Guest Speaker Series

Discover the great line-up of guest speakers we will be hosting on our campuses. In order to ensure that our students never lose sight of the different reality that so many others in the world experience on a daily basis, we feel it is important to expose them to first hand testimony from people with personal stories that challenge their world view.

Talks have so far covered topics as diverse and wide ranging as environmental issues, race relations, human and civil rights, conflict and reconciliation, science, the problem of homelessness and even Ancient Greek philosophy!

Many of our speakers are household names such as IVF pioneer Professor Lord Robert Winston, politician Vince Cable, Pascal Couchepin and David Lammy, feminist and academic Germaine Greer, pioneer Bertrand Piccard, astronaut Al Worden, journalists Jon Snow, Nick Robinson and Gary Gibbon, cartoonists Chappatte and Plantu, authors Gillian Slovo and John Carlin, Nobel prizewinner Jacques Dubochet, and athletes Hannah Cockcroft, Graeme Le Saux or Howard Gayle.

Others, such as Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss, human rights activist Marina Litvinenko, and anti-FGM activist Leyla Hussein deserve more recognition. Click here for the full list of past speakers.

When possible, we will endeavour to livestream the conferences. Those lectures that are open to the public (by registration only) will be indicated by a link next to each speaker. 

Upcoming 2022-2023 Speakers

Boris Volodarsky

24 November 2022

Primary Aula, La Châtaigneraie


Theatre, Centre des arts

Boris Volodarsky is a former captain in Russia's special forces, the GRU Spetsnaz, and an English historian, Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, who specialised in Intelligence History and the history of the Spanish Civil War. 

Since 2010, he is a Research Fellow at the London School of Economics' Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies. He made a name for himself when he authored The KGB's Poison Factory: From Lenin to Litvinenko (2009) and several follow-up books and articles on the history of Soviet intelligence. He is a regular contributor to the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Voice of America, ITV, and John Batchelor Show. Volodarsky also acted as the chief consultant for the BBC Panorama documentary How to Poison a Spy (2007). 

Volodarsky holds a PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Chris Jewell

28 November 2022


Primary Aula, La Châtaigneraie


Chris Jewell is an exploratory caver and cave diver who explores new cave passages in the UK and abroad. As a member of the British Cave Rescue Council, he was one of the British cave divers who played a leading role in the 2018 Tham Luang Thailand cave rescue, which resulted in 12 boys and their football coach being rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand, where the only exit was over 2km away. The rescue was a risky and strategic challenge which involved liaising with the US military and Thai police.

Jewell’s cave exploration has had him squeezing through tiny muddy underwater holes in Somerset, digging underwater in the Yorkshire Dales and leading cave diving expeditions to Spain and Mexico where his team established the Huautla cave system as the deepest in the Western hemisphere.

Marc Herremans

5 December 2022

10:30-11:30 Registration

Primary Aula, La Châtaigneraie

Marc Herremans is a Belgian triathlete and motivational speaker. In 2002, during his training for the world championship Ironman competition, an accident left him paralysed from the chest down. Despite terrible odds, Herremans participated in the Ironman of Hawaii in 2002 as a wheelchair athlete, only 10 months after his accident. In 2007, he became the first person to complete the Crocodile Trophy with a handbike, one of the world’s toughest mountain bike races, which traverses part of northern Australia.

In 2003, Herremans founded To Walk Again, a foundation supporting disabled persons through sports and fundraising bone marrow research. 

Matt Ellison

12 December 2022


Primary Aula, La Châtaigneraie


Matt Ellison is a highly sought-after, entertaining and thought-provoking transgender speaker. His life experience as a trans man has fascinated and inspired audiences of all kinds in both private and public sectors in the U.K. and internationally, including Microsoft, eBay, Mars, Toyota, Lacoste, Disney, KFC, NHS, Lloyds of London, City of London Corporation, Fidelity International, HM Courts and Tribunals, and many more. His insights on change apply to everyone in all areas of professional and personal life.

Ellison featured the high-profile Channel 4 documentary Me and My Penis, which broke many taboos, covering sex, psychology and men’s mental health issues. He is the author of the eBook The Transgender Journey. He has acted as the Co-Chair of Female to Male London, one of the UK’s biggest groups of trans males, and is an avid supporter of trans rights charities. He has also worked with the NHS on safe practices for trans care.

Joëlle Payom

24 January 2023


Espace des élèves, Centre des arts

Registration closed - fully booked

Joëlle Payom, of French nationality and of Cameroonian origin, arrived in France at the age of 10 after her father took up a position in an international organisation.

She is the founder of Rezalliance, a Swiss company providing a methodical and pragmatic approach to inclusion for a sustainable transformation of companies and organisations. 
Founded in 2020, its three core values are integrity, justice and inclusion. Payom’s purpose is to make the journey from diversity to inclusion simpler and more rewarding for employers and employees.

Fergus McCreadie Trio

25 January 2023

Time TBC

Primary Aula, La Châtaigneraie

Fergus McCreadie is a musician and performer who burst onto the UK national scene with his self-released debut album Turas in 2018. Rooted in a Scottish folk tradition, the album sparked a wake of interest from global promoters and industry, collecting Album of the Year at the Parliamentary and Scottish Jazz Awards. In 2018 he was a BBC Jazz Musician of the Year Finalist.

With his trio, featuring long term cohorts David Bowden and Stephen Henderson, he released two albums, Cairn (2021) and Forest Floor (2022). 

Chemmy Crawford-Alcott

6 February 2023

Time TBC

Primary Aula, La Châtaigneraie

Chemmy Crawford-Alcott is an English former World Cup alpine ski racer who competed in all five disciplines: downhill, super G, giant slalom, slalom and combined. She has competed in four Winter Olympic Games and seven FIS World Championships and has been overall Senior British National Champion seven times and Overall British Ladies Champion eight times.

In June 2008, Alcott climbed Mount Kilimanjaro along with fellow ski racers Julia Mancuso and Laurenne Ross. The climb raised $30,000 for international humanitarian organisation Right to Play.

Joanne Anderson

8 February 2023

Time TBC

Primary Aula, La Châtaigneraie

Joanne Anderson is a British Labour Party politician who has served as the second Mayor of Liverpool since May 2021. She is the first woman to be Mayor of the city and the first black woman to be a directly elected mayor in the UK.

Anderson completed a BA in Business Studies at Liverpool John Moores University and is currently studying for an MBA at the same university. She has had a successful career as an equality, diversity and inclusion practitioner and a business consultant and as a civil servant for the Crown Prosecution Service. 

Helen Lewis

17 February 2023

Time TBC

Primary Aula, La Châtaigneraie

Helen Lewis is a British journalist and staff writer for The Atlantic. A former deputy editor for the New Statesman, she has also written for The Guardian and The Sunday Times. She is the author of Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights (2020), in which she argues that feminism succeeded because of complicated women who clashed with each other while fighting for equal rights, but who have since been whitewashed or forgotten in a modern search for inspirational heroines. 

Lewis also hosts the longform interview series The Spark on Radio 4, and launched her comedy documentary series Great Wives on the BBC in September 2021. Lewis obtained her post-graduate diploma in newspaper journalism from London’s City University after reading English at St Peter’s College, Oxford. 

Colin Jackson

14 March 2023

Time TBC

Primary Aula, La Châtaigneraie

Colin Jackson, CBE, is a Welsh former sprint and hurdling athlete who specialised in the 110 metres hurdles. During his athletic career, he won an Olympic silver medal, was twice world champion, World indoor champion once, was undefeated at the European Championships for 12 years and was twice Commonwealth champion. His world record of 12.91 seconds for the 110 m hurdles stood for over 10 years and his 60 metres hurdles world record stood for nearly 27 years.

After a period of sports management and coaching, Jackson now works as a sports commentator for athletics and as a television presenter. He has written three books: The Young Track and Field Athlete (1996), Colin Jackson: The Autobiography (2004), and Life's New Hurdles (2008).


Past Speakers

Jade Hameister

Jade Hameister is a 20 year old student from Melbourne, Australia, the youngest person in history to ski to the North Pole from anywhere outside the Last Degree. In 2016, she was recognised by Australian Geographic Society as Young Adventurer of the Year. Her journey was captured in a National Geographic documentary that aired in 170 countries.

In June 2017, Hameister made history again by completing the 550km traverse of the Greenland icecap unsupported and unassisted – the youngest woman ever to do so. In January 2018, she completed her polar quest and in the process became the youngest person to ski from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole unsupported and unassisted, the first Australian woman to do so, among the first women to set a new route to the South Pole unsupported and unassisted, the youngest to both Poles and the youngest to complete the Polar Hat Trick. In 2019, Hameister was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for service to Polar Exploration.

Hameister is passionate about shifting the focus for young people from how they appear to the possibilities of what they can do and also about raising awareness about the impact of climate change on the Earth's fragile polar regions.

Paolo Naldini

“Social Impact is an Art”: Q&A on the Third Paradise of Michelangelo Pistoletto.

Paolo Naldini is the CEO of Cittadellarte Fondazione Pistoletto, a not-for-profit organisation founded in 1998 by Michelangelo Pistoletto. Its mission is to instigate societal transformation based on the view that art can be a trigger for change at individual and societal levels.
Since he joined the organisation in 2000, it has grown from 3 to 40 collaborators, who have contributed to creating a network of more than 180 Ambassadors representing Cittadellarte in their specific contexts.

Cittadellarte's most advanced programme is based on Naldini’s research Demopraxy. Instructions for use, first published in 2018. Demopraxy is the system of practising active presence as a member of any single organisation a person is a part of - from any sort of couple to all kinds of enterprises, associations, institutions - and at the same time perform connective visions and actions as people (demos). Power (cratòs) is enacted by the people as impact-generating decision-making rather than delegation. The Demopractic project was born in Cittadellarte and has been developing through the Third Paradise Embassies.

Niall de Búrca

Niall de Búrca is a traditional storyteller from Ireland, where he has featured in theatre, radio and at many festivals including Féile Earraai, the CS Lewis Festival, and The National Children’s Book Festival. Abroad, he has performed and held workshops in countries as diverse as Poland, Argentina, Italy and The Netherlands.

Known for the diversity of his stories and with an ability to  reach all ages; De Búrca is a familiar figure to many Irish children through his innovative school programmes. His “Storytelling As A Tool Of Education” workshops are highly recommended by educators, and in May 2002 he received a Medal Of Excellence from the Heidelberg school district in Germany for his work with young authors.
De Búrca is also active in the interpretation of museum and art gallery exhibitions. These include performances on the life and works of Max Ernst and kinetic sculptor Len Lye.

In January 2004 he produced Blackwater Storystream, a peace and reconciliation initiative using storytelling to link together fifty schools in the border counties of Armagh, Monaghan and Tyrone. In November 2004 he directed Scalta Shamhna, Dublin’s annual celebration of the oral tradition.

Margaret Oliver

Margaret Oliver is an English former Detective Constable with the Greater Manchester Police, best known as a whistleblower for exposing the poor handling of the Rochdale child sex abuse ring by her own police force. The case raised a serious debate about whether the crimes were racially motivated, with suggestions emerging that police and social work departments failed to act when details of the gang emerged for fear of appearing racist.

Oliver founded the Maggie Oliver Foundation for the survivors of the Rochdale scandal and for all victims of sexual abuse. She was portrayed by Lesley Sharp in the BBC drama Three Girls about the abuse ring.

Naz Shah

Naz Shah is a British Labour Party politician who was elected as Member of Parliament for Bradford West in 2015. She has served as Shadow Minister of State for Women and Equality and is currently serving as Shadow Minister for Crime Reduction.

Before her election as an MP, Shah was the chair of the mental health charity Sharing Voices Bradford, which works to de-stigmatise mental health by influencing policy change. She also worked as a carer for disabled persons, as an NHS Commissioner and as a director for a regional association supporting local councils.

Cynthia Miller Idriss

Cynthia Miller-Idriss is an award-winning author and scholar of extremism and radicalisation. She leads the Polarization and Extremism Research & Innovation Lab (PERIL) in the Center for University Excellence (CUE) at the American University in Washington D.C., where she is also Professor in the School of Public Affairs and in the School of Education. She regularly briefs policy, security, education and intelligence agencies in the United States, the United Nations, and other countries on trends in domestic violent extremism and strategies for prevention and disengagement. She serves on the international advisory board of the Center for Research on Extremism (C-REX) in Oslo, Norway and is a member of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)'s Tracking Hate and Extremism Advisory Committee.

A globally-recognized expert on far right youth and preventative interventions, Miller-Idriss is the author, co-author, or co-editor of six books, including Hate in the Homeland: The New Global Far Right (2020). She writes frequently for mainstream audiences, both as an opinion columnist and in additional essays, and appears regularly in the media as an expert source and political commentator.

David Pratt

David Pratt is a Scottish author, filmmaker, photographer and journalist, who has twice been named as Scottish Journalist of the Year. Best known for his war reporting and photography, some of which was featured in the 2020 documentary Pictures from Afghanistan and the 2020 documentary Pictures from Iraq, he has reported on wars in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Nicaragua, Palestine, Russia, Somalia, Sudan and Syria. The author of Intifada - The Long Day of Rage (2007), Pratt’s work has been published in The Herald, Agence France Presse, Al-Jazeera, BBC, Channel 4 News, The National, The New York Times, Reuters, Svenska Dagbladet, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, Sunday National and The Sunday Times.

Pratt has won a number of awards, including the Amnesty International Media Awards for human rights reporting. He holds an honours Arts degree from Glasgow School of Art.

Guest Speaker Series