2017 Festival – Thursday 9th – Sunday 12th October

Scroll down the page to view the Programme of Events or Download 2017 Festival Programme of Events

We would like to thank Castle Finance for helping us with our events and we were very happy for a very successful outcome.


Philosophytown and the Public Sphere

For the German philosopher, Jurgen Habermas (1929 – ), the public sphere is where private persons made ‘public use of their reason’ to form public opinion. This is classically located in Joseph Addison’s essay (the Malmesbury MP from 1709 to 1719) in the Spectator (No. 10 March 12, 1711):

‘It was said of Socrates, that he brought Philosophy down from Heaven,
to inhabit among Men; and I shall be ambitious to have it said of me,

that I have brought Philosophy out of Closets and Libraries, Schools and Colleges, to dwell in Clubs and Assemblies, at Tea-tables, and in Coffee-houses.’

Philosophytown and its festival aspire to contribute to the re-invention of the public sphere in our day and do so in the year’s event with explorations of:


Lawrence Klein, the outstanding scholar on the idea of conversation in the eighteenth century and its philosophical implications, will talk on the Earl of Shaftesbury and Joseph Addison and their pioneering role in this regard
The inauguration of CHATT, Coffee House and Tea Table, discussion groups around a given text of philosophy
Coffee House

Antony Clayton’s talk on London coffee houses where Addison enjoyed his greatest influence
Tutored coffee tastings and the coffee world today
Culture of Books

An essential site for the public sphere and now greatly under threat. Talks and panel discussion on present realities and future possibilities
History and Philosophy of Ideas

Talks on Cambridge Platonists; Thomas Hobbes’ biographer and Enlightenment polymath who was schooled in Malmesbury, John Aubrey; talk and film on Hannah Arendt, political philosopher and escapee from Nazi Germany and student of Heidegger; a history of philosophers who supported Hitler; philosophers’ conception of the good life; and the legacy and importance of Plato
Philosophy of Walking

‘All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.’
Friedrich Nietzsche

‘I can only meditate when I am walking. When I stop, I cease to think;
my mind works only with my legs.’
Jean-Jacques Rousseau

‘Ambulando Solvitur – by walking we work it out.’
Diogenes of Sinope and St Augustine

Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury had an inkhorn built into his walking stick so that he could note down any interesting thoughts on his daily walk. There is an intrinsic relationship between philosophy and walking, from the Peripatetics of Ancient Athens; the mental and physical challenges and shared community of medieval pilgrimages; the existential pedestrianism of Romantics and writers – Wordsworth, Coleridge, Hazlitt, R L Stevenson, Edward Thomas, and Robert Macfarlane today; and the escapism of German youth, the wandervogel, after the First World War and the working class from factories and industrial cities of the north.

This is the most substantial convocation ever in Britain on the history of walking and its philosophical import, and will include talks on natural navigation techniques going back to the Phoenecians, the Ancient Greeks and the Vikings; the retracing of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s legendary walk through 1930’s Europe from Holland to the Golden Horn; personal reminiscences about Alfred Wainwright; Laurie Lee’s literary wanderings; the debate on the historical origins of the Pilgrim’s Way.

The world should know Maud Heath’s Causeway, a unique 15th century initiative of one woman to provide a dry path to market. G M Trevelyan was a major twentieth century historian and thinker about walking, experiences engendered by his native Northumbria. England’s best kept secret, Northumberland National Park, will have a major new interpretation centre in the spirit of Trevelyan.There is a summative lecture on the philosophy of walking. Simply Removals

The Good City/Town.

The public realm of our towns and cities has an intrinsic relationship to the public sphere as a means of elucidating what the good environment should be. We explore this from Ancient Athens to debates about Malmesbury today. castlefinance

Programme of Events – 2017 Festival

Thursday 9th October – Venue: Old Bell Hotel

11.00am – 1.00pm


(1) 1.00 – 2.00pm

Tristan Gooley – The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs – the pioneer of natural navigation talks about his new book

(2) 2.00 – 3.00pm

Kel Portman – As We Walk Out – commemorates the centenary of Laurie Lee’s birth in following his 1934 footsteps from Slad to Southampton

3.00 – 3.30pm


(3) 3.30 – 4.30pm

Jean Harvest gives a dramatized presentation of Maud Heath, who in 1474 established a deed to erect Maud Heath’s Causeway, the most astonishing 4 mile heritage walkway in England. We can follow her footsteps and life story in this most unique of footpaths.

(4) 4.30 – 5.30pm

Ron Scholes – Wainwright’s Pennines. Travel writer and broadcaster Ron Scholes reminisces about Alfred Wainwright and his recently discovered 1938 circular 247mile Pennine Journey, now revived with its own amenity society.

5.30 – 7.00pm


(5) 7.00 – 8.00pm

Stuart Evans – The Sill. – Venue now changed to Old Bell Hotel. We are very pleased to have the Project Director of the Northumberland National Park to tell us about this new generation and highly original public engagement centre for our countryside adjacent to the iconic footpath on Hadrian’s Wall.

Friday 10th October – Venue: Old Bell Hotel

(6) 9.30 – 10.30am

Derek Bright – The Pilgrim’s Way: Fact and Fiction of An Ancient Trackway. Pilgrimages are a classical reference point of thinking and walking and here Derek Bright explores the most influential of all on our modern interest in pilgrimages.

10.30 – 11.00am


(7) 11.00am – 12noon

Ieuan Williams – Plato – a lucid discussion of the great philosopher’s thought and why it matters today.

(8) 12noon – 1.00pm

Lawrence Klein – Enlightenment as Conversation

1.00 – 2.00pm


(9) 2.00 – 3.00pm

Yvonne Sherratt – Hitler’s Philosophers. Cancelled. How much should disturbing politics influence our understanding of a philosopher? Explored further in Saturday’s talk on Hannah Arendt and the film of the same on Friday night.

(10) 3.00 – 4.00pm

Nick Hunt – In the footsteps of Patrick Leigh Fermor, the author retraces the writer’s famous walk from Holland to Constantinople.

4.00 – 4.30pm


(11) 4.30 – 5.30pm

Michael Cuthbert – Philosophy and History of Walking. The festival director sets out the linkage between philosophy and walking.

(12) 8.00– 10.00pm

Showing of the film entitled Hannah Arendt (2012)

Saturday 11th October – Venue: Old Bell Hotel

(13) 9.30 – 10.30am

David Leech – Cambridge Platonists – Cancelled. An introduction to the Cambridge Platonists of the 17th century expanding on Henry More’s atheism and Ralf Cudworth’s critique of Hobbes.

10.30 – 11.00am


(14) 11.00 – 12noon

Mark Vernon – The Art of Living. Mark Vernon has an outstanding reputation furthering the public engagement with philosophy and here he is on ground he has made his own territory.

12noon – 1.00pm


(15) 1.00 – 2.00pm

William Poole – On John Aubrey – Hobbes biographer seen as an enlightenment philosopher.

(16) 2.00 – 3.00pm

Robert Fine – Re-reading Hannah Arendt’s report on the Eichmann trial in the context of her Jewish writings – Cancelled.

Venue: Old Bell Hotel Garden Room

(17) 2.00 – 3.00pm

Mark Vernon – What is the Good City/Town? Philosopher Mark Vernon explores the idea of the good city in ancient Greek philosophy.

(18) 3.00 – 4.00pm

John Walker – History of the Civic Society Movement. The contribution of these crucial organisations to the development of the good city/town.

4.00 – 4.30pm


(19) 4.15 – 5.15pm

Bruce McVean – The Pedestrian in the Urban Environment

5.15 – 6.00pm

Panel Discussion with Mark Vernon, John Walker, Bruce McVean, Simon Killane

Sunday 12th October – Venue: Old Bell Hotel

Coffee Festival

(20) 9.30 – 11.00am

Coffee tasting and tutoring

Brian Williams writes the award-winning Brian’s Coffee Spot, an on-line resource about great places to drink coffee around the world. He also writes for Caffeine Magazine. Eddie Twitchett is owner and roaster at Round Hill Roastery. Round Hill sources, roasts and packs the world’s finest coffee. Working with partner importers selecting beans from the best seasonal harvests, the coffee is grown by independent farmers using sustainable methods. Coffee consumers will be able to trace the drink to the farmer who grew the beans, its process, roast and brew methods.

(21) 11.00 – 11.45am

Antony Clayton – History of the London Coffee House

12noon – 1.30pm


For the Love of Books – short talks and panel

(22) 1.30 – 2.15pm: Jon Tollit – Designing the Bookshop of the Future

(23) 2.15 – 2.45pm Nic Bottomley – Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath

(24) 2.45 – 3.15pm Neil McInnes, The exciting new developments at Manchester City’s Central Library

3.15-3.45pm Panel Discussion


(1) Tristan Gooley is a pioneer in history and practical application of natural navigation, which he teaches at his school in Chichester Harbour

(2) Kel Portman is a member of the Walking the Land Collective in Stroud

(3) Jean Harvest, previously on the staff of Chippenham Museum, makes dramatised presentations of Maud Heath

(4) Ron Scholes is travel writer and broadcaster about landscape and walking in the North of England, who was closely associated with Alfred Wainwright

(5) Stuart Evans is the project director of the Sill, a major new visitor and interpretation centre for Northumberland National Park and Hadrian’s Wall

(6) Derek Bright retired from the Post Office trade union to become a freelance writer

(7) Ieuan Williams has taught philosophy for over twenty years at Swansea University and is the author of Plato in the All That Matters series at Hodder and Stoughton

(8) Lawrence Klein is a lecturer in History at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Emmanuel College. He is author of Shaftesbury and the Culture of Politeness.

(9) Yvonne Sherratt lectures at the University of Bristol and was previously a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. She is the author of Adorno’s Positive Dialectic (2002), Continental Philosophy of Social Science (2006) and most recently Hitler’s Philosophers (Yale UP 2013) about philosophers who collaborated with the Nazi regime.

(10) Nick Hunt’s Walking the Woods and Water (Nicholas Brearley 2017) retraces the steps of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s journey in 1933, ‘like a tramp, a pilgrim or a wandering scholar’, from Holland to Constantinople, which produced a trilogy which is a classic of travel writing.

(11) Michael Cuthbert is the Philosophytown director. Here he sets out the history of walking in relation to philosophy.

(12) Hannah Arendt: a biopic made in 2013 of the German Jewish philosopher who escaped to New York from Nazi Germany and controversially covered the Eichman trial as a journalist in Israel.

(13) David Leech lectures at the University of Bristol and is one of a group of scholars researching the writings and influence of the seventeenth century Cambridge Platonists, some of whom have West Country connections.

(14) Mark Vernon has published half a dozen books on contemporary ethics and ancient philosophy. Here he sets out his approach to the Art of Living published in his book The Good Life (Hodder Education 2010).
(15) William Poole is the author of John Aubrey and the Advance of Learning for the Bodleian Library in 2010. He has written widely on early modern literary and intellectual history and bibliography. He is a Fellow of New College , Oxford and a Fellow Librarian.

(16) Robert Fine is the Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick. He has written widely on Arendt’s political philosophy, and most recently on her diagnosis of the revolutionary tradition.

(17) Mark Vernon (see 13 above)

(18) John Walker is Vice Chair of Civic Voice, the national amenity organisation, and Chair of the Canterbury Civic Trust.

(19) Bruce McVean is a trustee of Living Streets, the national campaign for pedestrians, and specialises in development and place-making at the consultancy, Beyond Green.

(20) Coffee Tasting and Tutoring

(21) Antony Clayton is the author of the History of London Coffee Houses. He is a part-time librarian and freelance author.

(22) Jon Tollit is a senior architect with Gensler in London. He led the team that designed the new Apple Store in Regent Street in 2004 and here he presents the project on the future of the bookstore, commissioned by the magazine Intelligent Life.

(23) Nic Bottomley – Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, a bookshop in Bath

(24) Neil McInnes, Head of Library Information and Programme Manager for the refurbishment and redevelopment of Manchester City’s wonderful 1930s Central Library


All tickets (except the Coffee House Festival on Sunday morning and For the Love of Books on Sunday afternoon) are £5.00 each, with 10% off for purchase of 10 tickets or more.

Sunday morning Coffee House Festival is £10.00 including free coffee tasting.

Sunday afternoon For the Love of Books is £8.00 for lectures and panel.

EARLY BIRD: Any tickets purchased before 1st August will have a 10% early bird reduction.
Any early bird purchase combined with 10 tickets or more will have a 20% reduction.

What a perfect time to say a very special thank you to Carey London and Castle Finance for helping us make our events more possible.

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