There was a time, eleventy-something years ago back in the mists of time, when that cliché was fresh and governments still believed that access to education should not be restricted by age or cost. Oh happy days!
Newcastle University embraced that belief by providing a wide range of courses in its Centre for Lifelong Learning. No fees were charged. All that was asked was that you committed to the course and produced some work that could be assessed. A young Colm O’Brien — it was that long ago — was one of the tutors and, among other things, offered a course called Introduction to Archaeology. It proved to be popular, especially among those of us whose only experience of archaeology was through Baldrick (sans turnips and cunning plans) and a man with baggy, multi-coloured pullovers.
As time went on, a core group (groupies?) began to form around Colm’s courses. We narrowed down our interests to the early medieval period, and particularly to Anglo-Saxon Northumbria. Bede was our constant companion, as too became Max Adams . We even acquired a name, “The Bernician Studies Group” (BSG). This prompted some unknown wit to write on the whiteboard of the classroom we used fortnightly, “Who the hell is Bernice?”.
When the government of the day decided that they no longer wanted to subsidise learning for its own sake, brave and imaginative attempts were made to continue, first by Newcastle University and then by University of Sunderland but in Newcastle premises. However even those attempts eventually failed under the inexorable pressure of ‘the marketplace’. But it was good while it lasted. So good that the students, and most of the tutors, didn’t believe it should end.
So Explore was formed by a core group of people including the BSG’s Joy Rutter. Meanwhile, and in parallel, the BSG was formed into a small charity chaired by Geoff Taylor. It is called Bernician Studies Group, registered charity no 1170897.
Max Adams is a critically-acclaimed author and biographer, an archaeologist, traveller and writing coach. His journeys through the landscapes of the past and the present, of human geography, music, art and culture are a continuing source of inspiration in his writing.
Ælfred's Britain will be published by Head of Zeus on 2nd November 2017.
For an author of Dark Age history to tackle the Viking Age (roughly 800-950) might seem an obvious book project. Abundant material, both literary and artistic, propels an irresistible narrative of warriors and heroic struggle, while the contemporary relevance of Christian states struggling against a predatory foe with apocalyptic ideologies seems obvious. And yet, in writing about Britain, the whole of Britain, in this period, daunting challenges emerge. To begin with, the canvas is vast, encompassing all of Atlantic Europe and beyond. The available sources – Viking sagas written more than two hundred years after the events they describe; an Anglo-Saxon Chronicle with a strong pro-Wessex bias, must be treated with caution. They are also patchy: we have very little indeed for Scotland and Wales in this period– we hear of those kingdoms primarily through sketchy news reaching the distant ears of Irish annalists.
Many people know and associate Newcastle with TV and Film icons Get Carter, Byker Grove, The Tube and Our Friends in the North. However, do you know where Ralph Richardson stole money from in 1939? Why a den of spies were living in Jesmond in 1951? Who met Tommy Lee Jones on the High Level Bridge in 1988? Why Gateshead High Street was under siege in 2009? and which Newcastle flats seem to appear in every programme or film made in Newcastle?
Our next FREE taster event will be on Tuesday 26th September from 11.00 to 13.00at Commercial Union House. Book now via this link
Come and try our taster experience - lectures by our expert tutors in our welcoming centre on the 4th floor of Commercial Union House.
John Griffiths will be talking about local history - on this occasion - the history of the Newcastle central motorway followed by Anthea Lang on Gibside and author Max Adams with an introduction to his autumn course on trees.
Our new patron, historian John Grundy, turns his attention to the history of Newcastle upon Tyne. In his inimitable style he tackles questions such as…
Where did the Roman bridge at Newcastle actually lead to?
What did St Wilfred choose as a holiday souvenir from his trip to Rome?
Why did medieval Newcastle need town walls?
How was Newcastle reviewed on the 17 th century version of TripAdvisor?
Always knowledgeable, often funny and sometimes irreverent, this talk is perfect for anyone who is passionate about our great regional capital.
Come along and hear John talk about his new book John Grundy's History of Newcastle on Saturday 23rd September at 13.00 at Newcastle City Library. Explore tutor John Griffiths will be introducing John Grundy and letting people know about our forthcoming autumn taster!
This event is now SOLD OUT but there are still some tickets available to our free taster event - click here
Photo by Steve Brock