WEA Helmdon Branch - Past Courses

WEA Past Courses 2018


Autumn 2018 - Behind the Iron Curtain: Life in Eastern Europe under Communism

Tutor:David Price
About this Course:

How becoming part of the Soviet Bloc after the Second Word War affected people in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

Topics include the story of the Berlin Wall; the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland; work, leisure and entertainment; the arts; youth groups; rebellions and uprisings in the 1950s; the secret police organisations; how and why change happened in the 1080s.

Location:Helmdon Reading Room, Church Street, Helmdon, Northants, NN13 5QJ (venue accessible to wheelchairs and hearing loop installed)
Starting:18 September 2018. 7.30 p.m. No session on 16 October 2018.
Duration:9 sessions. 1½ hours each session.
  • Online at www.wea.org.uk
  • Telephone 0300 303 3464
  • In person at first session, between 7.15 and 7.30 p.m.
Full fee:

£52 - try one week without obligation

The above fee applies to students aged 19 or over on 1st August 2019

No Fee:Free if receiving income related benefit.

Spring Course, 2018 - Shall we Dance?

Andrew Mikolajski's course about the "History of dance in Western Europe and the USA, from Renaissance to the present day" attracted only seven students. This did not meet the minimum attendance level required by the WEA, so unfortunately we had to cancel the course.

WEA Past Courses 2000-2017

Past Courses 2000-2017 - TEXT ONLY version

Autumn Course 2017 - History of British Art from the 4th century to the 19th Century

Seventeen students enrolled for this seven-week (14 hour) course, with tutor Barry Whitehouse.

Barry, who has an art studio in Banbury, made this a lively and very informative course. His practical knowledge about the many different methods and styles of painting, together with stories about a wide range of British artists, kept the students involved and informed. There were some excellent discussions which brought new insights to aspects of British art history. In the view of the students attending, this was a very rewarding in-depth course with an excellent tutor.

Spring Course 2017 - From Les Miserables To The Belle Epoque

We welcomed David Price back to Helmdon for the spring course.

Topics of social history covered included: Haussmann's reconstruction of Paris; the Paris Commune; the Panama scandal; the Dreyfus affair; the lives of the Second Empire courtesans; artistic movements; recreational activities; leisure and entertainment; education and moves towards emancipation of women; linguistic diversity; the concerns of the peasantry; the decline of religious influence.

This was a very comprehensive course which was well received by the fourteen students who enrolled. Many thanks to David Price for providing two excellent course this year.

Autumn Course 2016 In Tune With The Times

David Price, tutor

In this course we saw how operettas and musicals can portray a politically accurate view of a specific time period in a country's history, giving an insight into how issues such as racial tension and political unrest were handled by the authorities.

We looked at censorship and control of moral content, especially in America in the early 20th century, and saw how this might result in a distorted view of reality. It was surprising to see how often the story presented in a musical can differ from the known facts, sometimes due to censorship but sometimes just for dramatic effect.

There are some musicals which deliberately present a satirical look at social history. Unfortunately this often resulted in a negative response from the authorities and even from those sections of society that the musical was trying to promote.

In addition to seeing how social history is portrayed on stage or screen, this course allowed us to appreciate the development of sound recording so that we can still enjoy the dialogue and songs from some very early productions.

Throughout this course, David Price kept us entertained and informed with a presentation that included numerous film clips and musical extracts. His extensive knowledge meant that any points raised by students were fully addressed. Many thanks to David for an excellent course.

Richard Farquharson

Spring Course 2016 – Magna Carta & The Barons' Wars

The class of Autumn 2016

This term we enjoyed a whistlestop tour of the England of the kings versus the barons in the era surrounding the sealing of Magna Carta in 1215. Our tutor, Mike Ingram, is a passionate Northamptonian historian and member of the Northamptonshire Battlefields Society, and he put great emphasis on the role of Northampton, and indeed Brackley, during the Barons' Wars. The sequence of events tended to be: revolt, looting, taxation, arguments with Europe, attempted takeover by the French, more looting, more taxation. There was even a little attempted takeover of Sicily, as though Henry III didn't have enough to worry about. It was not a great time to be an ordinary citizen of this country as the armies swept through, removing anything in their path not nailed down. This was a good introduction to this time for the uninitiated, with a useful reading list to help in filling in more detail.

Alex Corrin

Autumn Course 2015 – Shining A Light On The Dark Ages

The idea still persists that from the mid 5th century to the Norman invasion England was in a 'Dark Age'. With our tutor Elaine Rawlinson this course gave us the chance to examine the evidence and make a more informed assessment of the period. We explored how a well-ordered society evolved, identifying many aspects of their laws which remain embedded in today's administrative and legal system.

We saw how new archaeological evidence often overturns previously held ideas of how various immigrant groups settled. Some of the documented 'invasions' were more likely to have been a peaceful process of integration. For Saxons, everything revolved around the family and kinship (belonging to a local group), in contrast to the earlier Roman idea of the individual citizen and their duty to the state.

We looked at how trade and manufacturing developed over the period, from items just being made for individual or family use only, through to larger scale production of pottery, clothing, wooden and metal items. Recent discoveries, such as the Staffordshire Hoard, allow us to appreciate the amazing skills used to produce finely-detailed high quality decorative and ceremonial items.

In addition to the classroom sessions, Elaine provided excellent notes for background study. Thanks to Elaine for providing this course which was hugely enjoyed by all participants.

Spring Course 2015 - Shakespeare's England Behind Closed Doors

Elaine Rawlingson was the tutor

Elaine Rawlinson returned to Helmdon again this term for a course entitled "Shakespeare's England: Behind Closed Doors".

We followed the life cycle of the Elizabethan family looking at unruly sons, wilful daughters, the elderly, sickness and death, magic and superstition, among other topics, in the context both of the plays and other portraits and documents of the time. We read extracts and also watched some scenes from filmed performances, memorably from the Globe Theatre. Each of us was given a character who would have been in the theatre and we considered the impact of playgoing from his or her point of view. Throughout the course Elaine reminded us of the historical context of the plays - Elizabeth's impending death without having named her heir; the circumstances of her grandfather's accession; the arrival of James VI and I in England; the prevalence of plague at that time.

The course was hugely enjoyed by all the participants and we look forward to the next instalments

Alex Corrin

Autumn Course 2014 – Well Turned Out : Fashion Through Portraits

Class members

This extensively researched and illustrated course, with tutor Judith Hodgkinson, explored fashionable clothing for men and women from 1600 to 1900 as shown in portraits, documents and sometimes from figures on tombs. Although much of the clothing was very elegant, in some periods the style of fashionable clothes was really ridiculous and exaggerated: for example, huge, hooped, crinolines, and for men, padded hose and spats. Both men and women wore tightly laced corsets.

Family accounts were examined for reference to dress, especially tailoring and dressmaking bills. Close-ups of some of the beautiful lace and embroidery were shown and discussed.

This was a very interesting and often amusing course and at all times the class members were invited to comment and think about what was shown and how the fascinating and costly clothes were produced.

Judy Cairns

Spring Course 2014 - Shakespeare's England

Elaine Rawlinson

This Spring term a good turnout of WEA attendees were treated to Elaine Rawlinson's educational and entertaining lectures on "Shakespeare's England".

We learnt how the London theatres evolved, the make up of the typical audience with a little playacting of our own, the secret allusions to Elizabeth's reign contained in plays about earlier kings, the extent of Walshingham's spy network, and the general feeling and fear in England as the official religion veered between Catholicism and Protestantism. Overcoming the traditional battles with the technology (Richard, please stop going on holiday in term time!) we were treated to key scenes in several plays and learned about the hidden meanings therein.

Elaine provided us with excellent notes and extracts, as well as a hugely entertaining resume of the plot of Hamlet which should have been recorded for posterity. We look forward to her return next Spring for more popular history.

Alex Corrin

Autumn Course 2013 – Wining & Dining

Jennifer Overson (seated), David Mico, Rosemary Verner, Linda Williams and Julie Evans

In this fascinating course presented by Judith Hodgkinson we learnt how aspects of food and drink evolved from the 15th to the 20th Centuries. We looked in detail at developments in food preservation and preparation. We also considered the changes in customs and manners associated with wining and dining on more formal occasions.

Food was often consumed with bread instead of individual plates and, until fairly recently, without the cutlery that we now take for granted. It was interesting to learn just how varied the diet was in previous centuries and how many of the spices we use today (such as nutmeg, mustard and ginger) were in common use long ago.

Grand houses used mealtimes as a way of showing off their wealth and status which could result in over 40 persons enjoying the feast. Meals would include a variety of: Meats; fish; game; sweetmeats; mead and ale, and could therefore take many hours.

For the final session we produced food using recipes from previous centuries. It all went down very well! (see photo above).

Not part of a WEA course, but for background interest, here is link to an American 'food timeline'.. http://www.foodtimeline.org/ and link to 'social aspects and menus' including some UK/European.. http://www.foodtimeline.org/food1.html

Richard Farquharson

Spring Course 2013: 1066 - More Than Just A Battle

Elaine was well prepared to handle any unruly learners

In the WEA Spring 2013 course, entitled "1066 More Than Just A Battle" Elaine Rawlinson really brought to life the Britain of the Anglo-Saxons, before the Norman conquest, showing the extremely complicated family tree of Harold Godwinson and his relations, with reference to his claim to the throne, and, especially interesting, the Anglo-Saxons' daily lives, including language, food and clothing and how the country was run. She also detailed methods of warfare, bringing copies of coins, chain mail and weapons and slides of re-enactments. The Bayeux Tapestry is a valuable source, though it depicts only the victors' view of events.

The Normans were also covered, of course; especially William's history and his reasons for invading England and claiming the throne. The Battle of Hastings was explained in detail with relation to Elaine's choice of site, as there is now considerable discussion as to the actual location, and also William's methods of imposing Norman rule.

This was a very comprehensive and fascinating course as it covered not only the above but also, prior to the Normans' invasion, the Viking incursions and settlement and Danish occupation under King Cnut, with subsequent payment of the Danegeld.

Judy Cairns

Autumn Course 2012: A Introduction To Ancient Egypt
Course cancelled due to circumstances out of the branch's control.

Spring Course 2012: Famous Gardens & Gardeners

Andrew Mikolajski

Our tutor, Andrew Mikolajski, is a noted personality within the gardens & plant fraternity and is a prolific author on these subjects, particularly for the RHS.

This very interactive course presented an overview of garden history and explored major trends such as English landscapes, Islamic design principles and Italian Renaissance. The roles of women as garden makers (e.g. Beth Chatto and Rosemary Verey) were also discussed.

The influence of landscape architects (e.g. Martha Schwartz) and plant collectors (e.g. John Tradescant) were considered, as were geographic clues to plant origins and descriptive plant names.

All in all, a very enjoyable course which was very well received by all participants.

Cec Harrold

Autumn 2011 - Houses In The Landscape

Tutor William Walford and some of the class members.
Front row: Richard Foster and Judy Cairns.
Photo: Richard Farquharson.

On this course we looked at nine 'grand' houses of Northamptonshire (the term 'grand' usually meaning that royalty had visited). In addition to looking at how the houses evolved, we considered their influence on the surrounding landscape.

We looked at: Apethorpe Hall which, despite its highest architectural importance, was allowed to deteriorate in the late 20c. Now owned by English Heritage and undergoing extensive renovation; Boughton House near Kettering and the influence of the Montagu family; Deene Park which is still lived in by the same family after nearly 500 years; Rushton Hall and the buildings associated with its 16c owner; Kirby Hall, now in ruins, built in part by a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I; Lamport Hall estate and the associated deserted and depopulated settlements; Canons Ashby House, which evolved from an ordinary farmhouse, and the former Augustinian Priory now an Anglican church; Kelmarsh Hall which was constructed early 18c and dominates the local landscape; Southwick Hall, the smallest house examined but the oldest and one of the most interesting.

Many thanks to William Walford for providing such a detailed look at the development of these houses and the very significant influence their owners had on the landscape of our county.

Richard Farquharson

Spring 2011 - Cultural Change Or Continuity

Peter Mackness(left) and tutor Philip Hemming.
Photo: Richard Farquharson.

Phillip Hemming's new course looked at how the Great War influenced British culture and society by looking at topics such as art, literature, poetry, films& tv, myths & legends. He had a large array of dvds, cartoons, books and posters which he brought in to show us, perhaps only outdone by his vast collection of fascinating trench art, the large variety of objects made by soldiers of both sides in the trenches, and the commercial objects made for tourists after the war.

We were given fresh insight into how people responded to the Great War at a personal level, and how this fed into the culture of the time. We also considered how, and why, many cultural aspects from the Great War are still evident to the present day. Battleground archaeology and a look at Great War memorials completed the strands of the course.

This was a thoroughly thought-provoking course which challenged us to reconsider so-called historical facts about this period of our history. We are grateful to Phil Hemming for sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm with us.

Richard Farquharson

Autumn 2010 - Astronomy For Beginners

The large planetarium filled the Reading Room

Frank Gear brought excitement, a large planetarium, and a wide selection of bow-ties to his Autumn 2010 course on Astronomy.

This course gave a large class of students the chance to get up to date on the planets and other aspects of our Solar System, to learn more about our galaxy the Milky Way, and to consider the timescale and enormity of the entire Universe. At each step along the way we were able to see how our understanding has evolved over the decades.

Despite some concepts, such as 'are there multiple universes', being well beyond easy comprehension, the course was a great success. Thank you Frank.

See https://planetariumman.wordpress.com/ for astronomy features, glossary and some amazing pictures.

Richard Farquharson

Spring 2010 - Behind The News

Tutor Martin Bloxsom.
Photo: Richard Farquharson

In spring 2010 tutor Martin Bloxsom joined us again, but not for a railway course this time. Instead, Martin encouraged us to discuss the issues "Behind the News" of the day, and of days past. Students took up the challenge and joined in the wide ranging discussions.

Many topics were discussed at length such as: UK government and elections, war reporting, privacy issues and law and order. In addition to discussions about the stories in the news, we gained a much better understanding of the way news delivery has evolved over recent decades.

Autumn 2009 - The English Cathedrals

Keith Hasted.

The English Cathedral autumn 2009 course was led by the very enthusiastic Keith Hasted. He focused particularly on the medieval period. We looked generally at the ground plan of a building; secondly at a vertical cross section; thirdly (and perhaps even more interestingly) at the "timeline" through which the development of architectural problem-solving (and the styles which went hand in hand with this development) can be followed. Then we related our new found knowledge more specifically to the enormous edifices that our forefathers built at York, Winchester, Ely, Lincoln and Peterborough.

More modern buildings were not forgotten, though, as in the last session we looked at St Paul's (re-built after the Fire of London in the 1600s), at the twentieth century's Liverpool cathedral (a re-creation of the Gothic age) and the new cathedral at Guildford. As a follow-up to the course, the group is joining members of the Fellowship in January, for a tour of Peterborough cathedral.

Spring 2009 - The Last Main Line (the Great Central Extension to London) 1894 - 1923

Martin Bloxsom & some of the items brought in by participants.

The Great Central was the last main line built from The North through Northamptonshire to London. Our tutor Martin Bloxsom brought the subject to life for a group of 19 students from Helmdon and beyond.

We examined how the railway came to be built and how its engines, rolling stock and staffing evolved over time.

We studied the financial and other problems of running a railway in the face of strong competition, and during a period of war.

In addition to the railway itself, we also learnt about the significant impact that the Great Central Railway had on the social History of the Midlands.

Autumn 2008 - Olympics, Airports and Art Museums

Tea break: Keith Hasted (left) and course member David Brookhouse.

The last thirty years have seen architects set free to use unprecedented resources to create new public buildings. China and the developing world are building at a stunning pace but London is the vital centre for new architecture, where architects such as Richard Rogers and Norman Foster have taken a leading role.

Keith Hasted took a fresh look at some of these new buildings, how they were designed and how they work, both in the UK and beyond, leading to an interesting and informative course.

Spring 2008 - "Magic & Medicine: Domestic remedies from pre-history to the present day"

Tutor Patricia Taylor (third from left) in discussion with Liz Woolley, Rosemary Verner and Aileen Buzzoni.

Tutor Patricia Taylor challenged us to look at the origins of domestic remedies through folklore, herbals, journals and household books from pre-history to present day. It was surprising to learn just how wide-ranging the subject is.

To start with we looked at past ideas and beliefs about well-being, disease and healing. Then we examined teratments and remedies used to cure a wide range of ailments. We learnt who prepared the remedies, and who was able to provide a range of treatments.

We considered how people knew which plant or other materials to select and then prepare for medicinal purposes. Some of the ingredients were familiar to us and accepted in modern medicine. Others, such as metals and animal waste products, may or may not have been beneficial, but definitely wouldn't appeal today.

It was quite striking how the remedy would vary depending on what you could afford to pay. In some cases the remedy seemed to be to eat a vast meal, an option not available to the less well-off. Maybe the remedy for those that could afford less was more effective!

Thanks to Patricia we are now better able to appreciate the influence that magic and medicine had on the population throughout recorded history.

Autumn 2007 - The Lost & Deserted Villages of Northamptonshire

Liz Woolley and tutor Ted Walmsley.

This was a very popular course that looked in detail at some of this county's 82 lost or deserted villages. Our tutor, Ted Walmsley, had completed new research on several such villages and was keen to share his knowledge with us.

Many of these lost or deserted villages were already known to us, so it was very interesting to learn more about their history. Through this course we were able to understand the circumstances that caused villages to be deserted throughout various periods in history.

We saw how evidence of village depopulation could be found by analysis of historical documents, examination of aerial photos, and by looking at results of previous archaeological surveys. Ted's own photos were used to very good effect to show how evidence left in the landscape often provides clues as to the previous location, size and occupation of villages.

Thanks to Ted we now have a much better understanding of our own local area. And, as many of the lost and deserted villages are very close to home, we now have ample opportunity to visit and investigate further.

Spring 2007 - Course on Comparative Religions

WEA member Douglas Hadfield (left) in discussion with course tutor Ted Bray.

"Whatever our individual beliefs we can all benefit from an understanding of other people's faiths".

Taking the above statement as the starting point, our tutor Ted Bray enlightened us as to how the world's major religions and some of the smaller religions developed over time.

It was fascinating to learn about the similarities and differences between the beliefs and practices of followers of different faiths.

With many current news stories illustrating some aspect of religious belief, it was very helpful to be able to discuss the problems associated with the diverse cultural perceptions held throughout the world today.

We are very grateful to Ted for sharing his wide knowledge of this subject with us.

Autumn 2006 - Talking About Gardens

WEA member Alan Watson (left) in discussion with course tutor, Andrewe Mikolajski

Andrew Mikolajski has written many books on gardening (as for the New Plant Library and the R H.S), and so he came to lecture at the WEA with the benefit of a very knowledgeable background.

Members particularly enjoyed his sessions on pruning ("when to prune" will always bring up thoughts of his strictures), the do's and don'ts of garden design (from now on who will ever put white flowers or glazed pots in the garden without thinking of him?), and some of us were fascinated to learn about botanical names.

We are grateful for the enthusiasm that Andrew brought to the course, and his influence will, we are sure, be felt in our gardening from now on.

Spring 2006 - Families, Fields & Farms: Sources for Village History

Course tutor Deborah Hayter.

Twenty three WEA members enthusiastically pursued this new WEA course entitled "Families, Fields and Farms: Sources for Village History".

The tutor, Deborah Haytor M.A, discussed historical sources in tandem with a close look at the village communities of the past. Because Deborah is a local historian who has lived in South Northamptonshire and North Oxfordshire for most of her life, she was able to tailor the course to relate to the history of Helmdon.

The course was extremely interesting and stimulating, and it is to be hoped that as a result, more topics will get researched to find their way into another "Aspects of Helmdon" publication.

Autumn 2005

Tutor Denise Cowley (right) with WEA course member Joan Hadfield.

Our autumn 2005 course "Anglo-Saxon and Viking England" was given by Dr Denise Cowley and looked at the archaeology of England during the Anglo-Saxon and Viking era (c. AD 400 - 1066). Topics included the archaeological evidence for British resistance under the legendary King Arthur, the famous Sutton Hoo Ship Burial, and Viking York (Jorvik).

Denise brought the latest information on this fascinating subject to Helmdon. It was very surprising to learn how recent evidence has changed our understanding of Anglo-Saxon and Viking people and their way of life.

Spring 2005

Joanna Rogers with course member Julian Partis discussing a decorative item from the 1920s.

Tutor Joanna Rogers was welcomed back to Helmdon to give the spring 2005 course "The Suburbans". This course looked at styles of suburban housing, furniture and decorative items from the 1920's to the 1950's.

Many contrasting views have been made about the delights (or otherwise) of suburbia. However, as it offered desirable housing to a workforce from a diversity of professions, the spending power of those that lived there was soon appreciated by product designers and manufacturers. Many of these products are now keenly collected.

Some smaller items were brought to the classroom each week to complement those displayed on slides. Joanna made this a very interesting and thoroughly enjoyable course.

Autumn 2004

Judith used all the latest technology

This autumn saw a welcome return of tutor Judith Hodgkinson. The course "Looking at Pictures" exceeded expectations, with Judith showing a wide range of landscapes, portraits and abstract paintings from major artists, beginning at the Italian Renaissance and going up to the Twentieth Century.

Using digital images we looked at the pictures, rather than just seeing them, learning to appreciate the elements within painting, i.e. composition structure, perspective device, and technique, from fresco and oil painting to watercolour and etching. With a visit to the Ashmolean Museum along the way, we feel that we have had an excellent introduction to Art History. Judith is an excellent tutor, using up-to-date technology, and at the end of the class, all we could say was… we thoroughly enjoyed the course, come back soon.

Spring 2004

Owen Bryce explains the workings of a trumpet to WEA members Margaret Reardon and Jane Harris

"The Story of Jazz" went, quite literally, with a swing!

Twenty six members gathered to glean from Owen Bryce, the well-known jazz trumpeter, more about this kind of music, and were thrilled to listen to excerpts of early jazz and to have him illustrate his talk with the aid of his instrument. Owen has been involved in the jazz scene in Britain and elsewhere for many years, both as a musician and teacher, and counts among his many pupils, Humphrey Lyttleton (albeit for three hours on a train) and Chris Barber, to name but two.

This has been an excellent course, and Owen is to be congratulated on his enthusiasm and the knowledge he has of his subject. He has given an interest in jazz to some of us who were unaware of its appeal, and there are plans, afoot, no doubt, to visit the Stables and other jazz venues in the area.

Autumn 2003

Judith Hodgkinson.

"Architecture from 1500 -2000", local Buildings large and small, their function and how they relate to major architectural movements, was the subject of our Autumn course with tutor Judith Hodgkinson. With nearly thirty participants the course has been very successful.

Judith has been brilliant. Her warmth and enthusiasm, combined with her detailed research and her presentation using the most up-to-the-technology, has expertly shepherded us through the different styles of buildings, making us aware of the smallest details. Even those of us who had some knowledge of her subject have had their eyes opened, and she has interested us in relatively unknown Northamptonshire buildings that are well worth a visit.

We look forward to the Spring, when we plan to have a Saturday walk round Warwick, taking in architectural styles on the way.

Spring 2003

Barbara Hornby

Our course for the Spring term was "The Wide World of an 18th Century Parson"with tutor Barbara Hornby.

Well respected in local history circles, Barbara is the reviews editor of Local History magazine.

Starting from a book of memoirs written by an 18th century country parson, the course looked at life in the village and beyond, using clues in the memoirs which lead to documents in record offices and libraries.

The course focused particularly on the life and work of Parson Maynard of Boddington, who was contemporary with Samuel Johnson, the 'Great Lexicographer'.

The classes were followed up with a visit to Farnborough Hall near Banburyan example of a fine 18th century house.

Autumn 2002

Brian Webster

The main course for the Autumn term was "Wildlife Around Helmdon" with tutor Brian Webster. Up to thirty people attended the classes, demonstrating just how popular the subject of natural science is in a rural area.

Brian has an extraordinary knowledge of flora and fauna and spoke eloquently about the various species found in and around Northamptonshire. He complemented his talks with wonderful slides, most of which he took himself.

Brian's speciality is birds, and the class were saddened to learn of the demise of some of our most loved species such as sparrows, warblers and thrushes. Larger birds, such as collared doves, magpies and seagulls seem to be on the increase as they have been better able to adapt to man's environment.

The class hope to have a follow up to this course with a visit to the National Wildflower Centre in Liverpool in the summer.

Running concurrently with the wildlife course was Danny Moody's "Next Steps In Computing", which was a follow up to the beginner's courses run in Autumn 2001 and Spring 2002. The fully subscribed class was held in the ICT suite at Helmdon School and focused on subjects like advanced file management, e-mail formatting and attachments and producing Word™ documents and simple Excel™ spreadsheets.

Everyone on the course made excellent progress and, above all, grew in confidence to enable them to practice on their home computers without fear of breaking something!

Spring 2002:

Tutor Andrew Rayment at the "History from Local Literature" class.

Members enjoyed the 10-session spring course "Local History from Literature", with Andrew Rayment. Indeed it produced much discussion. He introduced us to some of the early Northamptonshire poets, including Mary Leapor, of Brackley, who wrote evocatively about Edgecote House. We learnt about John Dryden, John Clare and H.E. Bates, among many others, whose work helps us to understand how people lived in Northamptonshire down the ages.

Much of history that matters is less about great events than it is about people's lives. It is from these that words and meanings grow. We read (and listened to) words and voices from our rural and urban past in Northamptonshire over the last 300 years and although there were some famous names and voices, we mostly cherished and learnt from the distinction of ordinariness and found this fresh and (sometimes) strange and inspiring!

Running at the same time as the Andrew Rayment course was Danny Moody's "Basic Computing" course.

The 2002 computer course members in the ICT suite at the school with guest Dr. Bob Chapman (seated left), the WEA Eastern District Organiser.

The course, which was fully subscribed once again, began its second run on Monday 7th January 2002 in the ICT suite at the school. The course helps beginners get to grips with the terminology used in home computing and provides a flavour of how owning a PC at home can be fun and enjoyable. The course teaches the basics of Microsoft® Word, Internet and e-mail as well as covering such issues as on-line safety and the threat of viruses.

Autumn 2001:

Members look at antiques with Joanne Rogers (middle) in the school hall.

"Discovering Antiques" began with a swing on 11 September 2001. 32 members were at the school to hear tutor Joanne Rogers give a general introductory look at collecting and the different approaches to it. We so casually use the terms antiques, collectibles, bygones. Yet these things were once just articles of everyday use for people not so very different from ourselves, and shaped the pattern of their lives just as the television and the microwave have shaped the pattern of ours. The course showed how objects can bring us closer to the ordinary people who once used them in their homes. It also looked at the materials, techniques and fashions, and showed how these in turn can tell us of the wider world in which these people lived. The class had an interesting ten weeks followed by an outing to two museums in London.

Autumn 2001:

The computer course took place in the ICT suite at the school.

Danny Moody, a WEA tutor and Helmdon branch member, gave a course on "Basic Computing" to ten willing students who were eager to get to grips with modern technology. The ten week course started on 17th September and the aim was to provide an introduction to computing starting at the very basics. The emphasis was on learning about the overall function of a computer; not "how does it do that" but simply "what does it do". In addition, a basic grounding was given in the most commonly used applications of word processing and the Internet. The class was held in the ICT suite at Helmdon Primary School so that computers were available during class for the practical aspects of the course. Due to the success of the course, and the fact that it was heavily oversubscribed, the intention is to hold another class early in 2002.

Spring 2001:

The Spring Course, "The Weather and Climate of the British Isles" began on Tuesday 9th January in Helmdon School. The tutor, Greg Spellman, aims to explore the weather's fundamental characteristics, and to examine the main mechanisms that explain its day to day changes. Further topics include the meteorology of extreme events (with case studies), a discussion of regional climates of the British Isles, and the application of climatic knowledge.

The interest in weather in Britain is always immense, with talk about it often a prelude to a conversation whether with friends or strangers, and there has also been increasing talk of global warming recently, and concern about the disastrous floods just before Christmas, so the course could not have been more timely. Thirty seven people showed their interest on the first Tuesday, and they were not disappointed. Greg Spellman's teaching style included the use of satellite images and charts, and a copy of the day's weather map, so the first evening of the course was very satisfying.

The fact that the moon was in eclipse added spice to the first evening - we dutifully traipsed outside the school to inspect it!

Autumn 2000:
The autumn term began on Tuesday, 19 September 2000 with 30 participants. The lecturer was Geoffrey Starmer and his subject was "Northamptonshire in the Railway Age"