2019 Lecturers

Steven Desmond, MA FClHort FLS

Steven Desmond is a Chartered Horticulturist with a special interest in the historic gardens of Britain and Europe. During a long and varied career of practical and academic experience he has been a professional gardener, lectured for 15 years in horticultural colleges in the north of England, and advised organisations including the National Trust on the conservation and management of parks and gardens. He has an MA in Conservation from the University of York, and is a Fellow of the Linnean Society. He now divides his time between writing for Country Life, lecturing to a wide range of audiences including the University of Oxford and the Arts Society, and leading specialist garden and architectural tours in Britain, Ireland, France, Germany and Italy. He has completed three lecture tours of Australia for ADFAS. His well-received book Gardens of the Italian Lakes was published by Frances Lincoln in 2016.

Dr James Grant

James Grant was born in the borders of Scotland and educated at the University of Glasgow, receiving a doctorate in medicine. He is a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and Glasgow, and of the Royal College of General Practitioners. James is also a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and was awarded an MBE for services to community healthcare in 2011. Now a retired country doctor with a lifetime of working in the NHS both in hospital and rural practice, James is passionate about all aspects of medicine, its history and its relationship to art and artists. He feels very privileged to be able to share his interests and experiences through his lectures on various topics from public health to the art of doctoring.

Ian Swankie

Ian Swankie is a Londoner with a passion for art and architecture. He is an official guide at Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Guildhall Art Gallery and St Paul’s Cathedral, and gives regular tours at each venue. He is also a qualified and active freelance London guide and gives regular tours for various corporations and organisations. Six years ago, he established a weekly independent art lecture group in his home town of Richmond in West London, and he gives talks on a variety of subjects. He is an accredited lecturer for The Arts Society and a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Art Scholars.

Hilary Williams

Hilary Williams is the Art History Education Officer at the British Museum, having formerly been the Print Room Superintendent at the Museum. She received a BA (Hons) and MA from The Courthauld Institute of Art. Hilary lectures for the British Museum, London Borough of Bexley and the Wallace Collection, as well as taking Private Tours of the State Apartments of Buckingham Palace. She is the British Museum’s Liaison Officer with The Arts Society.

Toby Faber

An experienced lecturer, Toby Faber is the author of two works of narrative history, Stradivarius and Fabergé’s Eggs, published by Macmillan in the UK and Random House in the US. He has two books scheduled for publication in 2019: a history of Faber and Faber, and his first novel, Close to the Edge. Toby’s career began with Natural Sciences at Cambridge and has been through investment banking, management consulting and five years as managing director of the publishing company founded by his grandfather, Faber and Faber, where he remains on the board. He is also non-executive Chairman of its sister company, Faber Music and a director of Liverpool University Press.

Dr Mark Spencer BSc PhD

Mark has been fascinated by plants since he was a small boy. Originally a gardener, Mark studied horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He later studied botany and mycology at university, after which he worked as a field botanist for a regional conservation organisation. After 12 years as a senior botany curator at the Natural History Museum, London, Mark is now a consultant forensic botanist, public speaker and occasional radio and TV presenter. Mark is the honorary curator of Carl Linnaeus’s herbarium at the Linnean Society of London, one of the most significant collections in the history of science. He has a strong interest in the history of botany and botanic gardens, invasive non-native species and the European flora.

Ghislaine Howard

Ghislaine Howard is a painter of powerful and expressive means whose works chart and interpret shared human experience. Named as a ‘Woman of the Year’ for her contribution to art and society, she has published and exhibited widely and has work in many collections including the Royal Collection. Exhibitions of her paintings and drawings have taken place at many venues including Manchester Art Gallery, Canterbury Cathedral, Imperial War Museum North and The British Museum. Ghislaine is an experienced and well travelled lecturer. She has featured many times on television and radio programmes including the British Museum’s film: Ice Age Art: The Female Gaze and the award winning film, Degas and the Dance. She played a major role in Manchester’s events commemorating the first anniversary of the Manchester Arena attack. A major monograph about her work entitled The Human Touch written by her husband, the art historian, Michael Howard, was published in 2017.

Dr Susan Whitfield

Dr Susan Whitfield is a writer, scholar, lecturer and traveller of the Silk Roads. During 25 years curating the collections of manuscripts from Dunhuang and other Silk Road sites at the British Library, she also helped found and then developed the International Dunhuang Project (IDP), now a thriving international collaboration working on the art and artefacts of the eastern Silk Road. She has lectured and written widely on the Silk Road. Her latest book, Silk, Slaves and Stupas: Material Culture of the Silk Road, was published in March 2018. She has also curated several major exhibitions and organized field trips to archaeological sites in the Taklamakan desert.