The Universettee is a series of mobile lectures that happen in people's homes with a variety of speakers from different walks of life. The emphasis is on learning about all sorts of issues in a non-threatening environment. The lectures are free but participants are asked to bring some food or drink to share. The syllabus is flexible and shaped by those who offer to lecture or host the Universettee. Lectures will be approximately 30-40 minutes followed by time for questions and discussion. The formal part of the evening will last no longer than 1 hour. People wanting to attend are required to book a place in advance as spaces are limited.

Next Universettee Lecture

The Universettee is currently taking a break as the organiser is having a baby!

Previous Universettee Lectures

3.6.2014 New Life at Roof Top Level in Stockholm Fred London

JTP is a company interested in harnessing human energy to create new spaces and revitalise old ones. In November 2010 JTP led an international team at Sweden’s first ever Community Planning Weekend, working with Wasted Space/People Owned – companies founded by Stockholm-based entrepreneur John Higson.

The aim of the weekend was to work with the local community to create a vision to regenerate the street, build some new housing and improve the ‘Bunker’ – the existing ‘brutalist’ metro station voted Stockholm’s ugliest building – and its surroundings. The resulting proposals for the Bunker included a rooftop restaurant and garden and covering the exposed concrete structure with vertical greening.
The building work was managed by Wasted Space and built by a group of eco-companies as a showcase to promote their cutting-edge environmental technologies. Wasted Space has also formed a Community Gardening Club to create a rooftop garden, including test panels to determine how best to introduce vertical greening that can survive Stockholm’s harsh winters. A One Room Eco-hotel forms the centrepiece of the rooftop garden.

JTP and People Owned are now organising Sweden’s second Community Planning Project to create a new Vision for Vasby Sjostad – a lakeside town expansion for around 3000 new homes, with leisure facilities.

19.5.2014 A spoonful of craft can help the activism go down Sarah Corbett

We live in an ever-changing world where many forms of activism are not as effective as they once were. The terms ‘clicktivist’ and ‘slacktivist’ are used to describe minimal personal effort and engagement. Politicians have referred to such campaigners as ‘zombie campaigners’. Many people are becoming cynical and feeling like ‘robots’ just asked to do transactional activities rather than being helped in their own personal transformation to be the change they wish to see in the world.

My view as a professional campaigner working in public engagement and now as a full-time craftivist is that we need to adopt some new activism tactics: craft such as hand embroidery can address some of the problems in traditional activism and should become a valued tool in the activism toolbox. Craft connects your heart, head and hands, and when you relate that to justice issues, it can be world-changing personally and politically. Such activism is also able to reach out to people otherwise untouched by more traditional forms of activism.

I would like to talk about 3 ways in which craft really can help the activism go down: through personal deep engagement in global issues, through building relationships and conversations with influential change-makers, and through increasing awareness of and engagement with global issues by the public.

I will use my experience both as a craftivist and campaigner to critique some of the current methods of activism and to provide evidence of effective craftivism by the Craftivist Collective.


28.4.2014 Coffee Roaster Inventing Andrew Stordy.

Andrew Stordy will demonstrate and talk about the product he has invented. The world’s first smart phone controlled digital micro roaster. An amazing machine that makes coffee roasting easy, bringing coffee lovers the freshest coffee possible. Andrew will also talk about how he intends to use his invention to enable an alternative supply chain for coffee, which will connect coffee drinkers with coffee growers in developing countries. www.ikawacoffee.com

24.3.2014 Breaking the fashion code - Ariel Moreton

Fashion is a language that everyone engages in, whether they mean to or not. People use fashion to express themselves, but that means different things to different people. The clothing we wear can pigeonhole us instantly without us having to explain a word and has the power to communicate silently what we stand for, where we work, our gender and class.

The fashion industry with its celebrities, models and trends can empower and inspire or confuse and control us as it suggests who we are supposed to be and how we are supposed to live.

As a consumer, the choices we make whether we're buying Prada or Primark can collectively affect local and foreign economies and have an impact on our environment.

With so many agendas, it can be confusing to know what is going on and where we stand. We will begin to unpack the significance of what we wear, the complexities of the fashion and clothing industry and our impact as consumers.

18.2.2014 The Existence of Terrorism: Politics, Language and Legitimacy – Anna Smith

What are the first images of that come into your mind when hearing the word ‘terrorism’? Images of 9/11? the Birmingham pub bombing? the vicious attack just last year in Woolwich?

As one of the most evocative and powerful words in the English language today, ‘terrorism’ struggles for conceptual credibility. What is ‘terrorism’, precisely? Is it a category of violence? Is it dependent on motive? Or purely a method of violence? What specific parameters border a commonly accepted conceptual space the term inhabits? Does ‘terrorism’ as an objective category actually exist, or is it merely a polarising label used as a political weapon to delegitimise the ‘other’?

This session explores these questions through the lens of legitimacy and language, grappling with one of the most pressing and challenging issues on the international agenda: defining terrorism.

22.11.2013 Kierkegaard - A Single Life - Stephen Backhouse

Now known as the 'father of existentialism', Soren Kierkegaard is widely hailed as one of history's most influential thinkers. Yet he did not want to start a movement at all and thought of himself more as a poet than a thinker. A philosopher who despised philosophy. A Christian who attacked Christendom. A man who lived in the present by staking his whole life on a moment in the past. A lover of the Individual who wanted nothing more than to reach the common man. A quiet writer who's death sparked a riot. In the year celebrating his 200th birthday, come and discuss the life and work of this complicated, famous, and frustrating writer.

14.10.2013 It's a Wonderful Life - The Science of Seeds - Deborah Colvin

Taking visitors through the inner life of seeds and what makes them such amazing vehicles of life, from the giant Coco-de-Mer, weighing 17 kg, taking two years to germinate, to some rainforest orchids which measure less than a tenth of a millimeter

7.10.2013 Bookbinding workshop. - David Henningham

David & Ping Henningham have developed ways of binding that need no specialist equipment, but instead use everyday things you might find at home. They are teaching these methods in two one-day classes in a few weeks time (see details below), so in order to whet your appetites for the art of bookbinding, they are going to do a Universettee taster session. They won't be able teach you how to make a whole hardback book from scratch in a Universettee, but they will be able to do some smaller, simpler bindings. In fact, they may attempt to get you all to make 3 books each in 30 minutes! Expect to hear many anecdotes and facts about the history of bookbinding, and why books look the way they do. Bookbinding is usually traditionally a chatty activity and they shall try and keep up that tradition!

4.6.2013 Bobby Baker @ Holloway Arts Festival

She is one of the most widely acclaimed and popular performance artists working today. She trained as a painter at St Martins School of Art but, on leaving, found cake and performance more effective ways to express her ideas.

8.5.2013 26 Miles

26 Miles is a project from 26, the writers’ collective. 26 writers were asked to team up with a friend and walk one specific mile on the route of the London Marathon. A 27th writer got lucky and strolled the last 350-odd yards. They were all told to dig around for a story, compose a poem, or simply report what they saw. Some hooked up with photographers and filmmakers. Others chose illustrators and sound engineers. Most had fun. All made it over the finishing line. You can see the results of their work at www.26miles.org.uk.Four of the writers will be reading excerpts from their finished piece and taking about their miles. They’ll be happy to take questions and discuss their approach.

20.2.2013 The Architecture of Old Age - where does is come from and where should we take it to? - Catherine Tidnam

The prospect of decampment to a care home stirs a flicker of anxiety in even the strongest of hearts. Catherine Tidnam will trace the history of today’s care home through the Christian tradition of looking after the old and sick. She will touch on contemporary research on what makes building design work for the very old then lurch into literature to get away from the factual and instead to the nub of what it is to be old and how architecture could reflect this. If schools reflect youthfulness and curiosity, what is the equivalent for old age – ruins and follies?

6.12.2012 The Narnia Code: A Christmas special exploring the deeper symbolism of the Narnia books. – Alex Bunn

Taking for granted the obvious Christian symbolism, is there another unifying theme? Or is the Narnia Septet a hodge podge as Tolkein contended? Based on Michael Ward's theory that Lewis used the planets as 'symbols of permanent value', and hailed as the most surprising literary discovery of recent years. Turkish Delight will be provided.

5.11.2012 A billion hungry in an age of plenty: why our food system is broken and how we can fix it. – David McNair

Why do 2.6 million children die each year due to malnutrition, while obesity is on the rise? Why to some firms make millions of dollars from the food price spikes that cause millions of people to starve? This lecture explores the dynamics of our food system, what causes hunger and how we can fix it.

26.10.2012 Lovers, Lasses, Fiddlers and Folksongs Sarah Barnes – Violin April Fredrick – Soprano

An evening of music inspired by the British landscape and folk tradition – including ballads, lyrics and folksongs, prayers and protests, personal and social histories. All the music we’ll perform in this informal house concert is for the unusual combination of voice and violin. The songs, by four British composers of the early to mid-twentieth century - Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan-Williams, Arthur Bliss, and Rebecca Clarke – include English and Irish folksong arrangements, and settings of poems by Charlotte Mew and A.E. Houseman. They vary in mood from simple or humorous, to sad or impassioned. We'll also talk about the background and context of the music, musing on the reinterpreting of British folk history, and relationships between past and present, rural and urban landscapes, people and place.

4.10.2012 How to keep a secret secret - some stories from the history of cryptography - Jude Addley

The lecture focused on secret messages, code breaking and cryptography over the years, from barefoot Greek messengers to Internet credit card security today. We touched on Mary Queen of Scots' downfall and the breaking of the Enigma cipher at Bletchley Park during world war two.

7.2.2012 If I go suddenly... charity shop stories - Priscilla Robinson is a writer and performer living in Dublin. She has been trawling for treasure in skips, jumble sales and charity shops for almost 30 years. A dream came true for her in 2010 when she opened her own unique charity shop during the Absolut Fringe Festival in Dublin. It was called Help Me! Help Me! and she gave away over 600 of her things - many originally bought in charity shops - in exchange for people’s help. Now she is worried that the type of charity shop she loves - muddled and a bit chaotic - is dying out in favour of more streamlined, corporate places. Come and hear this love story and lament. Will contain a charity shop raffle!

23.1.2012 Throwaway lines Andy Hayes

Find out about a brand new art form, 'Litterature' - a series of short stories created from rubbish. Throwaway Lines is the latest project from 26, the writers' collective. 26 writers created 26 stories from 26 scraps of handwritten paper, abandoned, found then rescued from London's streets over the past two years. Andy Hayes will share his strange obsession for collecting litter and will be joined by two of the storywriters, Jane Eden and Roshni Goyate.

http://26.org.uk http://throwawaylines.org

22.11.2011 God's away on business: The theology of Tom Waits Andrew Jones

There's a leak in the boiler room. A few thoughts by Andrew Jones about a few songs by Tom Waits. We'll listen to Tom sing about the leak and how he thinks it can be fixed.

26.9.2011 Here we go again...again: Understanding the Hollywood Sequel Stuart Henderson

The prominence of the sequel in contemporary Hollywood is hard to ignore, but little attempt has been made to understand how it is distinct from other forms of cinematic storytelling, or indeed why it is such a popular choice for both filmmakers and audiences. With reference to Toy Story 3 and Die Hard 2 amongst others, this lecture will attempt to offer some explanation as to why the sequel has always played a part in Hollywood's output, and why it might be that we keep coming back for more.

22.6.2011 A screening of short films by artists and filmmakers

15.03.2011 A Method for Approaching Bamboo - David Henningham

How the world confronts the artist in the poetry of Basho and WG Sebald. What is nature and how long can it last? What happens when artists try to examine the world they are a part of? What happened when two poets born exactly 400 years apart passed each other on the road? What is a coin-operated buddha-during-enlightenment?

22.2.2011 A Heterodox Orthodox: Who was Fyodor Dostoevsky? -Svetlana Graudt

He may be hailed as one of the world's greatest writers, but how about a failed terrorist, a convict, a gambler and a devout christian to boot? Come to hear about Dostoyevsky the real man. You may be surprised by what you learn.

17.05.2010 The Edge of Music -Sarah Barnes

'Angels calling to each other across the universe, moon-struck wailing and a steam train on its way to Auschwitz - some of the strange, haunting sounds conjured by composers as they tried to express the extremities of the universe and human experience. This lecture will look at how Western composers have explored ‘the edge of music’ – either the meeting point between music and other media, or the point at which music begins to become something other than what would normally be described as music (e.g. mechanical, recorded or environmental sound, ordinary speech, noise or silence). When is music not music? When does a musical work become ‘multi-media’? And what effect does that have on its meaning? At such meeting points, I think music can be at its most philosophically interesting….'

16.2.2010 Picture Books and Controversial Issues - Sophie Mackay

This lecture will be interactive and will focus on the ways in which recently published picture books for primary age range children tackle controversial issues including war, sexuality, globalization and sustainable development. I will be arguing that texts which focus on what might be perceived as controversial issues are relevant to children’s lives today. I will be suggesting that in fact such texts should not be seen as ‘controversial’ and considering the need to re-think what we mean by childhood innocence and reflecting on what can we can consider as the potential ‘corruptors’ of children. In the session there will be an opportunity to look at the picture books I discuss and time for discussion of questions raised in the presentation.

18.1.2010 Roots Manuva: A Romantic Soul -David Barnes

British hip-hop and Romantic poetry might seem like an unlikely pairing. We are used to mainstream rap music as a byword for bragging, egotism and misogyny. Roots Manuva bucks the trend. Instead of ego, he gives us tortured introspection; instead of boasting, he puts his self-doubt on show. In Roots’s struggles with depression, the nature of reality, and God, he provides a model of rap music that is closer to the Romantic poetry of Coleridge and Wordsworth than it is to Snoop Dogg. Come and hear about Roots Manuva’s conflicted romantic soul and why his quintessentially British rap lyrics are worth a closer look.

30.6.09 The world in an hour and a half - Andrew Jones

Donkeys are rarely seen as great spiritual teachers. In 1966 Robert Bresson made a film called 'Au Hasard Balthazar'". The main character in the film is a donkey called Balthazar. This illustrated lecture will explore why Bresson's film is regarded by many as a spiritual masterpiece.

19.5.2009 Volunteering in post-war Liberia- Michal Tkachenko and Nigel Barker

Two volunteers who spent 7 months in Liberia talk about living in a post-war country that is still host to the second largest United Nations peacekeeping troops in the world. We will take a closer look at working on a hospital ship and some of the medical issues involved.

21.4.2009 J.S.Bach, Goldberg Variations, (Piano Recital) - Kerry Yong

16.3.2009 Inventing a Fairer Coffee Machine - Andrew Stordy

Inventor Andrew Stordy has designed a machine that aims to change the way the coffee industry works, for the benefit of coffee farmers. Come and find out about coffee, where it comes from and how the machine works. (Safety glasses will be supplied).

17.2.2009 Refusing to accept the absurdity of the world picture offered us - Jane Trowell

What is activism? A poem, stopping Stansted Airport, a research report, a hug, a struggle with the police, an allotment, an unaverted gaze? PLATFORM works between art, campaigning, education and activism, tonight represented by Jane Trowell. www.platformlondon.org *John Berger

19.1.2009 Signs and wonders: the art of Sister Mary Corita - Murray Macaulay

'Nothing is a mistake. There's no win and no fail. Only make.' (Rule 9, The Immaculate Heart College Art Department Rules') An introduction to the art of Sister Mary Corita Kent, a Los Angeles screen-printing nun and teacher, who made art about faith and packaging. An unlikely, but true story, about a cardinal and a juicy tomato, Jesus and the Chevrolet man, a pray play book, a Jesuit draft burner, and an art agnostic who found he just might be able to believe again.

2.12.2008 The sacred art of obituary writing - Matt Cresswell

A journalist ruminates on the art of capturing a life span in 500 words

3.11.2008 Robots, micro nations, perverse urbanism

... and other fiction from the not so distant future ... narrated by TomorrowsThoughtsToday. TomorrowsThoughtsToday is a London-based think tank exploring the consequences of fantastic, perverse and underrated urbanisms. tomorrowsthoughtstoday.com

29.9.2008 Is history bunk? -James May

History sells. TV series and printed history alike are very popular. The question ‘do I like history?’ however, is different from the question, ‘do I think history is important?’ Many people find it interesting or entertaining – but does it matter? Can we learn anything from it, should we learn anything from it, do we learn anything from it? Is there any significance to the progressing story of the human race? To borrow from Shakespeare; is the life of the human race but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: is it a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing? I don’t think there are any easy answers – but plenty of questions that are worth asking. Why not come to Universettee and join in the discussion?

2.9.2008 ‘It was not my intention to take the biscuit’ - rumination on tea-party etiquette with some delightful suggestions for what to do with crumbs - Emma Robertson

29.7.2008 Library as Utopia - Nick Brown

Or why meaning is hidden in gibberish. A few thoughts about how libraries shape our lives, touching on memory, totalitarianism, architecture, copyright, lying, bedbugs and Dolly Parton. Plus a few rude words about a politician.

31.3.2008 Hunchbacks, lunatics and biopolitics in the work of W.G.Sebald - Ping Henningham

The lecture will give a history of what is behind the many physically and mentally malformed characters in W.G. Sebald’s books. The lecture will touch upon all his works, concentrating the most on chapter 5 of The Rings of Saturn. This chapter is worth reading before you come to the lecture, but hopefully it will make sense even if you have never read any Sebald before. He Is A Great Writer.

25.2.2008 From London to Beijing - Tom Keogh and Hans Askheim

Tom and Hans will discuss a curatorial project that comprises a 6-week trans-Eurasian journey from London to Beijing. A team of 4 curators (Hans Askheim, Claire Davis, Tom Keogh and Miranda Pope) will transport a single artwork by the German artist Tobias Rehberger across Europe, Central Asia and China. The presentation of the work will be carried out in conjunction with local artists, curators and art professionals at a number of pre-arranged stop off points (galleries or cultural institutions) along the way.

19.11.2007 AIDS and HIV in Africa - Jason Christopher

A medical doctor who has spent time in Uganda and has also recently completed postgraduate study on public health will share his perspective on the problem of HIV and Aids in Africa.

22.10.2007 God vs. R.S.Thomas: a divine perspective on a Welsh poet -Andrew Jones

RS Thomas was a twentieth century vicar-poet who struggled with God. This lecture will explore God's struggle with RS Thomas.

10.9.2007 Performance of belief - Megan Macdonald

Megan Macdonald will be talking about her current PhD research into how people 'perform' their belief through the body. Belief is not just something you think about - belief requires action. The work of contemporary performance artists will be used to examine how and why we perform our beliefs.

21.5.2007 The Suit- Bryan Parsons

From a thought attached to something else to a thought process. From looking at the conventions of comics. A suit was made and developed. Now it is part of something bigger and more optimistic

30.4.2007 An inaugural lecture of the pocket department - Gary Woodley

exploring the diversity and deployability of pocket spaces

16.4.2007 Who the heck is Zizek? -David Henningham

Slavoj Zizek is a name on everyone’s lips, cautiously perhaps, but nonetheless widely known. He has been cast as a sort of Elvis of Psychoanalysis. He’s a Marxist and a Materialist but he calls for Judeo-Christian thinkers and believers to join with Marxists to resist the onslaughts of Neo-Paganism, Neo-Nazism and Western Buddhism in culture. Why? This lecture will be an introduction to his central ideas towards Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and various other forms of Paganism, and a glimpse at his biography. Come and find out why Bush and Blair are Buddhists. It will save you a lot of dense reading; it may also cause some.

26.3.2007 Valerie Solanas -Stephanie Moran

Stephanie Moran will discuss what she likes about Valerie Solanas' SCUM Manifesto which she believes is unfairly vilified and dismissed as just a man-hating text. (Valerie Solanas is the woman who shot Andy Warhol)

12.3.2007 Michael Wedgwood and Eddie Farrell of the Shytstem in association with The Universettee present an informal, nae relaxed, talk on The cardboard box

We met across a crowded room of them…. First collaboration – BOX University College London, North Cloisters Monday 24th February 2003…Now we speak across continents through one Year long publication work – SHYTSTEM - No fixed abode 5th September 2006 till……………?

26.2.2007 Is children’s literature really just for children?- Sophie Mackay

The first part of the session will focus on how the changes and developments in children's literature reflect society's changing attitude to children and childhood. In the second half the audience will be invited to look at a selection of picture books and reflect on the images of childhood they depict.

Thursday, 27 November 2008