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Thursday 8th September 7:30pm

John Boyle: Blood Ransom – the story behind the Somali Pirates

Who would ever have thought that piracy could become one of the major issues of our times?

Cornish lawyer turned award-winning film maker John Boyle’s television documentary about Somali pirates was distributed worldwide by National Geographic; as a result he was commissioned by Bloomsbury to write a book “Blood Ransom”, and he has become a recognised expert on the subject.

Illustrated by clips from the film, John will be telling the behind-the-scenes story of the pirates. As he says at the end of the book’s introduction –

“I found myself wondering. If the seas off my home had been raped by the twin evils of over fishing and toxic waste dumping, if I had watched my family go hungry and my children suffering from ailments caused by the toxic waste, would I too have turned in desperation to piracy?”

Crammed together in tiny open boats these hyenas of the sea range up to a thousand miles from their home shores. Armed with ancient AK47s and rocket propelled grenades, they scour the western Indian Ocean.  No-one knows how many simply die at sea. But occasionally they hit the jackpot, seizing vessels and crews that will be ransomed for millions of dollars.

For the first time in history, the navies of every super power on the planet have united against this common enemy – a couple of thousand rag tag underfed men and boys – to protect some of the world’s most vital shipping lanes.  It’s a war estimated to cost the world economy $18 billion every year. And it’s a war that has seemed impossible to win.

In the words of released hostage Victor Gilbert: “These people told me they don’t worry about the world – the world worries about them…”

This will be a fascinating and possibly slightly unconventional look at this 21st century scourge of the oceans


Thursday 3rd November 7:30pm

Dan Cruickshank: A History of Architecture in 100 Buildings

Journeying through time and place, from the ancient Egyptian pyramids to the soaring skyscrapers of Manhattan, renowned architectural historian Dan Cruickshank explores the most inspirational and characterful world buildings.

His selection includes many of the world’s best known buildings that represent key pioneering moments in architectural history … such as the Pantheon in Rome, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, the Taj Mahal in Agra, and the Forbidden City in Beijing.

But he also presents less obvious more surprising structures ,the unsung heroes of this fascinating story… like the Oriel Chambers in Liverpool, and the Narkomfin Apartment building in Moscow.

Having visited all but three of the 100 buildings, even though some are in inaccessible and threatened locations  such as the Hatra in Iraq and the currently threatened Palmyra in Syria, he speaks movingly about ancient artifacts some of which may never be experienced again first hand.