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Meetings and Talks 2024

The Clapham SocietyOur meetings take place at Omnibus Theatre, 1 Clapham Common North Side, SW4 0QW. The talk starts at 8pm and our guest normally speaks for about 45 minutes, followed by 15 minutes for questions and discussion. Meetings are free and open to non-members, who are invited to make a donation. The Café Bar is open from 6pm for drinks and snacks – an opportunity to socialise with other members before (and after) the meeting.

Walks to join from April to September are updated annually in early Spring.

schools outreach team Monday 15 January
St Paul’s Opera Schools Outreach programme. Music education is becoming an endangered species, especially in the state sector, despite well-documented evidence that music ignites a child’s ability to learn across all academic disciplines. Determined to do its part to enhance music education, St Paul’s Opera is reaching out to local schools. Its founder, Tricia Ninian, along with baritone Louis Hurst (Schools Outreach Co-ordinator) and soprano Louisa Tee (Workshop Leader), will demonstrate the benefits of in-school workshops for local primary school pupils hungry to learn about opera, inside and out. They will also be presenting SPO’s plans for 2024 to dovetail with the company’s summer production of Die Fledermaus.


Climate Change Monday 19 February
We need to talk about climate. Robin Cooke-Hurle moved to Clapham for two years in 1979 but then never moved on. Whilst neither an activist nor a campaigner, he has become increasingly interested in climate issues over the past 25 years. In this talk, with flooding, wildfires and heatwaves seeming to confirm that climate change is happening, he will outline the mechanisms which cause it and discuss how our modern lifestyles contribute and the potential impacts on us and the planet if we fail to accept that we must change. There will be an opportunity for members of the audience to make their own suggestions and, of course, to ask questions.


Penelope Corfield Monday 18 March
The Georgians: Exploring, creating and fiercely debating in 18th-century Britain. The 18th century was an extraordinary period in British history. The adventurous Georgians explored and settled around the globe. Its writers created masterpieces of world literature. Georgian scientists and engineers generated applied inventions that led to industrialisation and the steam train. British merchants participated in the controversial trade in enslaved Africans, while other Georgians (a number of them famously based in Clapham) campaigned firstly against the slave trade, and then against the institution of slavery itself. Penelope Corfield  will explain how and why these changes happened, and what they all meant. Penelope is a Battersea-based historian and the author of The Georgians: The Deeds & Misdeeds of 18th-Century Britain (Yale University Press).


Tim SpectorMonday 15 April
The future of personalised nutrition. Professor of Genetics and author Tim Spector came to national prominence during the pandemic because of his role as lead researcher behind the world’s biggest citizen science health project – the ZOE Covid study of over four million people for which he was awarded an OBE in 2020. His current work focuses on the microbiome and nutrition, and he is co-founder of the data science company ZOE Ltd, which has commercialised a home kit for personalised nutrition. Through his pioneering scientific research, he has been shocked to discover how little good evidence there is for many of our most deep-rooted ideas about food, and why almost everything we have been told about food is wrong. The community of around 100 trillion microbes that live in our colon is key to our digestion, appetite, mood, metabolism, and control of our immune system – and to how we respond to most drugs and foods. Understanding how our unique microbiome profiles are influenced by specific foods is paving the way for the new era of personalised nutrition, which is breaking the dogma of ‘one size fits all’ advice.


Gareth JamesMonday 20 May 
All change (for the better) on Clapham Common. Gareth James is a trustee of the Friends of Clapham Common and its representative on the Clapham Common Management Advisory Committee (CCMAC). He is also the lead for the recently registered charity Wild Clapham which, working in tandem with Lambeth Council, focuses on ecology and biodiversity on the Common. Gareth will speak about the changes in approach to improving biodiversity on the Common, the projects that have been implemented over the past three years, plans for the future and the challenges we now face with plant pathogens and alien invasive species in the context of a rapidly changing climate. The picture shows Gareth after planting a Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) on Clapham Common, one of the 42 trees he was able to source thanks to a generous donation to Wild Clapham in 2021 from the April Trust.


Hibberts Almhouse ConservationMonday 17 June
The Hibbert Almshouse, Wandsworth Road: Conservation and rehabilitation. The repair and rehabilitation of these eight almshouses for 21st-century use is a tale of research, investigation and appraisal in the pursuit of being faithful to the original. It is a tale, too, of design and construction, of challenges on site and the eventual restoration of a building designed by a local architect of national renown, Edward I’Anson, and built in 1859 for Sarah and Mary Ann Hibbert in memory of their father. No one is better qualified to tell the recent story of the Hibbert Almshouse than architect Sherry Bates, Director of Bates Zambelli Chartered Architects, who are overseeing the conservation.

There are no meetings in July and August

Margaret Willes and Helen Esmonde Monday 16 September
Keys to the City. Historian and author Margaret Willes will talk about her latest books on St Paul’s Churchyard, and Southwark and its people. Society member Helen Esmonde and Margaret will also talk about their book on the Livery Companies of London, City Unlocked. Margaret Willes was, for many years, the Publisher at the National Trust and Helen Esmonde is a Past Master of the Stationers’ Company. Helen hopes this book will enable others to share her experience of discovering the history of the Livery movement and its relevance in the 21st century. The working subtitle of their book is From Wool to Digital.

Monday 21 October
Annual General Meeting. Guest speaker to be announced nearer the time.

Richard Atkinson and book, Rum Contract Monday 18 November
Mr Atkinson’s Rum Contract: Confronting a family’s slave-owning past. An 18th-century genealogical odyssey, starting with a tumbledown house and a cardboard box full of old letters, culminating in the present day with the ruins of a Jamaican sugar estate and the results of a DNA test. Richard Atkinson is a book publisher and a founder member of Heirs of Slavery, a group supporting campaigns to tackle the ongoing consequences of transatlantic slavery. He lives in Clapham Old Town.

There is no meeting in December.

If you have any suggestions for future meetings do please pass them on to
the Events Organiser, Christine Armstrong,

The walks organised for the year are shown on the Walks page – updated annually in early spring.