Phil Hamlyn Williams

Phil Hamlyn Williams

pwilliams

Phil Hamlyn Williams is a writer and Chair of Trustees at Lincoln Drill Hall and the Lincoln Book Festival. He was Chief Executive of Lincoln Cathedral. He spent twenty five years in the accounting profession with ten years as a partner in Price Waterhouse. He then worked in management and finance in the charity sector.


The Lincoln Book Festival emerged in the early summer from a long winter, paralleling the blossoming of soaring gothic architecture from the dark ages…possibly! It actually emerged from a period of hard work seeking out interesting books and more importantly interesting authors who enjoy talking about their work.

This year, the 800th anniversary of one of the pivotal battles in English history, demanded attention. Its date of 1217 would also have witnessed St Hugh’s gothic cathedral towering majestically over hundreds of small dark dwellings in the town. This contrast between light and dark begs a gothic theme.

For the battle, I spoke to David Starkey and he suggested a broader theme of battles and dynasties. The battle though speaks also of strong women and temped us toward a look at influential queens. The thirteenth century gothic of the cathedral invited a glimpse into the gothic revival architecture of the 19th century, Sir George Gilbert Scott and our own St Nicholas Newport. That gothic revival in turn beckoned us into 19th century and later ‘scary’ gothic literature. 19th century tempted us into the Pre-Raphaelites and painting back to the Mona Lisa.

But, why history?

When we revived the Lincoln Book Festival a few years ago, we debated long what its theme should be. We had to do little more than look out of the window of the room where we were meeting to see some of the city’s Roman remains. Over the road was the Gothic Cathedral and on through the Georgian Minster Yard was the Norman Castle.

Lincoln is a place where history seeps from every stone.

The city’s origins are owed to the Romans – whose ancient city can still be seen today – and ‘Lindum Colonia’ has played an influential role in English history ever since.

In 1215, an original of Magna Carta was brought to the city and today Lincoln Castle is the only place in the world where the great charter can be seen side-by-side with an original of the 1217 Charter of the Forest. This year with the added attraction of the Doomsday Book.

Thousands of years of history can still be seen in the fabric of the city, known as the ‘Birthplace of the Tank’ due to its engineering heritage from the early 20th century.

So, history chose itself. To be honest, so did gothic as this year’s theme.

Yet, for all our wonderful speakers, what I looked forward to most was reading the shortlisted pieces of our flash fiction competition. We invited people of all ages to write a piece of gothic fiction in just fifty words. At the first evening of the Festival we will hear the winners. I can’t wait.

Details of the Festival can be found on the website

Phil Hamlyn Williams is a writer and Chair of Trustees at Lincoln Drill Hall and the Lincoln Book Festival. He was Chief Executive of Lincoln Cathedral. He spent twenty five years in the accounting profession with ten years as a partner in Price Waterhouse. He then worked in management and finance in the charity sector.

In one of the richest countries in the world there is still so much need all around us. Is the answer big fundraising events like Comic Relief, or are there other ways to try to offer help?

OK, I’m a sucker for Comic Relief. I thought all those years ago, what a fabulous thing for my comedy heroes to do. When I watched Lenny Henry and Billy Connelly this year, I felt just as proud of them. I was moved by the footage of the projects they support, but I was left with a ‘but’.

My ‘but’ was reinforced by some newspaper comment I read afterwards. In some way Comic Relief has lost its edge. The problems that need addressing are massive and perhaps need to be tackled in different ways.

I was reminded, I admit oddly, of a remark I read, whilst researching my book War on Wheels, made by the US head of Ordnance in WW2 when he was talking about the massive challenge he faced in equipping the US Army. He answered with a question, ‘how do you eat an elephant?’

I am not advocating eating endangered species, rather I am taking a steer from his advice to tackle large issues in an accumulation of small acts.

The question, though, ‘what can I do about it?’, is born out of frustration, as was Compassionate Lincoln born out of the frustration of being able to do nothing about the refugee crisis.

This was then followed by a frustration of not knowing how to tackle so many social problems closer to home. This frustration though was requited by finding small projects running throughout our city which each in its own small way makes a small difference, but together…

The meeting of two frustrations, that of wishing to help but not knowing how and that of having an idea of how to help but not have the wherewithal to effect it, come together in the Big Soup.

The Big Lincoln Soup is an opportunity for people with ideas for projects, events or interventions designed to make a difference to the community to make a pitch for the investment of all ticket money raised on the day to help turn their plans into reality.

Members of the public can buy tickets for a lunch (soup of course!) at Lincoln Drill Hall, during which invited individuals or groups will pitch their ideas. The audience will then discuss the ideas over lunch and cast their votes for the project they’d most like to invest in.

Pitches will be a maximum of five minutes long and up to five questions will be taken from the audience.

The Big Soup will take place at Lincoln Drill Hall from 11.30 to 1.30 on Saturday 13 May 2017.

We’d welcome any pitch that offers a positive response to a challenge facing communities in the city. It could be a football coaching session for young people in a community with limited recreational opportunities; a community gardening project; a street party to help neighbours get to know one another; a mural to brighten up a neighbourhood; the hiring of a van to transport items donated for a charitable collection… There are so many possibilities!

Organised by CompassionateLincoln, this is the second in a series of similar events that seek to support local people in having the resources and confidence to make a difference in their community.

To ensure that all ticket money goes directly to support the selected project, lunch will be sponsored by Cafe Shanti, based on Clasketgate in Lincoln.

Other sponsors of the event are Lincoln Drill Hall and OpenPlan, a locally-based placemaking studio.

Got a great idea?

People with an idea that they’d like to pitch at the event should email [email protected] by no later than midnight on Friday, April 28 to request an application form.

Like to come along?

Tickets are available from Lincoln Drill Hall Box Office website here, or by calling 01522 873894

Phil Hamlyn Williams is a writer and Chair of Trustees at Lincoln Drill Hall and the Lincoln Book Festival. He was Chief Executive of Lincoln Cathedral. He spent twenty five years in the accounting profession with ten years as a partner in Price Waterhouse. He then worked in management and finance in the charity sector.

Participation in the arts can make you a kinder person!

Come on, you can’t be serious.

I know that involvement in artistic and creative activity has all sorts of positive benefits, but kindness? Surely that is stretching the point too far.

We know that involvement with artistic activity can make you feel better; it can be uplifting. Research shows that artistic activity in a city makes it a more attractive place to live; it has economic benefits. But kindness? Really?

Of course, you won’t be surprised that I am now going to suggest that there really is something in this seemingly far fetched assertion.

Actually, it won’t be me, but some hard headed research uncovered for those who attended last Saturday’s Philosophy Cafe at the Drill Hall.

The researcher from the University of Lincoln assured us that she had not started out with the idea of trying to prove that there is a link between arts and kindness, but rather she had seen it emerge as the results of the research came in. Let me try to explain.

The starting point was an organisation that promotes kindness called People United. If this sounds a bit wooly, their definition of kindness may help: wanting to benefit or increase the welfare of others. So, pretty pragmatic stuff. Kindness arises from a sense of people being connected by force of our common humanity. The researchers suggest that this can be measured, for example, in the extent to which people volunteer or donate.

In 2012 they conducted a comprehensive review of the academic literature and suggested that the arts are crucial for fostering kindness. Since 2012 they have evaluated arts-based projects in schools as well as communities and consistently find that arts engagement encourages people to want to help others.

The result was pretty consistent from year to year and so the researchers decided to test it further and their results should be published in the next couple of months.

Does it make sense, though? Does it feel right?

Would attendance or participation in sport have the same result? It makes us feel good (as we in Lincoln all know at the moment) but does it make us act in a kinder way? The suggestion is that it doesn’t and really because sport is competitive.

Participating in artistic activity isn’t competitive. So what is it about art? One of the lovely things about the Philosophy Cafe is that everyone has a view and every view is valued. Here are just a few from our discussion.

One suggestion was that all art tells stories and story telling is one of the things that make us human. Theatre can communicate in a way that the written word simply can’t, as can music and dance. Things can be said through poetry that prose can’t get near.

Theatre can move its audience. Anyone who saw the film I, Daniel Blake will surely have been strongly moved. In that case being moved for many people had a direct result in giving to food banks.

But what of less obviously socially concerned theatre? Getting Better Slowly at the Drill Hall and elsewhere certainly changed the perceptions of some of those in caring professions who came to see it.

But ‘feel good’ theatre moves too; a felling of happiness can find expression in generosity.

If art has this benefit, then surely it should be more freely available; it should have a secure place in society, in schools.

Phil Hamlyn Williams is a writer and Chair of Trustees at Lincoln Drill Hall and the Lincoln Book Festival. He was Chief Executive of Lincoln Cathedral. He spent twenty five years in the accounting profession with ten years as a partner in Price Waterhouse. He then worked in management and finance in the charity sector.

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