Events Information

 On this page you'll find information about forthcoming and previous events, speakers and talks.

Thursday 20th August 2020

In March we all missed out on Rebecca Raper's talk on Artificial Intelligence.  She has agreed to give us her talk using Zoom. Link to be sent directly to members via email.

Biography: Rebecca Raper is a PhD candidate and Senior Consultant at Oxford Brookes University. Her thesis is investigating a novel approach to creating Autonomous Moral Artificial Intelligence (aka 'good robots'). She also works as a consultant in risk management of AI systems for the university's newly formed Institute for Ethical AI ( Prior to working at Oxford Brookes University she worked as an analyst within the civil service and financial sector, and she undertook her undergraduate and masters in Philosophy between 2005-2010 at The University of Nottingham. She has a long-standing interest in the human mind, and technology. She is also the co-founder of Wheatley Oaks FC: a women's football team for over 30's based in and around the Wheatley area.

Talk Title: Artificial Intelligence, Robots and The Future

Artificial Intelligence  (AI) is becoming increasingly embedded within our lives. Our phones use AI to detect our faces when taking photographs, AI helps in recommendations for our online TV shows, music playlists and job adverts. Increasingly AI is being used to facilitate healthcare decisions, make financial choices, and even detect criminal behaviour. But, what is this AI? How does it work, and is what does the future, with it in mind, really look like?

In this talk I aim to disambiguate some of the key ideas behind Artificial Intelligence - debunking some of the myths surrounding AI, Robots and The Future, and providing a backdrop from which to properly understand such new technologies. There will be an introduction to terms like machine learning, algorithms and robots, and I will introduce some of the latest advancements in the area, along with suggestions for what the future might look like. There will be a space for questions at the end.

Thursday 16th August 2019

Dr Geoffrey Farrer-Brown - 'Medical Detection Dogs'

Dr Geoffrey Farrer-Brown will talk about the work of ‘Medical Detection Dogs’. He was an eminent histopathologist whose area of special knowledge is prostate and breast cancer. He will explain how important early detection of cancer is, also how new technology has evolved that employs dogs to detect the disease, saving and improving lives every day. Dr Farrer-Brown will be accompanied by his ambassador ‘Pepper’ the Labrador.

Those present at Dr Farrer-Brown’s talk on Medical Detection Dogs were treated to a great afternoon of discovery on how these incredible working dogs operate. The Bio-Detection Dogs are trained to find the odour of diseases, such as cancer, in samples such as urine, breath and swabs. Medical Alert Assistance Dogs are trained to detect minute changes in an individual’s personal odour triggered by their disease and alert them to an impending medical event. The talk was tremendously entertaining whilst ambassador Pepper sat still throughout. We were shown examples of assistance dogs alerting people to impending risk and heard of people who having been housebound for years, are now able to move around with confidence in the care of their dog. Current trials are working towards improving diagnostic techniques, extending the field of expertise and capturing the data in the most efficient manner. The potential of these dogs is phenomenal but training is expensive and entirely funded by the charity. I am pleased to say that £374 was raised by Chinnor U3A through the speaker’s fee, merchandise and your generous donations – many thanks.

Thursday, 17th May

Mike Beech - 'Russia Past & Present'

Mike will tell us about interesting and stimulating aspects of Russia, the largest and possibly the most enigmatic country in the world. We will see many of the beautiful buildings in Moscow and St Petersburg, including the jaw dropping opulence of the Kremlin and the Hermitage, in stark contrast to the countryside where some of the people live a meagre existence.

Mike will also look at how Russia is slowly emerging from the constraints of 60 years of communism and reluctantly becoming more ‘welcoming’ whilst trying to develop and evolve without losing its individuality and identity.

Thursday, 15th March 

Sally Botwright – ‘London Oddities and Curiosities

 At our next monthly meeting we will welcome Sally Botwright to present ‘London Oddities and Curiosities’. Born and bred in London, Sally achieved her ambition of becoming a guide of this wonderful city in 2001. She has previously led Chinnor U3A members on walking tours in the city, the latest in 2016 from The Tower of London to the Royal Exchange when she kept us thoroughly amused with her extensive knowledge and witty anecdotes.


Thursday, 18th January 2018 .

Muriel Pilkington – ‘The Mitford Family

At very short notice, Muriel was able to give her excellent presentation, initially filling us in on the background to the aristocratic Mitford family, tracing its origins in Northumberland back to the time of the Norman conquest. In the Middle Ages they had been Border Reivers based in Redesdale and still have family connections in the area.

William Mitford MP (1744 –1827) was also a Greek historian. Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford (1837 – 1916) 1st Baron Redesdale, a friend of Disraeli, married Lady Clementine Gertrude Helen Ogilvy who through this line, produced Lady Clementine Churchill and Sir Angus Ogilvy. David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale (1878 – 1958) and his unconventional wife Sydney had six daughters and a son Thomas who as a fascist, refused to fight Germany although he volunteered to fight against Imperialist Japan and died after being shot in action in Burma.

There followed an extremely entertaining synopsis on the six sisters; their political divisions from Diana an unrepentant Nazi married to Oswald Mosley, Unity who shot herself when war was declared with Germany but lived another 9 years, communist Jessica who eloped with her cousin and emigrated to the USA, author Nancy who was partially educated at Crown House when the family lived at Old Mill Cottage in High Wycombe and then at the Slade School of Art, Pam married to a war hero millionaire who was a brilliant physicist, and Deborah married to Andrew Cavendish, 11th Duke of Devonshire, chatelain of Chatsworth.

There were amusing anecdotes from this enthusiastic speaker who was exceptionally well versed on her subject. We are indebted to Muriel for helping us out at the last moment.


21st December 2017

14 Years in the Grotto

Father Christmas (aka Colin Oakes)

Father Christmas in the guise of Colin Oakes will tell us tales of “14 years in a Grotto” with Rudolph leading his convoy to Chinnor! This speaker is an Archaeologist who does walking tours and lectures in addition to his seasonal job at a garden centre. Members may remember his previous talks on “The Amersham Martyrs” and “Charles Dickens”.

16th November 2017

New Zealand after the Earthquakes

Amanda Wood

Amanda Wood talked about “Christchurch after the Earthquake” and demonstrated the stark reality of being faced with a life or death situation, no water or sanitation, no access for emergency services, continuing ground movements and enduring uncertainty. In the immediate aftermath, over 80% of the business community was inaccessible leading to unemployment; vehicles in the city were unreachable for 3 months and every building needed to be assessed for either demolition, part rebuilding or repair with liquefaction adding to the massive difficulties.

After 6 years there are still uninhabitable buildings to repair or rebuild to earthquake resistant standards and the detriment to the community can hardly be imagined.

19th October 2017

40 Years Bomb Disposal and still 10 Fingers

Ian Jones

Ian has spent 40 years involved with bomb disposal operations. His first Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) tour of duty was as a corporal in Northern Ireland in 1974. He then gained a commission, returned to the Province in 1982 and, as a captain, was responsible for all bomb disposal operations in Belfast. In 1992, as a major, he was Officer Commanding 321 Company RAOC, responsible for all bomb disposal operations in the whole Province. This was followed by a year in an intelligence post gathering information on Improvised Explosive Devices worldwide. He left the Army in 1994 and joined the Anti-terrorist Branch of the Metropolitan Police where, working shifts, he served as an Explosives Officer dealing with all incidents involving explosives in London. He answered over 2000 calls for assistance in the following 18 years before retiring after the Olympics. His talk will took at some of the incidents he attended, with a mix of both serious and more lighthearted incidents.

He has written two books, Malice Aforethought - The History of the Booby Trap and London - Bombed Blitzed and Blown Up, a history of the bombing of the capital from 1867 to 2007. He is a member of the Durand Group that open and explore WW1 tunnels and is a keen Cartridge collector. You can purchase both of these books by clicking the links below:

London, Bombed, Blitzed and Blown Up. Malice aforethought

21st September 2017

"Another Icarus - The Rise & Fall of Percy Pilcher the Art of Flight"

Roy Smart

Roy Smart was a Naval Officer, Fleet Air Arm pilot and air director of many great national memorial events including the televised D Day, VE and VJ Day commemorations attended by the Queen and fifty heads of state, together with flying displays and aviation pageants. With an interest in history and art, he also contributed to the BBC Radio centenary commemorations of the Battle of Jutland. Roy will be presenting his talk Another Icarus: The Rise and fall of Percy Pilcher .. and the Art of Flight, the first Englishman to die in the cause of ‘the conquest of the air’. Roy presents the tale of aviation pioneer Percy Sinclair Pilcher, the magnificent man, his flying machines and the historic, but as yet unheralded, achievements of his redoubtable sister Ella in a colourful context of music, poetry, Greek myth, art and the beginnings of flight.”

17th August 2017

"CALIBRE, Books for the visually impaired"

Carol Hart

Carol provided an informative talk about the Calibre Audio Library who offers a free, nationwide postal service of over 8,000 recorded books to people with sight problems, dyslexia or another disability which prevents them from reading print. Members have a choice of USB memory stick or MP3 CD or online streaming to access high quality unabridged books recorded by professional actors and broadcasters. We heard snippets of recordings by Stephen Fry, Pam Ayers and others demonstrating the versatility of the material available. Of course not all readers are quite so well known – our very own Dorrie Oliver has contributed many items to Calibre in the past. Candidates are given an audition to assess their suitability for voice modulation, resonance, inflection and enunciation – they are always looking for new readers especially men. The charity is backed up by a friendly, efficient service from a team based in Aylesbury who can be reached by telephone on 01296 432 339 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

9th June 2017

“Passion for Pearls”

Frances Benton

It was obvious from the moment Frances began her talk that we were in for a treat. From an early age at her Grandmother’s knee, she admired these gems and the love affair continues. Demonstrating the versatility of her subject, the speaker enthralled us with her extensive knowledge of how pearls are naturally formed by a parasite invading the inside of an oyster that then produces calcium carbonate to protect itself, the overlapping nacre layers building up to form a lustrous pearl. As only 1 in 10,000 non-farmed oysters make a pearl, it behoves producers to artificially irritate molluscs to encourage them to excrete their protective substance to replicate them.

Frances brought along a wide range of products to demonstrate the varying colours and styles of jewellery that she sources and makes herself. She entertained us with a dynamic presentation during which there was audience participation that had us laughing aloud. The afternoon flew by and with all net profits donated to a charity caring for some of the world’s poorest orphans, a doubly rewarding experience. In fact Frances is able to support two children for a year from her sales at our meeting.

This confident, amusing speaker is to be highly commended for her lively and enthusiastic approach to a fascinating subject that is her passion and life’s work. If you want to know more about Frances' work or maybe even purchase some of her jewellery, please email her: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

14th April 2017

"Votes for Women"

Roger Mason

Roger gave us a very interesting talk about the Womens Socialist and Political Union (WSPU), it's founders, the ladies of the Pankhurst family, their lives and the struggles they went through in order to give women the power of the vote. Roger has written a book on the subject - The Struggle for Democracy - and it is available via the History Press website. Click here for more details.


Annual Lectures February / March 2017

"A History of Oxford: Home of lost causes and Forsaken Beliefs & Town and Gown relations; No little Scandal to God and Man"

Chris Day

This year's fascinating two part annual lecture, is presented by Chris Day who worked until 1994 for the Victoria County History, engaged in researching and writing the history of the city of Oxford and of Oxfordshire rural parishes from a base in the Clarendon Building in Broad Street. The ‘History’ nationally is owned by the University of London, of whose Institute of Historical Research he was made a Research Fellow. It was in recognition of his work as a local historian that in 1987 he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

Find out more about Chris here.

16th February 2017

Barry Collett

Barry gave us a rare insight into the man who was Sir Edward Elgar. From his beginnings, through the trials of getting his work recognised to his success in his later years. We enjoyed some interesting and little know pieces of music that Elgar had written and Barry regaled us with the stories behind these pieces. A fascinating talk much appreciated by all who attended.

Barry Collett studied music at Nottingham and Trinity College of Music in London. He was Director of Music at Rutland College until his retirement, and since then he has pursued an increasingly busy lecturing schedule, especially for the Elgar Society, the W.I. and the W.E.A. In 1975 he founded the Rutland Sinfonia, and conducted all its concerts for the first twenty six seasons, in a wide range of works including all of Elgar’s orchestral music, a feat recognized by the Elgar Society with the award of honorary life membership. He has made 13 recordings both as conductor and pianist, and in particular his premiere recordings of Elgar’s lesser-known pieces have been widely acclaimed. His book “Elgar Country” was published in 1981 and since reprinted. He has recently received the Elgar Medal, the Elgar Society’s highest award, for his pioneering work in researching and performing the composer’s lesser-known works.

19th January 2017

"A Solo walk across Africa"
Fran Sandham

"The idea of crossing Africa on foot seemed already firmly established in many people's minds as some exceptionally difficult feat. And yet how many people had actually done it? I decided to walk every step of the way from one coast of Africa to the other, completely alone: no backup, no support team, no one to make arrangements for me, no one to carry my gear, no sponsors, no funding, no film crew, no journalists, no fuss, no cheering crowds, and no strings attached. Above all, it had to be on a one-way ticket: no safety nets, no get-out clauses and nothing to fall back on ..."

Visit Fran's website to read more about his journey, see some more photographs and find out more about Fran himself. You can also order a signed copy of his book.


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