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:
Jan Harlan  Wootton TED-Style Talk  Kevin Telfer

The Matthew Engel Talk

The Matthew Engel Talk
Whilst many English people may dream of living in Tuscany, Umbria, Provence – or even Barcelona, Vancouver or San Francisco, - Matthew Engel was adamant in his highly witty and entertaining talk on March 6th that England remains the most diverse and fascinating country in the world.

Matthew – a former cricket correspondent on The Guardian and currently a feature-writer on the Financial Tines – has written several books and edited twelve editions of Wisden, the cricketer’s Bible, during a career which has taken him all over the world.

In Wootton, he spoke about his new book, Engel’s England, which chronicles a three-year journey through all 39 counties in England, plus London, which confirmed the peerless position of the country. He told us that, rather like the parent of children ranging in personality, he loved every county – but in different ways.

No other country in the world, he suggested, has such a range of ancient shires, which have generated a huge variety of traditions and personality traits - including such basic differences as Lancashire producing funny and comedic people, whereas neighbouring Yorkshire, just over the Pennines, is more dour and not so naturally humorous.

Matthew pointed out that some of the ancient counties, such as Kent and Sussex, have been in existence for well over 1,500 years and are steeped in the most diverse tapestry of history. On the other hand, some of the counties created in recent times were almost immediately the focus of resentment and suspicion - including Hereford and Worcester, which covered Matthew’s home village in the former Herefordshire.

Local autonomy was severely diluted, he said, when key decisions affecting his area were taken miles away at the council offices in Worcester – a situation which was the polar-opposite of what happens in many European and American town and villages, where power remains very much in the immediate locale. In the end, as a result of persistent grumbling and lobbying, the county of Herefordshire was finally reinstated, whilst other modern counties, such as Humberside, created in 1974, were also quietly ditched.

To illustrate the endearing nature of some English traditions, Mathew read an hilarious extract from his book, in which he joined a group walking around the middle of Oxford, in order to “beat the bounds” – an ancient custom to highlight the limits of the parish. Down the centuries, sticks of willow or birch were used to strike boundary stones, but the organiser of Matthew’s gang gave them garden-canes for the modern-day version of this ancient custom – which was aimed at preventing encroachment by neighbouring parishoners.

The group’s amiable leader led them all, with no hint of embarrassment, to the location of the historical stones, which included spaces behind the underwear section in Marks and Spencer, Zara and through various cafes, before the leader announced: “Right, on to the next stop – Boots!”

Matthew read other extracts from Engel’s England, which highlighted the strutting groups of boys and girls, wearing garish colours, at the Stow Horse Fair, in Gloucestershire, when the pubs close their doors and there’s a semi-tense stand-off with the Police as the travellers perpetuate a tradition stretching back to 1476, when the charter was first granted for gypsies to meet up and trade animals.

From the chapter on Hertfordshire, he read about his impressions of the Great Bed of Ware – the large oak four-poster bed, built in 1580 and measuring ten feet by eleven feet and allegedly capable of holding at least four couples. Although the bed was sold to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1931, it had been loaned back to the Ware Museum when Matthew visited it during his travels. He found it rather smaller than he had expected, but could still see its suitability for some serious roistering.

On a final, more serious, note, Matthew wondered how long England would survive in its current context, with the future re-naming of the UK as the North-West European Island Archipelago not entirely fanciful. But he suggested that – even though there might be political and constitutional upheaval, the history, traditions and culture of England would ensure it remained an endlessly vivid and wonderful place in which to live. Over 110 people attended Matthew’s talk and he sold 25 hardback copies of Engel’s England.

“I have read Matthew’s very clever, informed and witty articles and books for many years – but this was the first time I had heard him speak. It was no let-down. He was just as perceptive and humorous as a speaker and what impressed me was that he was so positive, upbeat and affectionate about England – in sharp contrast to the usual negative opinions which so many people seem honour-bound to hold on the country these days. It was a wonderful, refreshing evening and I enjoyed every minute – Richard Brough, Warwick.

Jan Harlan

Friday March 27th 2015

“No artist – no art. No love – no quality.”

Jan is the brother-in-law of Stanley Kubrick, the celebrated film director, and worked as Kubrick’s executive producer and for Warner Bros on as series of landmark films - “Barry Lyndon”, “The Shining”, starring Jack Nicholson, “Full Metal Jacket” and “Eyes Wide Shut”, starring Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise.

Jan started out as Kubrick’s assistant on “A Clockwork Orange”, where he was able to observe close-up a highly self-critical filmmaker as he struggled to shift the magic from the page to the screen. Jan’s job was to deal with rights issues and music, although his duties later expanded to include negotiating rights and obtaining permissions, as well as finding and purchasing equipment and making deals.

Acquiring a 50mm f 0.7 lens, from Zeiss, for candle-lit photography, was just one of his many demanding tasks. The lens was originally developed for Nasa for satellite photography, although it could not really be used for filming for many reasons - one of which was its lack of depth of field at f 0.7. “But obstacles were never a good enough reason for Kubrick to abandon his goal,” reflects Jan.

After Kubrick’s death in 1999, Jan worked with Steven Spielberg on “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” and also made a documentary called: “Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures” .Later, also for Warner Bros, he made a documentary about the British actor, Malcolm McDowell. He also made movies with students filming musicians and also a film with an international youth orchestra, based around the Dvorak Cello Concerto, with Alexander Baillie.

Jan had started his professional life in pre-computer times with organisation systems in Frankfurt, Zurich and Vienna. In the early 1960s, he lived in New York and worked in stream-lining data processing operations and often met up with Stanley Kubrick, who had been married to his sister, Christiane, since 1958, after she appeared in Kubrick’s film, Paths of Glory.

”We shared many interests, but working for him was never a topic at that time, “ recalls Jan. It was some years later, in 1969, that Kubrick asked Jan to join him on his project making a film about Napoleon. Kubrick wanted to shoot parts of this film on location in Romania, where he would have had the national cavalry at his disposal to film various sections of the Napoleonic campaigns and battles.

Jan and his wife moved to England for the pre-production of this vast project, which was eventually abandoned by MGM, when another film on Napoleon, called “Waterloo” with Rod Steiger, went into production. Kubrick then invited Jan to stay on with him. “The prospect of getting involved in film-production with such a great teacher was, of course, most appealing”, he adds.

“Film-production is a logical manufacturing process. It needs an artist passionately in love with his vision to turn it into a work of art”. For his talk in Wootton, Jan will focus on two topics for aspiring film-makers with a lot of enthusiasm and little money – how sound-design can be used to effectively re-enforce the dramatic impact of images; and on the potential gains to be made by the young filmmaker by producing a “calling card” in the form of a short film on a limited budget..

In addition to lecturing at film schools and serving in juries at international competitions, Jan worked with the publisher, Taschen, on various publications and with the Film-Museum, in Frankfurt, and the University of the Arts London in connection with a large exhibition about the life and work of Stanley Kubrick.

This exhibition has been touring the world since 2004 and has been shown in Berlin, Melbourne, Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Sao Paulo and other cities and is currently in Toronto. In March 2015 it will travel to Mexico and will open in Seoul/Korea on 30th October 2015.

We are extremely grateful to Jan for donating his time. His talk will last well over an hour, with many illustrations, and it is particularly suited to those with a keen interest in the cinema

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


Friday April 17th 2015 (The 75th Talk)

(Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a global set of conferences under the slogan "ideas worth spreading". Speakers are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can. Past presenters include Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Al Gore, Richard Dawkins, Bill Gates, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and many Nobel prizewinners. TED was founded in 1984 as a one-off event and its annual conference began in 1990, in Monterey, California. TED events are now held throughout the U.S. and in Europe and Asia, offering live streaming of the talks. They address a wide range of topics within the research and practice of science and culture - and there are over 1,000 talks on the TED website. For the second Wootton TED-style evening, three speakers will present talks on another wide range of topics.


Trudie lives in Wootton and is Professor of Global Health Research within the Nuffield Department of Medicine at Oxford University and Director of the Global Health Network. She has worked in clinical trials for over twenty years within in the pharmaceutical industry, the World Health Organisation and academia.

At Oxford University, she developed wide-ranging expertise in running trials in regions of the world where evidence is lacking to drive improvements in health. She has set up a clinical trial facility in Kenya to focus on developing local research skills and, more recently, she devised and set up Global Health Trials – an online, research-led, facility to support and guide research teams in setting up studies combating disease such as malaria, neglected tropical diseases and maternal health issues.

This later evolved into the Global Health Network – a “virtual science park”, which hosts over 30 international collaborations across varied diseases and which aims to drive medical research by sharing knowledge, research tools and methods. Trudie often features on radio and television, including the BBC’s Newsnight and the Today programme to explain the latest research responding to life-threatening diseases, such as the recent outbreak of ebola in West Africa.

Trudie’s talk is called: ”From malaria to ebola: difficult research in difficult places”


Arthur lives in Wootton and is a world authority on Japanese affairs. He was Nissan Professor of Modern Japanese Studies and Director of the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies, based at St Antony’s College, within Oxford University.

Arthur took his first degree in politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford and, later, a doctorate in international relations from the Australian National University, in Canberra. His interest in Japan first emerged after he went to the ANU as a graduate student in 1960. While initially working on Soviet foreign policy in Asia, he encountered Japan, began learning Japanese and read all he could find on that country, focusing on its politics and foreign policy. He spent 15 months in Tokyo, where he researched a PhD thesis on the foreign policies of the Japan Socialist Party, the main opposition party at that time, which advocated non-alignment (also called neutralism), and opposed the security pact with the United States, which had come into force at the end of the Allied Occupation in 1952.

After gaining his doctorate, he joined the ANU Department of Political Science and taught courses on Japanese politics and foreign policy, among other topics, until he moved back to Oxford in 1982.

Arthur’s talk is called: "Will Japan and China go to war?"


Jonathan lives in Wootton and is a leading international expert in the study of the retail sector. He is Associate Professor in Retail Marketing and Associate Dean of Degree Programmes at the Saïd Business School, in Oxford, and a Governing Body Fellow of Green Templeton College.

Jonathan is particularly renowned for his work on the effects of the Internet on consumer behaviour and its implications for future patterns of shopping, whilst his research also extends into innovation, entrepreneurship and retail planning and development. He is a founding member of the Oxford Institute of Retail Management, and has been its Academic Director since 1999.

Jonathan read Geography at Oxford University and later took a PhD at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He returned to Oxford in 1985 to work on research for Tesco on the application of new forms of technology and e-commerce, following a post at the University of Edinburgh as Research Fellow for the Coca-Cola Retail Research Foundation.

Jonathan’s talk is called: “I shop therefore I am: why we need shops"

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


Friday May 8th 2015 (70th anniversary of VE Day).

Kevin is the author of many highly popular books and his latest, called The Summer of ’45 and published the day before his talk in Wootton, focuses on the 70th anniversary of VE Day in May, 1945 – when Winston Churchill finally announced to waiting crowds that the Allies had accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany and that the war in Europe was over.

For the next two days, people around the world celebrated – but the “slow outbreak of peace” that gradually dawned across the world in the summer of 1945 was fraught with difficulties and violence. Beginning with the signing of the German surrender to the Western Allies in Reims on May 7th. Kevin will highlight people from all levels of society - and from all corners of the globe - during the following four months that would dictate the order of the world for decades to come.

He will examine the perspective of generals, world statesmen, infantrymen, prisoners of war, journalists, civilians and neutral onlookers. And he will also discuss the memories of the men and women who danced alongside Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret outside Buckingham Palace on the first night of peace, as well as the reactions of the vanquished and those faced with rebuilding a shattered Europe.

In addition, Kevin will look at the often overlooked story of the “forgotten army” still battling against the Japanese in the East; the election of Clement Attlee's reforming Labour government; the beginnings of what would become the Iron Curtain; and testimony from the first victims of nuclear warfare in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Kevin is also the author of Peter Pan’s First XI, which examines J.M. Barrie’s cricket team the Allahakbarries, as well as The Remarkable Story of Great Ormond Street Hospital. He also co-wrote Grand Designs Abroad with Kevin McCloud, presenter of the Channel 4 series, and – under the pseudonym Milton Crawford - he wrote The Hungover Cookbook, which has been translated into Dutch, Finnish and German and has sold more than 50,000 copies worldwide.

Kevin has also been the news editor for the Media Society and a script consultant for the BBC drama, Lark Rise to Candleford. He is also an award-winning digital copywriter, winning the PR Week award for Best in Social and Digital media in 2011 for a ground-breaking project with the RAF Benevolent Fund.

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

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The Woodstock Bookshop

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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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