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Settee Seminars

Settee Seminars

By Ilkley Literature Festival

Ilkley Literature Festival presents Settee Seminars, a podcast series of fascinating short talks by leading experts, introducing you to a wide range of topics from modern U.S. history to psychiatry and 18th century literature.

In each episode, a leading specialist in their field condenses years of study into a bite-sized 20-minute talk, giving listeners the chance to explore entire worlds of knowledge you might not even have known existed without ever having to leave your sofa.
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Jason Allen-Paisant – On Being a Black Body in “Nature”: A Walking Lyric

Settee SeminarsFeb 24, 2021

Andrew Sudmant - The Urban Paradox: How Cities are Both the Cause of, and Solution to, the Sustainability Challenges of the 21st Century
Jun 28, 202231:18
Viktoria Spaiser & Nicole Nisbett – Stabilising Earth’s Climate: Key Social Dynamics
Jun 28, 202224:03
Katy Thorpe & Jody Vallance – Peatland Restoration Project on Ilkley Moor

Katy Thorpe & Jody Vallance – Peatland Restoration Project on Ilkley Moor

Katy Thorpe is a senior conservation works officer at Moors for the Future Partnership, who develop and deliver projects to improve peat bogs in the Peak District and South Pennines. From installing big leaky dams to planting a tiny but transformative moss called sphagnum, Moors for the Future Partnership has completed an ambitious restoration project on Ilkley Moor. Join Katy, project leader, and Jody Vallance, as they discuss why the moor needed restoration, and explains the work that has been done.

Moors for the Future Partnership delivers upland conservation projects across the Peak District and South Pennine moors, with much of its work focussing on blanket bog, a precious but historically undervalued and often damaged habitat. Benefits of restoration include slowing the flow of water from the uplands, reducing the risk of flooding, better water quality, carbon storage and a better habitat for special wildlife including breeding waders like curlew and golden plover. This work is backed up by robust research and monitoring.

Further Reading

Moors for the Future Partnership:
Social media channels: Twitter @moorsforfuture, Facebook and Instagram @moorsforthefuture

Jun 28, 202226:43
iCasp – Helping The Local Environment

iCasp – Helping The Local Environment

iCasp, also known as the Yorkshire Integrated Catchment Solutions Programme, is an ambitious 6-year programme funded by the Natural Environment Research Council. They are currently working on over 40 projects to: reduce flood and drought risk, improve the resilience of cities to climate change, preserve valuable areas of peat in the moors, develop sustainable agriculture, and devise business cases for greening city developments and making more space for water.

In this podcast, join Catherine Seal, Dr Tom Willis and Dr Jenny Armstrong as they discuss some of the local projects based in the local area.

Find out more about iCasp on LinkedIn and Twitter: @Yorkshireicasp

Further reading:

Backstone Beck
Modelling natural flood management in Calderdale
Video on natural flood management in Calderdale
Improving flood risk communications through engagement tools
West Yorkshire Flood Innovation Programme
iCasp Director Joe Holden on the Flood Innovation Programme
Video about iCasp
Approaches to partnership working

Jun 28, 202235:30
Kylie Harris presented in partnership with Climate Action Ilkley - Treating the Climate Emergency as a Spiritual Emergency
Jun 28, 202222:48
Dr James Souter - Asylum as Reparation: Rethinking Responsibilities to Refugees
Feb 23, 202219:49
Lucy Cheseldine - The Auroras of Autumn: Language, Landscape and an Autumnal Obsession

Lucy Cheseldine - The Auroras of Autumn: Language, Landscape and an Autumnal Obsession

From Henry David Thoreau's extensive list of leaf colours to Wallace Stevens's 'gusty emotions', Lucy Cheseldine explores how Autumn shaped New England's literary and cultural heritage. Cheseldine investigates what this relationship meant for the early formation of an American identity and suggests ways in which it continues to influence more contemporary regional writing.

Further reading:

Donald Hall, Kicking the Leaves (London: Secker & Warburg, 1979).
Paul Harding, Enon (London: William Heinemann, 2015).
The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, 11th edition (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971).
The Poems of Edward Taylor, ed. Donald E. Stanford (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989).
The Poetry of Robert Frost, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969).
Walden, The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau, 150th Anniversary editionn, ed. J. Lyden Shanley (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004).
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1860, The 150th Anniversary Facsimile Edition, ed. Jason Stacy (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2009).

Feb 23, 202221:01
Ingo Cornils - What can German Science Fiction tell us about the future?

Ingo Cornils - What can German Science Fiction tell us about the future?

Since the turn of the millennium, German writers have increasingly engaged with the moral and ethical dilemmas created by scientific and technological advances. Building on the rich tradition of German Utopian Thought and German Science Fiction, they explore in thoughtful and accessible mind-experiments the dangers and limits of our new capabilities, and also the opportunities should we succeed in harnessing the potential inherent in these advances. Beneath a dystopian guise, German writers attempt 'Zukunftsbewältigung': valuable strategies that may help us cope with an uncertain but also unwritten future. As more of these texts become available in English translation, Dr Ingo Cornils explores what they can tell us about the future.

Further reading:

Kurd Lasswitz, Two Planets (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1971).
Andreas Eschbach, The Hair Carpet Weavers (Penguin, 2020).
Juli Zeh, The Method (Penguin, 2014).
Marc-Uwe Kling, Qualityland (Orion, 2021).
Ingo Cornils, Beyond Tomorrow: German Science Fiction and Utopian Thought in the 20th and 21st Centuries (Rochester: Camden House, 2020).
Lars Schmeink and Ingo Cornils (eds.), New Perspectives on Contemporary German Science Fiction (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2022).

Feb 23, 202227:22
Dr Bethany Robertson - Behind the Food on your Plate: Farming as Essential Work
Feb 23, 202217:09
Catherine Walsh - How to Build a Habitable World

Catherine Walsh - How to Build a Habitable World

So far, we know of only one place in the universe in which life has begun and thrived: Earth. This raises many questions around the prevalence of life in the universe, including consideration of the possibility that we are special, and that our Solar System had just the right conditions and ingredients for life to begin on our planet. Despite the persistent challenges in detecting extra-terrestrial life, there is now a wealth of evidence that rocky planets around other stars are common. In addition, everywhere we look in interstellar space, we find an abundance of key molecules, including water and organic molecules, that are needed to seed the surfaces of potentially habitable planets. In this podcast, Catherine Walsh discusses the recipe needed to build a habitable world, and present the current state-of-the-art in our quest to detect the ingredients needed to seed life on planets.

Further reading:

Kenneth R. Lang, The Life and Death of Stars (Massachussetts: Cambridge University Press, 2013).
Elizabeth Tasker, The Planet Factory: Exoplanets and the Search for a Second Earth (Bloomsbury Signma, 2017).
Lucas Ellerbroek, Planet Hunters: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life (Reaktion Books, 2017).
Andrew H. Knoll, Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth (Princeton University Press, 2015).

Feb 23, 202226:54
Dr Sarah Hudspith & Dr Olivia Santovetti - ‘Illuminating the Chaos and Obscurity’: Ferrante and Dostoevsky in Dialogue
Nov 24, 202101:04:47
James Mussell - Enquire Within: How the Victorians Invented the World Wide Web
Nov 24, 202132:35
Markus Fraundorfer - Tackling the Global Climate Crisis: Global Governance Dilemmas, Forest Protection and Indigenous People
Nov 24, 202127:50
Emily Bell - Dickens Now: The Modern Legacy of a Victorian Author
Nov 24, 202129:54
Season Three Trailer

Season Three Trailer

Welcome back to Settee Seminars, the bitesized podcast of fascinating short talks by leading experts, brought to you by the organisers of the Ilkley Literature Festival. 

In this season three, we'll be discussing a range of topics, including the enduring impact of Charles Dickens, Skipton's First World War Prisoner-of-War camp, and tackling the global climate crisis. 

Available now, join us wherever you get your podcasts.

To find out more, visit 

Nov 24, 202100:40
Anne Buckley and Frank Finlay - Skipton's First World War Prisoner-of-War Camp

Anne Buckley and Frank Finlay - Skipton's First World War Prisoner-of-War Camp

Nov 24, 202128:03
Greg Radick – Darwin's Argument by Analogy
Feb 24, 202124:37
Jason Allen-Paisant – On Being a Black Body in “Nature”: A Walking Lyric

Jason Allen-Paisant – On Being a Black Body in “Nature”: A Walking Lyric

“On Being a Black Body in ‘Nature’” is a lyric hybrid that combines poetry and essay. One might call it a “lyric essay”. Weaving the musicality of poetry into the more rationalist tone of the essay affords a blending of genres, voices, languages, and selves, and a coming together of different fragments of life and experience in new and interesting ways. The lyric essay embodies a form of mobility suited to my migrant experience, that of a Black West Indian living in Britain more than sixty years after the first Windrush arrivants. In this piece Dr Jason Allen-Paisant tackles questions that arise at the intersection of landscape, race, and history. The lyric essay as creative inquiry provides a liberating rhythm through which he can navigate these questions.

Further Reading:

Allen-Paisant, Jason (2021). “Reclaiming Time: On Blackness and Landscape”. PN Review 257. 
Allen-Paisant, Jason (2021). Thinking with Trees. Manchester: Carcanet.

Feb 24, 202121:30
Emily Webb – ‘Beneficial, Injurious or Innocent?’: Tea in Eighteenth Century Britain

Emily Webb – ‘Beneficial, Injurious or Innocent?’: Tea in Eighteenth Century Britain

Britain consumes 60 billion cups of tea per year, almost 900 for every man, woman and child in the country. It has become entrenched in our way of life, from the humble tea break in your home to the fanciest of afternoon teas at the Ritz, it can be enjoyed in all situations. Tea has stood the test of time and remains our national drink. However, this has not always been the case.

During the eighteenth-century debate raged about the potential beneficial and harmful effects of this Chinese drink on the health and wellbeing of the nation. It was suspected of leading women to live immoral lives, poisoning the population with Chinese medicine, and ruining the working classes.

However, through an exploration of these debates, Postgraduate Researcher Emily Webb will show how tea was simply a scapegoat – an innocent victim of larger debates about the social changes happening during the century when Britain was emerging as a global power and changing beyond recognition.

Further reading:

Jane Pettigrew & Bruce Richardson, A Social History of Tea (London: Benjamin Press, 2001).
Roy Maxim, A Brief History of Tea: Addiction, Exploitation, and Empire (London: Robinson, 2009).
Markman Ellis, Richard Coulton, and Matthew Mauger, Empire of Tea: The Asian Leaf that Conquered the World (London: Reaktion, 2018).

Feb 24, 202119:43
Fozia Bora & Alaric Hall – Decolonising Medieval Literature and History
Feb 24, 202127:12
Emily Zobel Marshall – Longing for Freedom: The Story of the African Trickster

Emily Zobel Marshall – Longing for Freedom: The Story of the African Trickster

Dr Emily Zobel Marshall will take you on journey through black history and across continents, guided by a most captivating character, the trickster spider Anansi. Marshall will reveal the roots of the Anansi folktales in Ghana and demonstrate Anansi inspired both psychological and physical resistance to enslavement on the Jamaican plantations. She will show us the vital role the trickster plays in our lives by testing and exposing abuses of power.

Further reading:

For Anansi story collections in Jamaica see, among others: Beckwith, Martha Warren (1924) Jamaica Anansi Stories. New York: American Folk-lore Society. Bennett, Louise (1979) Anancy and Miss Lou. Kingston: Sangster' s Book Stores. Jekyll, W. (1966) Jamaican Song and Story: Annancy Stories, Digging Sings, Dancing Tunes and Ring Tunes. New York: Dover Publications, and Tanna, Laura (1984) Jamaican Folktales and Oral Histories. Kingston: Institute of Jamaica Publications.

Zobel Marshall, Emily (2019) American Trickster: Trauma Tradition and Brer Rabbit. Rowman and Littlefield: London.

Zobel Marshall, Emily (2012) Anansi’s Journey: A Story of Jamaican Cultural Resistance. University of the West Indies Press: Kingston. 

Zobel, Joseph (1950; 2020) Black Shack Alley. Penguin Classics: USA

About the speaker:

Dr Emily Zobel Marshall is a Reader in Postcolonial Literature at the School of Cultural Studies at Leeds Beckett University. Her research specialisms are Caribbean literature and folklore and Caribbean carnival cultures. She is obsessed with trickster figures and her books focus on the role of the trickster in Caribbean and African American cultures; her first book, Anansi’s Journey: A Story of Jamaican Cultural Resistance (2012) was published by the University of the West Indies Press and her second book, American Trickster: Trauma Tradition and Brer Rabbit, was published by Rowman and Littlefield in 2019.

Emily enjoys developing her creative work alongside her academic writing. She has had poems published in The Caribbean Writer (Vol 32, 2020), The Caribbean Quarterly (Vol 66, 2020) Magma (‘The Loss’, Issue 75, 2019), Smoke Magazine (Issue 67, 2020). 

Dec 15, 202025:38
David Fairer – Wigs, Swords and Poison: Writing Murder Mysteries set in Queen Anne’s London

David Fairer – Wigs, Swords and Poison: Writing Murder Mysteries set in Queen Anne’s London

After forty years researching and teaching eighteenth-century literature, Emeritus Professor David Fairer is now attempting to bring the age alive in a series of novels, the Chocolate House Mysteries. Centred on a Covent Garden chocolate house, these books combine historical fact and fiction, with their plots built around the actual events of 1708.

Writing a historical ‘whodunit’ raises particular challenges and questions. How did men and women in 1708 conceive of such things as evidence, clues, blackmail, bribery, interrogation and teamwork? How did they conceive of the notion of ‘detection’ itself, when there were no policemen and no detectives, no experts, no teams, no concept of crime scenes or forensics?

Have a listen to ‘Wigs, Swords and Poison’ to find the answers to these questions!

Further reading:

David Fairer, Chocolate House Treason: A Mystery of Queen Anne’s London (Matador, 2019)

Aytoun Ellis, The Penny Universities: A History of the Coffee-Houses (Secker & Warburg, 1956).

Markman Ellis, The Coffee House: A Cultural History (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2004).

Bryant Lillywhite, London Coffee Houses (George Allen and Unwin, 1963).

John Ashton, Social Life in the Reign of Queen Anne (Chatto & Windus, 1929).

About the speaker:

David Fairer is Emeritus Professor of Eighteenth-Century English Literature at the University of Leeds, where he has taught since 1976. His historical whodunit, Chocolate House Treason, was published in 2019.

Dec 15, 202025:11
Des McLernon – 5G Technology in the Covid Age: Saviour or Dystopian Future?

Des McLernon – 5G Technology in the Covid Age: Saviour or Dystopian Future?

Dr Des McLernon takes us on a journey from the Ancient Greeks via the first cellular phone in 1979 to today’s fifth generation (5G) cellular technology. McLernon discusses why 5G wireless technology (unlike previous generations of cellular radio) will be both transformative and disruptive, enabling what is called the fourth industrial revolution of the Internet of Things and cyber physical systems.

McLernon also examines how 5G technology is much more than just a phone on which you can download videos faster. It will drive the Internet of Things and industrial robotics to smart cities & healthcare, driverless cars to immersive reality, online gaming to robotic surgery, and the tactile internet to advanced manufacturing.

Further reading:

Why do we need 5g and IOT? -

The Improvements Coming with 5G -

Introducing 5G Technology and Networks -

5G Mobile Technology - A Guide -

Electromagnetic Frequencies 100 kHZ to 300 GHZ -

Testing for the SARS-COV-2 Virus from an Engineering Perspective -

About the speaker:

Des McLernon (University of Leeds) has a PhD in mathematical signal processing from Imperial College and over many years has undertaken research both in industry and university on wireless communications and cellular/mobile radio.

Additional audio clips & sources:

Martini 'Roller Waitress L A ' 1980's TV Commercial

Star Trek Original Series Intro

Churchgoers Congregate During Coronavirus Pandemic

Mark Steele - 5G a Weapons System - YouTube

Dec 15, 202035:32
Simon Hall - Ten Days in Harlem: Fidel Castro and the Making of the 1960s

Simon Hall - Ten Days in Harlem: Fidel Castro and the Making of the 1960s

Professor of Modern History Simon Hall delves into the events of September 1960 when Cuba’s communist leader Fidel Castro arrived in New York for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly.

After storming out of his plush mid-town hotel following a row about money, Fidel relocated to the Hotel Theresa, the so-called ‘Waldorf of Harlem’. Greeted enthusiastically by the local African American community, he proceeded to hold court with a succession of world leaders, black freedom fighters and counter-cultural luminaries, and promoted the politics of anti-imperialism with a fervour, and an audacity, that made him an icon of the 1960s.

Entertaining and wildly unpredictable, Fidel’s trip to New York proved to be a foundational moment in the trajectory of the Cold War, a turning point in the history of anti-colonial struggle, and a launching pad for the social, cultural and political tumult of the decade that followed. Have a listen to ‘Ten Days in Harlem’ to find out more about this historic event.

Further reading: 

Steven Cohen, ‘When Castro Came to Harlem’, The New Republic, 21 March 2016.

Simon Hall, Ten Days in Harlem: Fidel Castro and the Making of the 1960s (Faber and Faber, 2020).

Simon Hall, ‘Fidel Castro Stayed in Harlem 60 Years Ago to Highlight Racial Injustice in the U.S.’, Smithsonian Magazine, 18 September 2020.

David Smith, ‘Fidel Castro in the US: cars, cigars and a meeting with Malcolm X’, The Guardian, 27 November 2016.

About the speaker:

Simon Hall studied history at Sheffield and Cambridge, and held a Fox International Fellowship at Yale, before moving to the University of Leeds, where he is currently Professor of Modern History. His books include 1956: The World in Revolt and Ten Days in Harlem: Fidel Castro and the Making of the 1960s.

Dec 15, 202022:02
Allan House - Only the Lonely?

Allan House - Only the Lonely?

[Content warning: This talk includes discussion of topics which may be upsetting to some listeners including suicide, anxiety, depression, loneliness and self-harm]

Loneliness, self-isolation, social distancing and what the COVID-19 pandemic tells us about social influences on mental health.

Professor of Liaison Psychiatry Allan House outlines why physical illness is stressful and how one particular aspect of the COVID pandemic – social isolation – can harm our mental health. Focussing on the topic of self-harm and suicide during the pandemic, House explores how we can better protect ourselves against the risks posed by social isolation and how to approach those who insist that they know the answers to many COVID-related questions.

Further reading:

Allan House, Understanding and responding to self-harm: the One Stop Guide, Profile Books 2019.

Thomas Joiner, Why People Die By Suicide, Harvard University Press 2007.

Barnardo’s, 'Left to their own Devices: Children’s Social Media and Mental Health'. 

About the speaker:

Allan House graduated in medicine from St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. After early career positions in hospital medicine and neurology, he trained in psychiatry and came to Leeds to work as a consultant in liaison psychiatry at Leeds General Infirmary. He was appointed Professor of Liaison Psychiatry in the medical school in Leeds in 1999.

His research interests include the interaction between physical illness and mental disorder, medically unexplained syndromes, and self-harm in adults. All his research is planned and delivered in collaboration with people with personal experience of using mental health services. / /

Dec 15, 202021:00
Settee Seminars Trailer

Settee Seminars Trailer

Settee Seminars is a new podcast by the producers of Ilkley Literature Festival. We'll be bringing you fascinating short talks by leading experts, introducing you to a wide range of topics, from modern U.S. history to psychiatry, to anti-discrimination law to 18th century literature. 

Join us in our first series launching on 15th December, available wherever you get your podcasts. 

To find out more, visit 

Dec 04, 202000:53