Hot potatoes 2020: humanists speak their minds

Another annual Open Mike – Hot Potato evening, which has been such fun over the last few years. The idea is that anybody can speak about anything for 5 to 7 minutes (with or without PowerPoint). The only requirement is that the subject fascinates them and they have to fascinate us! If you’d like to give one of these short presentations, contact Simon Nightingale.

Here is a recording of some of last year’s presentations.

Books on Humanism bequeathed to the Shropshire Humanist Library from the estate of Jonathan Cutbill

Simon Nightingale writes: Geoff Hardy, a member of Shropshire Humanists and a long standing friend of Jonathan Cutbill who died earlier this year, has kindly given 16 books on humanism to the Shropshire Humanist Library.

Geoff showed me around Jonathan Cutbill’s lovely terrace house in Castlefields. I’ve never seen so many books in a private house. Room after room was filled to the roof with many racks of shelving full of ordered and catalogued books. Over many years Jonathan had acquired an extraordinary and indeed definitive collection of LGBT publications. Some rare volumes are of great historical interest. The University of London has been delighted to accept them at Senate House where they will be an important resource for research.

As well as a bibliophile, Jonathan was an ardent and well known defender of LGBT rights and co-founder of Gay’s the Word bookshop in the Bloomsbury district of London. More about his life can be read in this obituary.

Shropshire Humanists, like all humanist groups, strongly supports human rights, including LGBT rights locally, nationally and internationally. Details of Humanists UK’s LGBT community and campaigning can be found here.

We are very grateful to Jonathan Cutbill’s generosity and to Geoff Hardy for arranging his donation. Those who want to see the full list of books available in the Shropshire Humanist Library, can contact our treasurer Peter Cann.

A modest selection of books to borrow or buy will always be available at our monthly Thursday evening events at University Centre Shrewsbury.

Review of Erica Buist’s talk on death festivals

Simon Nightingale writes: Last Thursday we had a good turnout for Shropshire Humanists AGM, but the highlight of the evening was a fascinating talk by Erica Buist, a freelance reporter for the Guardian, Medium, BBC etc. She started with a moving account of the distress she experienced after the awful circumstances of her father-in-law’s death and the subsequent growing realisation that she, like most of us in the West, was quite unprepared to cope with death. She discussed the reasons for this, for example, that in all children’s stories, cartoons and films the good people live “happily ever after” and it’s the only the bad guys that die. Moreover, sometimes the good are effectively brought back to life by Prince Charming’s kiss or clapping for Tinkerbell and so on.
Erica went on to discuss the different ways people view death in other parts of the world. In particular, she has visited seven death festivals. Initially her account seemed a little shocking, but when you understood what was going on in the minds of those celebrating at these festivals, it became very moving.
Erica has written a book about all this, which can be bought online (not via Amazon, I’m pleased to say).

Ludlow and Marches Humanists: talk on 19 November, and Remembrance Sunday wreath laying

Ludlow and Marches Humanists presents a talk on Samaritans by Libby Dolloway and Chery Sell. Samaritans is a registered charity aimed at providing emotional support to anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope, or at risk of suicide throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland, often through their telephone helpline. Although the name derives from the Biblical Parable of the Good Samaritan, Samaritans is a secular organisation.

Tuesday 19th November 2019, 7.30 pm, at The Friends Meeting House, St Mary’s Lane, Ludlow SY8 1DZ. All welcome. For more information:

Remembrance Sunday this year is on the 10th November. Ludlow and Marches Humanists will again be laying a wreath at the Ludlow Peace Memorial in Castle Square. Ludlow. Please do join them at 10 am as the Civic Ceremony starts at 10.30 am.

Thursday 21 November: Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion – A Tour of the Case Law by Caroline Roberts

Photo for SH Website_CKR
Caroline is a final year PhD Researcher in Law at the University of Bristol. Her research, supervised by Professor Sir Malcolm Evans and Professor Russell Sandberg, focuses on the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion at the international, European and domestic level. Caroline’s thesis – entitled ‘Reconceptualising the Place of the Forum Internum and Forum Externum in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights’ – which comprehensively reviews the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights relating to the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, challenges the traditional approach to this right and advances a radical alternative reading.

During this talk, Caroline will introduce the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and take us on a tour of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, to explore the European landscape as a whole and some interesting cases in detail.

Thursday 21 November, 7.30 pm.  University Centre Shrewsbury, Guildhall, Frankwell Quay, Shrewsbury SY3 8HQ. You are very welcome to come for tea and coffee from 7 pm to meet and chat with other members and guests. A voluntary donation is requested towards room hire and refreshments.

Thursday 17 October: AGM followed by Erica Buist on cultural variations in dealing with bereavement

Please come and participate in our AGM at University Centre, 7.30 pm on 17 October.

Erica Buist is a journalist, mostly for the Guardian, Medium and the BBC. She has just finished a journey to seven of the world’s death festivals. It was sparked by the day she and her husband found his father dead and she realised the full extent to which we in the West suffer from death denial and mortal terror. The resulting book, This Party’s Dead, will be published in 2020 and is available for preorder at

Shropshire Humanists Show Garden: HOPE #BelieveInTomorrow

Forecasts of torrential rain and gale force winds were not enough to dampen the high spirits and enthusiasm of the dedicated team of local Humanists as they constructed our third Humanist Show Garden.

Competition this year was tough and the overall standard among the show gardens was very high. We were delighted to be awarded a Silver Gilt medal and celebrated the success of our good friends Pippa and Warren who won the top prize, and our lovely friends in the next show garden, Ben and Emma, who received a gold.

We had many visitors admiring our third Shropshire Humanists show garden. Many people were interested in Humanism and took pamphlets and over 25 were keen to join our emailing list.

The garden, designed by our Shropshire Humanist member Carol Seager, was constructed by her and a merry gang of local humanists. The wonderful design, complying with this year’s theme of “New Horizons”, was transformed by Carol and her team into a stunningly beautiful, ingenious and spiritual garden.

Carol Seager would like to thank the many people who have helped make this possible. Not only the construction team but the many people who have generously donated money, supported the fabulous Plant and Cake Sale, helped resource plants and construct the water feature etc. Most important was the support, encouragement, and love of some very special friends when the going got tough.

We all enjoyed it immensely. Another successful humanist collaboration.

The Shropshire Humanists garden draws its inspiration from the symbolism of two different cultures, Japanese and Maori, to inspire a global message of hope. The Maori Koru, representing new beginnings and rebirth, combines with the contemplative qualities of the Japanese Zen garden to inform us of different cultures and places, helping us to broaden our horizons.

In Maori culture the Koru (spiral) represents the fern frond opening and bringing life and purity to the world, along with a strong sense of regrowth, new beginnings and new journeys. The Japanese Zen garden represents the natural world in miniature; a place to contemplate the intimate essence of nature and to meditate about the true meaning of life.

Bounded by steel edging, the white quartz gravel spiral of the Japanese Zen garden vividly contrasts and complements the lush green foliage of the Maori Koru. At the centre where the spirals meet is a large portal, similar to both the Japanese Torii and the Maori Waharoa traditional gateways. The rainfall water feature forms a symbolic division between two worlds but also provides an opening onto new horizons. The flock of white birds in rising flight through the portal join the two worlds.

The Golden Ratio spiral is a feature of many natural forms. Succulents illustrating spiral phyllotaxis follow the curve of the Zen garden. The colour palette has been limited to green and white with accents of red to echo the vermillion red of the central arch. The garden also illustrates how both minimalist planting and abundant, dense planting can be used to dramatic effect. Both New Zealand and Japan are island nations with similar climates ranging from subtropical through temperate to subarctic and they share similar flora such as ferns, mosses and grasses. Some plant species, palms, tree ferns, aloe and agave which thrive in these countries, can be grown with care in the U.K. Plants from around the globe have been selected for their structural properties and their suitability to thrive at the limits of a temperate climate.

The garden can be viewed as a metaphor for understanding our cultural differences, discovering our common humanity and looking forward with hope to a new horizon where tolerance, reason and fairness prevail.

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow “.

19 September: The Future of Humanism, a discussion

The meeting on the Thursday 19 September will take the form of a discussion about the state of Humanism in the United Kingdom and particular Humanism in Shropshire. We will consider how we would like to like to see Humanism develop in the future.

Any future developments will require time and effort from our members and so it important that we find out from them how they see the future.

Thursday 19 September, at 7pm for 7.30 pm start.  University Centre Shrewsbury, Guildhall, Frankwell Quay, Shrewsbury SY3 8HQ. You are very welcome to come for tea and coffee from 7 pm to meet and chat with other members and guests. A voluntary donation is requested towards room hire and refreshments.

Summer with Shropshire Humanists

After 20 June, we do not have a Thursday evening event until September. We do have some social events over the summer, and don’t forget the Humanist garden at the Shrewsbury Flower Show in August.

All social events are for members and their families, but you can also bring along interested friends. Some events must be booked in advance so we can plan for numbers: email Margaret Cann, tel 07703 540553.

Supporting the Shropshire Humanists Show garden, 30 June

Shropshire Humanists are creating their third Humanist Garden at the Shrewsbury Flower Show, on the theme HOPE #BelieveInTomorrow. Having been awarded a Large Gold Medal and the Mike Hough Memorial Trophy on both previous occasions, we have high hopes for this year!

To help with funding this project we are organising a PLANT/CAKE SALE on SUNDAY 30 June from 10.00 – 12.00 at the Black Pearl Florist, Greyfriars Bridge, Longden Coleham SY3 7DS. Please come and support us.

There will be plants, all sorts of garden related items, raffle prizes, tea, coffee and cakes, cakes cakes, cakes!  Want to help? We have already have some plants, cakes, jams, chutneys, raffle prizes and garden related items (pots, vases etc), but we need more. We can collect. If you have any items to offer or can help on the day, we’d love to hear from you.

Please contact: Carol Seager, tel 07981 452167, or Josephine Harding, 01743 354096

Sunday Brunch, 7 July

The next Sunday brunch will be on Sunday 7 July, 10 am for 10.15, at CSons, Milk Street, Shrewsbury. Family and friends are welcome. Please let Margaret Cann know at least 3 days in advance so she can tell  Csons how many to expect.

July Social, 21 July

Our annual summer social will be on Sunday, 21 July and is a riverside walk followed by lunch. You can come to both or either.

The walk: around Frankwell water meadows towards Shelton.  The water meadows are full of wild flowers in the summer. There is also an old fish weir to explore and some interesting views of the town. Return can either be by retracing our route (level) or via various steps up to The Mount along the way.
Length of walk: 1.5 – 2 miles max.
Time taken: Approx. 2 hours.
Wear warm/waterproof clothing and stout shoes as the ground may be wet and muddy. Parts may be uneven.
Leader: Helen Taylor Meeting point: 10.30 am, Car park end of Frankwell footbridge

Lunch will be at 12.30 pm at The Olive Tree, 85 Frankwell Roundabout, Shrewsbury SY3 8JR

To book, contact Margaret Cann. PLEASE BOOK by 1 July at the latest. When booking please say if booking for both walk and lunch or just one. And please remember to book before 1 July. Thank you!

20 June: Event to mark International Humanist Day on 21 June

We shall be celebrating International Humanist Day with short talks on various aspects of humanism through the world, including speakers’ experiences of humanism in New Zealand, Germany and South Africa. We will also be talking about the important work of the Humanists International. We shall also review the hostile attitude to humanism in various places round the world, including the death sentence for humanism in some countries.

Thursday 20 June at 7.30 pm, University Centre Shrewsbury, Guildhall, Frankwell Quay, Shrewsbury SY3 8HQ. All welcome.

You are very welcome to come for tea and coffee from 7 pm to meet and chat with other members and guests. A voluntary donation is requested towards room hire and refreshments.


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