Peter Carpenter and Jonathan Smith, who were both Heads of English at Tonbridge, will discuss the life and work of John Betjeman. The discussion will consider the forces that shaped the man; the defining experiences of his life; his private dramas, his loves, tragedies and crises. This will underpin an exploration of his poetry. How good a poet is he? How important is his work and how many of his poems have endured in our collective memory? Why is a poet whose Collected Poems sold over two million copies frequently disregarded and patronised by literary critics? Is Betjeman just too readable? Not ‘difficult’ enough for those who advocated and followed a modernist example? Where does and should he stand in our assessment of English 20th Century poetry? Peter is a poet, essayist and critic; Jonathan primarily a novelist and playwright. Two of Jonathan’s radio plays about Betjeman were broadcast on Radio 4 at the end of 2017. The evening will be laced with readings of his poems.
Gilly Halcrow is returning by popular demand, after her stunning lecture last year about the Special Operations Executive. This talk will honour the brave men and women SOE agents who served this country in World War II. It is the story of the brave Norwegian sailors in their fishing boats who kept links open between occupied Norway and Britain, taking agents in with supplies for the resistance and transporting escaping refugees out. Not only did they have to face sub-Arctic storms in the North Sea and North East Atlantic, but they also had to deal with the might of the Nazi war machine who were out searching for them. This is a moving account of what affectionately became known as ‘The Shetland Bus’. Gilly has asked for her lecture fee to be donated to the Lt. Dougie Dalzell MC Memorial Trust.