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.

Forthcoming Speakers:
Robin Lane Fox  Julie Summers   Andrew Gant

The Kevin Telfer Talk

The Kevin Telfer Talk
Millions poured on to the streets for joyous celebrations after Winston Churchill announced the German surrender and Victory in Europe on May 8th 1945. People played in the fountains in Trafalgar Square and rode on the tops of buses around London but Kevin Telfer pointed out in his highly informative talk – based on his latest book, Summer of 45 - that the following months, building up to Victory in Japan in August were a complicated period, full of continuing upheaval.

Kevin appeared in Wootton exactly 70 years after VE Day and played us a recording of Winston Churchill’s momentous radio broadcast in which he announced the Nazi capitulation and signing of the armistice, He also showed us a photograph of him addressing vast crowds in central London, displaying the famous V for Victory with his right hand, although Kevin pointed out that Churchill had to be shown how to use it correctly – having previously given it the other (and slightly more offensive) way round, to the amusement of many people. He also played a recording of King George VI bravely addressing to the world on the radio following the armistice, despite his noticeable stammer.

Kevin vividly brought to life the celebratory scenes around VE Day, reading ecstatic testimonies of people not only in London but also in other cities, such as Paris where the writer, Simone de Beauvoir, described the atmosphere following the German defeat and exit. Several million people were still stationed around the world when peace was announced and he quoted the diaries of a young Tony Benn who was sweltering in the heat of Palestine – where he and his comrades could still not quite believe that the news was true and yet indulged in a celebratory ice-cream..

Kevin also showed images of the celebrations in New York, where the iconic photograph was taken of a sailor embracing a (not entirely relaxed) woman – they were reunited many years later when the man confessed, rather sadly, that it was a drunken act. There were also rapturous scenes in Russia, which had lost 27 million people – the most of all the Allies – in fighting the Nazi military machine on the eastern-front and also during the taking of Berlin.

However, amid all the rapture in May 1945, not everything went smoothly. Crowds in London were so vast that several people were killed in traffic accidents and thousands of homes were still in rubble following the Blitz – and many servicemen faced the prospect of returning home to a bombed-out house, uncertain job prospects and children who did not recognise them.

Kevin also highlighted the devastation of the vanquished, with a poignant photograph of the near-total destruction of Dresden and the melancholy image of a mother and child amid the desolate aftermath of the atom bombs dropped in August 1945, which triggered the Japanese surrender. However, as a counterpoint – to show the tyranny the Allies had been fighting – Kevin highlighted the testimony of Richard Dimbleby, who was one of the first correspondents to enter the Nazi death-camps and witness the aftermath of all the barbarity, with corpses piled high (an experience that never left him throughout his life).

In the UK, into the mix of uncertainty came the election called for July 1945 when Clement Atlee, leader of the Labour Party, defeated Churchill who, according to Kevin, fought a lacklustre campaign probably as a result of exhaustion following his Herculean efforts during the war. After all the energy expended over the previous six years, he seemed to experience a tangible anti-climax when touring the country.

Atlee went to Buckingham Palace with his wife, driving them in their Standard 10, and passing Churchill who emerged in his chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce. Both Atlee and King George VI were ill at ease in social situations and neither spoke until Atlee finally said: “I’ve won the election” – to which the king replied: “I know. I heard it on the Six O’clock News”

“At such a poignant time as the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of VE Day, Kevin Telfer gave a balanced account of all the celebrations during May 1945, and vividly brought to life the reflections and emotions of the people experiencing intense relief at the end to hostilities after so many years. It was a highly informative talk, tinged with melancholy, and one which offered evidence of the vast amount of research which must have gone into Kevin's book - Arthur Hudson, Witney --


Friday June 5th 2015 .

Robin makes a much-anticipated return to Wootton after his wonderfully informative and witty talk on gardening in April 2011. His topic will again be gardening, with many gardens at their best in June, but with a different theme.

Robin has been the much-admired gardening columnist on the Financial Times for 40 years (and has long been an outspoken opponent of garden gnomes), but he is also, of course, a revered classicist and ancient historian.

He is an Emeritus Fellow of New College, Oxford and Reader in Ancient History at Oxford University. He serves as Garden Master and as Extraordinary Lecturer in Ancient History for both New and Exeter Colleges. He has also taught Greek and Latin literature and early Islamic history.

Robin’s major publications include studies of Alexander the Great and Ancient Macedan, Late Antiquity, Christianity and Paganism, the Bible and history, and the Greek Dark Ages. And these books have earned him several major literary prizes, including the James Tait Black Award, the Duff Cooper Prize, the W.H. Heinemann Award and the Runciman Award.

Robin was historical advisor to the film director, Oliver Stone, for the film epic, Alexander, in which he also appeared as an extra in cavalry manoeuvres. He also wrote and presented Greek Myths: Tales of Travelling Heroes, which was first broadcast on the BBC in 2010.

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


Friday November 13th 2015.

Julie Summers is an internationally-renowned biographer and historian, often focusing on people in taxing situations. She is returning to Wootton by popular demand after her magisterial talk last November on the 1924 British Everest Expedition, which included her great-uncle, Sandy Irvine, and George Mallory.

On this occasion, Julie will give an illustrated talk about the similarities and differences between the film, Bridge on the River Kwai, and the real story of the bridge on which the film is based. Over 680 bridges were built by allied prisoners of war and Asian slaves along the 417-kilometre length of the Thailand Burma Railway.

Julie will look at the personality of Colonel Nicholson, played in an Oscar-winning performance by Alec Guinness, and that of Julie's grandfather, Lieutenant Colonel Philip Toosey, whose role it was to oversee the construction of the bridge at Tamarkan. He was a hero to his men and an enigma to the Japanese.

Julie's book about the railway was called The Colonel of Tamarkan and the audio-book that she released, read by Anton Lesser, was a runner-up in the Best Audio Book of the Year Award in 2010.

Her book, Jambusters, which chronicles the work of the WI on the Home Front during World War Two, was also the basis of the scheduled ITV six-part drama series, called Home Fires

Julie is also 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.

Julie’s other books include the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton, who was caught in the icy deserts of Antarctica, and Remembering Fromelles, which 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.

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 to discuss 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 or would like to reserve a ticket please Contact us


Friday December 11th 2015.

Andrew is a leading musician, singer, composer and author who will be discussing with musical illustrations his very popular new book, Christmas Carols - from Village Green to Church Choir.

Andrew has sung with most of the country's leading choirs and vocal ensembles, including The Sixteen, the Monteverdi Choir, the Cambridge Singers and the Tallis Scholars.. He has also held posts as a church musician at Westminster Abbey, Selwyn College, Cambridge, the Royal Military Chapel (the Guards' Chapel), and Worcester College, Oxford.

In September 2000 he was appointed Organist, Choirmaster and Composer at Her Majesty's Chapel Royal. He has led the Chapel Royal choir at the funeral of the Queen Mother, the Golden Jubilee service in St Paul's Cathedral in 2002, the wedding of. Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011, the annual Remembrance Day parade at the Cenotaph and the annual Royal Maundy service.

Andrew set to music the text of the Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, to create A Hymn for the Golden Jubilee as part of the 2002 celebrations, at the request of Buckingham Palace. This piece was sung at many places across the world and to the Queen at a concert at Windsor Castle. It was also featured on the official Jubilee CD produced by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Andrew's other compositions include "The Vision of Piers Plowman", an oratorio for the 2002 Three Choirs Festival, "A British Symphony", premiered by the Philharmonia in 2007, "May we borrow your husband?" an a capella opera, "Don't go down the Elephant after midnight", an opera for soprano Patricia Rozario, a song-cycle for counter-tenor James Bowman, and several works for choir. Andrew also plays bass in his band, The Gant Project.

Andrew attended Radley College before reading Music and English at St John's College, Cambridge.. He was a choral scholar and sang in the College Choir and subsequently studied composition at the Royal Academy of Music and completed his PhD at Goldsmith's College, University of London.. He is Stipendiary Lecturer in Music at St Peter's College and St Edmund Hall, at Oxford University

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


OX20 1DZ

John Lloyd & John Mitchinson Talk, Summer 2009

Local Links

The Woodstock Bookshop

National Gardens Scheme (Oxfordshire)

The Killingworth Castle

Adrian Arbib Photography

Wootton Stores - The Village Shop

Robin Laurance Photography

Ashmolean Museum

The Bodleian Library - Exhibitions and Events

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