnard
Thursdays from 13:30 to 15:30
18th Apr 2024
£70.00 per 5 weeks term.

Almost alone among the musicians to emerge from the American folk scene in the 1960s, Paul Simon never stood still. After breaking with Art Garfunkel at the peak of their hugely successful partnership in 1970, he embraced styles and genres on the fringes of the musical mainstream such as gospel, reggae and South African kwela and marabi. In this course we’ll explore Simon’s many songs, albums, collaborations and projects to try to define what makes him one of the most creative and compelling singer-songwriters of the last 60 years. What to Bring : Pen and notebook Stephen spent 21 years as a specialist writer with Reader’s Digest before going freelance in 1999. He has been writing and lecturing on broadcasting, film and popular music on a part-time basis for over 30 years. He has run courses for the WEA, De Montfort University, the City University, and a number of Hertfordshire arts groups, His five published books include ‘Studying Radio’, the standard academic textbook on the subject.

Amazing Arts and Crafts of the Middle East – 18/04/24 – (5 Weeks)

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Tutor: Wafa’ Tarnowska
Thursdays from 10:00 to 12:00
18th Apr 2024
£72.00 per 5 weeks term.

The Arts and Crafts of the Middle East are beautiful and informative because they tell us about the people who made them and those who bought them or commissioned them. In this course we will learn about amazing illuminated manuscripts and miniatures, about the art of Islamic pottery and glazed tiles, about elaborate embroidery and carpet weaving with specific symbols and motifs and about the complexity of Arabesque and Calligraphy. Come and be dazzled! What to Bring : Note Pad and Pen Wafa’ Tarnowska was born and educated in Lebanon, but has worked and lived in Australia, India, Poland, Cyprus, the UAE and the UK. In addition to being a French, Arabic and English as a Second Language teacher, Wafa’ is a writer, translator and story teller. She has written seven children’s books and has translated children’s stories from English into Arabic in addition to TV documentaries from Arabic to English. She loves travelling, visiting art galleries and museums, going to the opera and ballet, walking in nature, practicing yoga, swimming and dancing. www.wafatarnowska.co.uk

Oliver Cromwell : Hero or Villain? – 10 Weeks – 18/04/24

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Tutor: Andrew Bamford
Thursdays from 13:00 to 15:00
18th Apr 2024
£140.00 per 10 weeks term.

This course will analyse the political, religious, and social divisions leading to the start of the Civil War and the reasons for royalist defeat. The reasons for the execution of Charles Ist will be explored and how Oliver Cromwell emerged as the dominant figure. Was Cromwell a principled figure or an political hypocrite and war criminal? Why was the monarchy restored in 1660? Why was Restoration Settlement undermined by religious divisions leading to the overthrow of James II in the Glorious Revolution of 1688? What to Bring : Pen and notepad optional. Notes will be sent by the tutor. Andrew Bamford read History at Selwyn College Cambridge, graduating in 1983. He taught a variety of historical periods during his time at Kimbolton School, Cambridgeshire where he was Head of History from 1990-2021 and Head of Sixth Form 2005-2019, as well as teaching A level Politics. Since retirement, Andrew has lectured at the Rothsay Education Centre in Bedford on a wide range of subjects from the Unification of Italy to the English Civil War. He is Curator of Kimbolton Castle and a keen Crystal Palace fan!

Spring 2024

Memory & Time: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes 27/2/24 (5 Weeks)

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Tutor: Margaret Norwich
Tuesdays from 13:30 to 15:30
27th Feb 2024
£70.00 per 5 weeks term.

This “short but not slight” novel by one of our most distinguished writers is compelling, elegantly composed, a brilliant read! Tony Webster is an ordinary man who has done his best to live his life without doing harm, or is he “emotionally practical” as Barnes has described him? Memory, though, is imperfect and may (like life) throw up surprises. The story which unfolds against a background of contemporary London is thrilling and significant, much to discuss! Please join us. Margaret Norwich studied liberal arts at Vassar College, New York and read English at Girton College, Cambridge. She has worked in publishing, higher education and the voluntary sector. She lectured on English Language & Literature for many years at Bedford College/De Montfort University and was Tutor/Organiser for the WEA in Bedfordshire. Her interests include the poetry of Sylvia Plath, the novels of Hilary Mantel, the plays of Tom Stoppard, and the redemptive power of art, music and literature.

DNA, the Secret of Life 10/01/24 (5 weeks)

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Tutor: Tim Parrott
Wednesdays from 10:00 to 12:00
10th Jan 2024
£70.00 per 5 weeks term.

DNA is the genetic material in eggs and sperm which enables animals and plants to reproduce. The full story of how it achieves this only became known in the 1960s, and we are part of the first wave of Humans to understand processes which were a complete mystery to our forebears. This 5-week course does not require a scientific background but will amaze nevertheless. Tim Parrott took his degree at Cambridge then worked as a schoolteacher before specialising in explaining Popular Science to general audiences. In addition to Cosmology, Physics and Evolutionary Biology, he also teaches courses on architectural structure, always with a view to developing the knowledge and understanding of people without a background in Science who nonetheless want to know more.

A Beginner’s Guide to Classical Physics and Quantum Physics 28/02/24 (5 weeks)

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Tutor: Tim Parrott
Wednesdays from 10:00 to 12:00
28th Feb 2024
£70.00 per 5 weeks term.

A Beginner’s Guide to Classical Physics and Quantum Physics. Most of the great discoveries in Quantum Physics were made in the 1920s in Europe. Eminent physicists could scarcely believe that the phenomena before them were actually happening. What fascinates us amateurs to this day is that whilst the Mathematics is unambiguous, little else is. (This course is for the Mathematically innocent.) Tim Parrott took his degree at Cambridge then worked as a schoolteacher before specialising in explaining Popular Science to general audiences. In addition to Cosmology, Physics and Evolutionary Biology, he also teaches courses on architectural structure, always with a view to developing the knowledge and understanding of people without a background in Science who nonetheless want to know more.

Twentieth Century Irish Poetry 10/01/24 (5 weeks)

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Tutor: Steven Pollard
Wednesdays from 13:00 to 15:00
10th Jan 2024
£70.00 per 5 weeks term.

Ireland has produced many of the finest poets of the last century. This course will cover well known figures such as Yeats and Heaney as well as possibly less known poets such as Eavan Boland, placing the poetry within its literary and historical context. Each session will focus on the work of one poet with a couple of linked poems by lesser known writers. As with previous courses, discussion will form a major part of the session. Please bring a pen and paper / device. Brought up in Hampshire, Steven read English Literature at Oxford University where he was heavily involved in drama, including producing the World Premiere of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Lessness’. On graduation he embarked on a career in teaching, working in places as disparate as Sudan, Ethiopia and East Sussex before spending 22 years as Head of English at Kimbolton School. When he retired from school teaching he moved to teaching adults as well as chairing a Riding for the Disabled group. More importantly he also was able to get a season ticket at Portsmouth FC!

Women Artists Through Their Words 28/2/24 – 5 Weeks

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Tutor: Anna McNay
Wednesdays from 19:00 to 21:00
28th Feb 2024
£70.00 per 5 weeks term.

We are amid a lively period of ‘discovery’ (more accurately, ‘recovery’) of the women artists hitherto missing from our art-historical canon. Yet, even as these artists and their works are celebrated, they continue to be critiqued from the clear standpoint of their being token females in a male-dominated arena. Many of these artists do exploit their sex and gender through their work, but is it right to always view and interpret their art through this lens? Continuing from last term’s study and celebration of five very different women artists, we proceed to explore a further five better- and lesser-well known women artists, from across the ages and working in different mediums, looking at their letters, journals, poetry, interviews and memoirs – alongside their visual works – to build up a picture of their identity and artistic goals – in their own words. Artists to be studied: 1. Marina Abramovic 2. Barbara Kruger 3. Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun 4. Barbara Hepworth 5. Francesca Woodman Please bring a Notebook and pen Anna McNay is a writer, editor and international curator, who contributes regularly to a variety of print and online art and photography journals, including Studio International, Art Quarterly and The Flux Review. She writes catalogue essays, hosts panels and in conversation events at galleries, art schools and online, and has judged numerous art prizes, both nationally and internationally. McNay originally worked in academia as an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow in linguistics at the Humboldt University in Berlin and a Heath Harrison Teaching Fellow at the University of Oxford, where she lectured and gave tutorials and seminars in undergraduate and postgraduate linguistics and German translation. annamcnay.art @annamcnay #TheCriticWithTheDog

Yoga 28/2/24 (5 weeks)

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Tutor: Sarah Neale
Wednesdays from 13:00 to 14:00
28th Feb 2024
£35.00 per 5 weeks term.

This yoga class will serve as an introduction, each week building on what is learned. Sessions will consider the underlying philosophy for up to 15 minutes, continue with an exploration of poses and flow, and end with a relaxation. Sarah Neale is a Yoga Teacher, Personal Trainer, Massage Therapist and a Group Fitness Instructor, teaching classes at various gyms in the North Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire areas, and online. She combines these skills with a wealth of life experience to offer an holistic approach to wellness. Sarah says, “My goal is to guide my clients as they find their way on their journey to a positive, healthy and sustainable lifestyle.”

Topics in Psychology 29/02/24 (6 weeks)

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Tutor: Lesley Ayres
Thursdays from 19:00 to 21:00
29th Feb 2024
£84.00 per 6 weeks term.

Psychology: Why do we see things differently? What influences what we see and how our memory works? Are we reliable witnesses? Topics to be covered: – Cognitive Psychology – how do we learn things? – Memory – how it works (or not in some cases) – Perception – do we all see the same thing? – Moral Development – Right vs Wrong? – Autism and the Theory of Mind – Eye Witness Testimony – how we think we know what we see (or do we?) Lesley Ayres studied Psychology at the University of Wolverhampton and then went on to gain her MSc in Occupational and Organisational Psychology from the University of East London. Later she gained her PGCE and is passionate about teaching Psychology as a subject for general interest. She has worked as a trainer and assessor and brings her experience in these areas to her courses at The Letchworth Settlement.

France in Revolution 1774-1815: Political and Societal Change 11/1/24 (10 weeks)

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Tutor: Andrew Bamford
Thursdays from 13:00 to 15:00
11th Jan 2024
£140.00 per 10 weeks term.

This course focuses on a key period of history which was to change the relationship between the ruler and the governed, not only in France but throughout Europe and, in time, the wider world. The contentious origins of the French Revolution will be explored and why the experiment in constitutional monarchy failed leading to the Terror. Napoleon’s rise to power will be analysed and the impact of his rule in France and beyond. Pen and notepad optional. Notes will be sent by the tutor. Andrew Bamford read History at Selwyn College Cambridge, graduating in 1983. He taught a variety of historical periods during his time at Kimbolton School, Cambridgeshire where he was Head of History from 1990-2021 and Head of Sixth Form 2005-2019, as well as teaching A level Politics. Since retirement, Andrew has lectured at the Rothsay Education Centre in Bedford on a wide range of subjects from the Unification of Italy to the English Civil War. He is Curator of Kimbolton Castle and a keen Crystal Palace fan!