Village Hall Talks at Wootton-By-Woodstock

The project was conceived to raise funds to renovate the village hall in Wootton-by-Woodstock, which was built almost entirely from timber over eighty years ago. Few who have attended the talks would disagree that the evenings have been an engaging mixture of serious insight and comedic observation and we think we are catering for the current thirst for live events in smaller venues.

The David Hone Talk

The David Hone Talk

Dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures, roaming the Earth tens of millions of years ago, have always held a powerful (and often terrifying) fascination – and yet their behaviour still remains an enigma because palaeontology is dependent solely on the remains of ancient creatures.

However, Dave Hone, in his fascinating talk to mark our sixth birthday on October 24th, showed how it is possible for trace fossils to give an insight into dinosaur behaviour, including whether they behaved as “social” animals working together. In addition, computer simulations and comparisons with modern animals can offer clues to the behaviour of dinosaurs. Even so, Dave conceded that understanding this area of research still relies heavily on a significant amount of speculation.

That said, Dave – who teaches at Queen Mary’s College, in London - told us there is agreement that some of the behaviour found in crocodiles and birds (dinosaurs’ closest relatives) was also common among dinosaurs and that gregarious behaviour was apparent in many dinosaur species. He suggested these creatures may have congregated in herds for defence, migration and also to provide protection for their young.

There is also evidence that many types of dinosaurs, including various theropods, sauropods, ankylosaurians, ornithopods, and ceratopsians, formed groups of juveniles. Nests and eggs have been found for most major groups of dinosaurs and it seems likely they communicated with their young, in a manner similar to modern birds and crocodiles.

Dave told us that dinosaurs such as centrosaurine ceratopsid, did not fully develop their head-features until fully grown and it has been argued that comparing ceratopsids to modern mammals with a similar life-cycle can provide an insight into the socio-ecology of these horned dinosaurs. The fossilized remains of a grouping of psittacosaurus, consisting of one adult and 34 juveniles, suggests that adults looked after their young – and in this case, the large number of juveniles may be due to communal nesting.

Fossil deposits of ceratopsids indicate that these animals were at least in part social – although the exact nature of ceratopsid behavior has been open to debate. Aggregations of many individuals preserved in bone beds have compared them to similar modern occurrences in crocodiles and tortoises. Others interpret these deposits as the remains of large, socially complex, herds - but some researchers, supporting the idea of ceratopsid herding, have speculated that these associations were seasonal. They suggest ceratopsids lived in small groups near the coasts during the rainy season and moved inland with the onset of the dry season – this being based on the greater abundance of bone beds in inland deposits than coastal ones. The migration of ceratopsids away from the coasts may have represented a move to their nesting grounds, with many African herding animals engaging in this kind of seasonal herding today.

Dave said that herds would also have afforded some level of protection from the chief predators of ceratopsid - the tyrannosaurids. Indeed, the first potential evidence of herding centred on the discovery of 31 Iguanodon dinosaurs which were then thought to have perished together in modern Bernissart, Belgium, after they fell into a deep, flooded sinkhole and drowned. One example of immature dinosaurs forming social groups comes from a site in inner Mongolia that yielded the remains of over twenty Sinornithomimus, from one to seven years old, with this find interpreted as a social group that was trapped in mud.

Another example is within a bone bed of the ceratopsian, Centosaurus in the Dinosaur Park Formation, Canada where a massive and rapid flooding engulfed and buried the remains of a large number of individuals, including juveniles. On a smaller scale, another well-preserved example is ceratopsian, Psittacosaurus in Liaoning, China, where six individuals of mixed ages were preserved after being killed. Such a group of hadrosaurs also provides evidence for mixed herding, as two or more species can be found adjacent to one another other.

Indeed, Dave told us that fossil track-ways of hadrosaurs and sauropods, consisting of the footprints of several individuals of different sizes have been found within the same bedding plane. Footprints in such a track-way frequently go in the same direction and, in some cases, change direction together – and this provides powerful evidence that dinosaurs often travelled in herds consisting of adults and juveniles.

In addition, a sauropod track-way from Oxfordshire shows two distinct types of sauropod footprint, which appear to come from two distinct species. This suggests that these dinosaurs may have formed mixed herds - in the same way as some African herbivores today.

“What a terrific evening, listening to such a charismatic speaker as Dave Hone who explained the social behaviour of dinosaurs and other creatures in such an accessible manner, without detracting from the complexity of the subject. Without notes, he eased us effortlessly through the latest theories of scientists examining some of the world’s best-preserved (and most revealing) fossils found in regions, like the driest parts of Mongolia. Another terrific evening in Wootton. Happy sixth birthday – Jonathan Kenwright, Banbury

Julie Summers

Friday November 21st 2014

Julie Summers is an internationally-renowned biographer and historian, often focusing on people in taxing situations. For her talk in Wootton, Julie will tell the story of her great-uncle, Sandy Irvine, who was a key member of the 1924 Everest Expedition, along with George Mallory – the third British expedition to the world’s highest mountain, with this year the 90th anniversary.

While attempting the ascent of Everest, Irvine and Mallory disappeared somewhere high on the mountain's northeast ridge in one of the great mountaineering mysteries. The pair were last sighted only a few hundred metres from the summit and Mallory's body was subsequently discovered in 1999, although the body of Irvine, who was only 22, has never been found.

Julie’s book about the expedition, called Fearless on Everest, chronicles Irvine’s part in the climb, and there have been many competing theories on whether the pair reached the summit – 30 years before Hillary and Tenzing. Julie also contributed to the IMAX feature film about the climb, called The Wildest Dream, which was also broadcast on BBC Two.

Julie is recognized widely within the mountaineering literary world and is a judge at various events, such as the Banff Mountain Festival, and is chair of the Mountain Heritage Trust and represents the sport at Our Sporting Life, a major sports heritage event. She has also been involved for many years in the mountain festival at Kendal, in Cumbria, and has hosted the ceremony for the Boardman Tasker Prize - where she has interviewed climbers and writers, such as Chris Bonington, Ranulph Fiennes and Stephen Venables. The £3,000 prize commemorates the lives of Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker and is awarded for an original work which has made an outstanding contribution to mountain literature.

It was also recently announced that ITV is making a six-part drama based on Julie’s book, Jambusters, which chronicles the work of the WI on the Home Front during World War Two – and which is due to be broadcast in the autumn of 2015.

Julie’s other books include the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton, who was caught in the icy deserts of Antarctica and The Colonel of Tamarkan – about Sir Philip Toosey, who spent years in the steaming jungle around the Death Railway, where he helped build the bridge on the River Kwai.

Julie’s book, Remembering Fromelles, was published in combination with an exhibition at The Imperial War Museum to mark the Commonwealth War Grave Commission’s first new cemetery in half a century. The cemetery was constructed to hold the remains of up to 400 British and Australian soldiers found in a mass grave in Fromelles in Northern France. Julie has additionally released the audio book of The Colonel of Tamarkan, read by Anton Lesser, which was a runner-up in the Best Audio Book of the Year Award in 2010.

In addition to writing, Julie is an exhibition organizer and has masterminded ten exhibitions for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission over the past two years. She has also appeared on Radio 4’s Start the Week discussing her book, called Remembered, which is a history of the Commission’s work, and has made numerous appearances on Woman’s Hour about her work, including the book, Stranger in the House, which examined the effect on women of men returning from the Second World War. She has also lectured at the Royal Geographical Society, in London.

If you are interested in attending this talk and would like to go on the waiting list please Contact us


Friday December 12th 2014 (70th Talk)

Drew is a leading English photographer who has worked for all the major national newspapers in the UK, as well as for many influential magazines overseas, including the National Geographic.

Drew will be giving an illustrated talk about his remarkable series of photographs, called The Descendants, in which he tracked down living descendants of famous people and recreated iconic paintings and photographs in minute detail, using costumiers, as well as hair and make-up artists.

The project was so complex logistically that it took a decade to complete and was a cornerstone of the recent highly successful Photography Oxford Festival and was featured in the Saturday magazine of The Times on September 20th.Among others, Drew’s photographs feature living descendants of the Mona Lisa, Napoleon Bonaparte, Clive of India, Charles Dickens, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Emmeline Pankhurst, Oliver Cromwell, Scott of the Antarctic and Horatio Nelson.

The level of research required was astonishing in the painstaking recreation of the original clothes, artefacts and the background.. For example, they hired experts in silk to recreate the Mona Lisa’s multi-layered dress, whilst also making an exact replica of her chair; they ingeniously copied the chains behind Brunel and even found an authentic rifle featured in the portrait of Robert Geronimo, descendant of the Apache chief, now living in New Mexico. Cromwell’s descendant, Charlie Bush was tracked down in Australia, where he was working as a farmer, and flown over to the UK for the sitting, for which the provenance of Cromwell’s chains had been found before being recreated.

Drew reflected that one of the most revealing aspects of the project was how it reminds everybody that these icons of history were living people – and that each photograph represents an unbroken genealogical line back to somebody who changed the world. --

If you are interested in attending this talk or would like to reserve a ticket please Contact us

Richard Ovenden

Friday January 9th 2015

Richard was appointed as the 25th Bodley’s Librarian, in Oxford, last February, having worked at the library since 2003. As executive head of the Bodleian Libraries, he is the steward of more than 11 million printed items, in addition to 50,000 e-journals and a vast quantity of other material.

Richard has been at the forefront of the Bodleian’s efforts to acquire the personal archive of William Fox Talbot – considered the godfather of photography - in order to preserve one of the world’s most important collections and to encourage research in and around it at Oxford University.

The Bodleian’s appeal to raise £2.2 million to purchase the archive was launched in December 2012 and a large grant of £1.2 million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund gave the appeal a vital boost. With a recent gift of £200,000 from the Art Fund, along with donations from numerous other individuals and charitable trusts, the Bodleian managed to reach the final total in August 2014 and successfully secured the collection.

In spring 2014, sixteen images by leading contemporary photographers were donated for sale at Sotheby’s to support the campaign. They included Hiroshi Sugimoto, the New-York based Japanese photographer and architect; Miles Aldridge and John Swannell, the fashion photographers; Nadav Kander, London based photographer, artist and director, known for his portraiture and landscapes; Candida Ho?fer, internationally-renowned photographer from Germany; Massimo Vitali, Italian photographer; and Martin Parr, award-winning British documentary photographer, film-maker and photojournalist.

Richard has worked as a professional librarian since 1985 and served on the staff of Durham University Library, the House of Lords Library, the National Library of Scotland (as Deputy Head of the Rare Books Section), the University of Edinburgh, as Director of Collections, and since 2003 at the Bodleian Libraries - first as Keeper of Special Collections and then, from 2011, as Deputy Librarian.

On his appointment as Bodley’s Librarian, Richard emphasied that the Bodleian stands at the heart of the university, working in partnership with all of the academic disciplines and supporting international scholars, as well as the people of Oxford and throughout the world who access the Bodleian digitally or visit its exhibitions.

If you are interested in attending this talk or would like to reserve a ticket please Contact us

Lucy Hughes-Hallett

Friday February 6th 2015

Lucy is a cultural historian and author of The Pike, the smash-hit biography of the debauched Italian poet, daredevil and fascist Gabriele D’Annuzio, which won universal and unequivocal praise from reviewers and was garlanded with awards.

Last year, the book won the Samuel Johnson Prize and it was also given the 2013 Costa Book Award for biography, the Duff Cooper Prize, as well as being shortlisted for the Paddy Power Political biography of the Year. The Pike recounts how, in September 1919, D’Annunzio, a successful poet and occasional politician, declared himself Commandante of the city of Fiume in modern-day Croatia.

His intention was to establish a utopia based on his fascist and artistic ideals - and it proved the dramatic pinnacle to an outrageous career. D’Annunzio became a national hero and his evolution from idealist romantic to radical right-wing revolutionary is seen as a political parable. His ideological journey, culminating in the failure of the Fiume project, reflects the political turbulence of early 20th-century Europe and the emergence of fascism.

In The Pike, Lucy addresses the cult of nationalism and the origins of political extremism – and at the centre of the book stands the charismatic D’Annunzio - a figure as deplorable as he is fascinating.


Sunday Times - Hughes-Hallett has a great talent for encapsulating an era or an attitude …The fact that almost 700 pages flew by bears testimony to how pleasurable and readable those pages were.

Francis Wheen, Daily Mail - This is a magnificent portrait of a preposterous character … D’Annunzio was deplorable, brilliant, ludicrous, tragic but above all irresistible, as hundreds of women could testify. His biographer has done him full justice.

Daily Telegraph - Hughes-Hallett chooses not to judge, taking the position that disapproval is not an interesting response. Instead she teases apart the man from his self-made myth… She is never seduced by her subject, repeatedly reminding us of his fundamental lack of empathy, something elegantly encapsulated by the cover image itself: D’Annunzio mirrored, frozen in self-admiration.

Lucy is also the author of Cleopatra: Histories, Dreams and Distortions, which won both the Fawcett Prize and the Emily Toth Award. She also wrote the highly-praised Heroes: Saviours, Traitors and Supermen. Lucy has written book reviews for all the major newspapers, in particular The Sunday Times. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

If you are interested in attending this talk or would like to reserve a ticket please Contact us



John Lloyd & John Mitchinson Talk, Summer 2009

Local Links

The Woodstock Bookshop

The Killingworth Castle

Adrian Arbib Photography

Wootton Stores - The Village Shop

Robin Laurance Photography

Ashmolean Museum

The Bodleian Library - Exhibitions and Events

U3A - Woodstock University Of The Third Age

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