The Burpham Winter Lectures are back

These one-hour Winter Lectures are given by local residents for local residents and this year were postponed a couple of months due to lockdown. Here’s a run down of the first lectures of 2022.

Creatures of the Rain: Gargoyles, grotesques and hunkypunks.

Andrew Plumridge kicked off this year’s postponed Burpham Lectures with a quirky and informative account of those architectural fancies Gargoyles, Grotesques and Hunkypunks.

These brooding creatures originated in France (think Notre Dame Cathedral) as a way of routing water off the roofs of churches and towers. They are cleverly disguised outlets for lead piping. Water gushes down the roof and is discharged through the mouth of the creature to clear the walls. The word gargoyle is derived from the French word gargouille for throat.

The range of animals and people represented in gargoyles is prolific – lions, snakes, griffins, dragons, evil-looking imps and – less flattering – local celebrities such as vicars, lords and lawyers. Happily, gargoyles are placed well above ground level so masons were able to poke fun at the personalities of their town from a safe distance.

Once you have one gargoyle, your sense of symmetry may crave four – one for each corner, but without the rainwater. The other three are grotesques. And if you live in Somerset and the South West, you may well call them hunkypunks.

Yes, Minister!
Bob Hughes, formerly MP for Harrow and a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, entertained and educated his audience at the second Burpham Lecture. Getting ministers, or anyone, to act in your favour is not just about passion, it needs cool-headed planning. It is all too easy, says Bob, to make a negative impression and he cited the examples of mass identical emails, extreme attention-seeking tactics and petitions as less effective than direct discussion. People in power are interested in ideas which are aligned with their priorities, have evidence to back them up and there is a good way to implement them.

Bob himself led the effort to get soft landing floors installed in playgrounds, a simple idea which has saved a lot of broken bones and prevented some deaths. He accepts, though, that not every good idea will be taken up by ministers because they have to juggle and choose between competing ideas.

Far from the image projected by Yes, Minister, Bob said that a good working relationship between politicians and civil services was central to forging workable policy. For people wishing to promote their ideas to government, the best approach is to work through one’s local MP.