Virtual Primrose Hill Lecture Series raises funds for St Mary’s Church

PUBLISHED: 10:58 05 November 2020

Olympic rowing champion Katherine Grainger took part in this year's Primrose Hill Lecture series to raise funds for St Mary's Church. Picture Andrew Milligan for PA.

Olympic rowing champion Katherine Grainger took part in this year's Primrose Hill Lecture series to raise funds for St Mary's Church. Picture Andrew Milligan for PA.

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Talks by Nicholas Hytner, Olympian Katherine Grainger and Amelia Gentleman help to raise funds for the church’s work with the elderly, homeless and young people

Independent bookshop Primrose Hill Books jointly ran the Primrose Hill Lecture Series to raise funds for St Mary's ChurchIndependent bookshop Primrose Hill Books jointly ran the Primrose Hill Lecture Series to raise funds for St Mary's Church

The Primrose Hill Lecture Series has been running for almost 20 years, and they weren’t going to let lockdown get in their way.

Hosted by St Mary’s Church and Primrose Hill Books, this year’s star-studded line-up includes journalist Andrew Marr and Olympian Dame Katherine Grainger.

But for the first time ever, this year the talks are digital.

Chair Giles Watkins said they were blessed that St Mary’s Church was tech-savvy, and had already got the hang of live-streaming their services.

Former National Theatre director and now running The Bridge Theatre Nicholas Hytner took part in the Primrose Hill Lecture Series picture Polly HancockFormer National Theatre director and now running The Bridge Theatre Nicholas Hytner took part in the Primrose Hill Lecture Series picture Polly Hancock

The businessman and author of Positive Sleep, a book for professionals who struggle with insomnia, said streaming has allowed them to reach a bigger audience than normal, with audience members dialling in from Cornwall to Australia.

He added that the series continues to be about bringing new people into the church on Elsworthy Road as well as “generating interesting discussion, and raising money for good causes”.

The lecture series is a main source of income for the church helping to fund its winter homeless shelter, tea rooms for the elderly and outreach programmes for vulnerable youth.

Psychotherapist Julia Samuel’s lecture was on her new book This Too Shall Pass, which presciently explores how people can learn to adapt and thrive during difficult experiences.

Reverend Marjorie Brown of St Mary's Primrose HillReverend Marjorie Brown of St Mary's Primrose Hill

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She said: “For me to talk to Stephen Grosz, who has been a hero of mine since his book The Examined Life came out, was in itself so exciting. He was better in life than in book even, which is normally the reverse!”

Grosz, a Hampstead-based psychoanalyst, agreed they were a good match which produced a relaxed and thoughtful conversation. Though the lectures are watched virtually, the speakers are filmed in the church, which Samuel far preferred to sitting at her desk

Both took part because they admired the series’ sponsor, Primrose Hill Books.

“It’s a wonderful bookshop,” said Samuel. “As the smallest fry I was honoured to be part of their lecture series. I’m a huge fan of independent bookshops. They’re at the heart of many communities, and do a lot of unpaid community work.”

Grosz added: “I love Primrose Hill Books and I also think the work that the church does is fabulous and should be supported. It’s important to support our independent bookstores, especially at a time like this.”

Samuel says that during the first lockdown there had been a Blitz spirit with people full of energy, but this time round she feels we are worn out before the start.

While it’s a personal blow not to be able to see her children for a month, she’s planning activities that will purposefully lift her spirits.

“You have to acknowledge how difficult this is, but you also have to look for the light, and do things that intentionally recourse you, whether that’s going for a walk or dancing in your kitchen.”

Grosz, who lives with his two teenage children, added: “I love seeing my patients in person, but I’ve been seeing them purely by Skype or telephone, and that’s sad.

“On the other hand, I also got a lot out of being with my family at home. I rather liked us having lunch together and walking on the Heath, so there were gains too.”

Tickets for Amelia Gentleman talking to Michal Husain (Nov 11) and Ilina Singh talking to Libby Wiener (Nov 18) are available at www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/primrose-hill-lecture-series-6686626015


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