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Forthcoming Talks & Lectures
Fashion on the Ration - Style in the Second World War
Illustrated talk - 45 minutes
As the nation went into uniform and women took on traditional male roles, clothing and beauty began to reflect changing social attitudes. For the first time fashion was influenced not just by Paris and Hollywood but by the demands of industrial production and the pressing need to 'Make-do-and-Mend'. It seems almost impossible to imagine nowadays, but the fashion editor of Vogue advocated sewing brightly patterned or coloured pockets in contrasting shades to liven up a dull skirt or pinafore dress and the War Office commissioned corsets for women in the services to have pockets for carrying loose change (bus money) as women in uniform were not allowed to carry handbags. This lively talk with contemporary illustrations gets underneath the outer clothing and lays bare the facts behind fashion in the Second World War. Warning: contains Forces bloomers. Fashion on the Ration was named one of The Times books of 2015.
JAMBUSTERS - Women on the Home Front in the Second World War
Illustrated talk - 40 to 60 minutes
Over three quarters of a century after the outbreak of the Second World War we are still learning about the impact on everyday life of that most damaging of conflicts. The role of women on the Home Front is often overlooked, yet their contribution to keep the country ticking was of inestimable value. This talk looks at the role played by women in the countryside, who worked tirelessly to help keen the nation fed, while looking after evacuees, knitting for the troops, making-do and mend for the government and entertaining themselves to keep their spirits up. For many, the village Women's Institute was a life-saver. Julie reminds us that their story inspired ITV to create the magnificent 2015 drama series HOME FIRES.

"400 members were spell bound during your talk, and the comments and compliments were flying afterwards"

- Kathleen Dickey, Northern Ireland FWI member, March 2015

Everest Needs You, Mr Irvine
Illustrated talk - 40 to 60 minutes
The extraordinary life of Sandy Irvine, the youngest member of the 1924 Mount Everest expedition is the subject of this lively and beautifully illustrated talk. It explores his early life and asks what made him so exceptional that grandees of the Mount Everest Committee thought it advisable to invite him onto the expedition. And, once invited, how was it that a young man of twenty-two was chosen by Mallory to make the final attempt to reach the top of the world?

"As a professional speaker I find it difficult not to criticise others on stage about this or that. Is their layout good? Are their images of high quality? Can the presenter speak well and engage their audience? This was an evening where I had nothing to worry about. Julie Summers presented 'Everest needs you Mr. Irvine' at Derby Guildhall and stunned us all with her incredible knowledge, depth of research, wonderful pictures and heartfelt passion about her Great Uncle, Sandy Irvine."

- Nigel Vardy (Mr. Frostbite). Read full review

The Bridge on the River Kwai -
Truth or Fiction?
Illustrated talk - 40 to 60 minutes
This talk focuses on the similarities and differences between the film Bridge on the River Kwai and the historical reality of the building of the bridge at Tamarkan in 1942. It looks at the personality of Colonel Nicholson, played in an Oscar winning performance by Alec Guinness, and that of Lieutenant Colonel Philip Toosey, whose Oscar winning performances went unnoticed by the outside world although they were widely admired by the men in his prison camps. Did the prisoners whistle Colonel Bogey? Did they help or hinder the Japanese when designing and building the bridge? How many bridges are there on the River Kwai? Illustrated talk with original archive recordings of Toosey talking about the prison camps.
When the Children Came Home
Illustrated talk - 45 to 60 minutes.
On 1 September 1939 Operation Pied Piper was launched. The plan was to place the children of Britain's industrial cities beyond the reach of the Luftwaffe. 1.5 million children, pregnant women and schoolteachers were evacuated in 3 days. A further 2 million children were evacuated privately; the largest mass evacuation of children in British history. Some children went abroad, others were sent to institutions, but the majority were billeted with foster families. Some were away for weeks or months, others for years. Homecoming was not always easy and a few described it as more difficult than going away in the first place. When the Children Came Home tells the story of those homecomings and weaves together a collection of personal stories to create a warm and compelling portrait of wartime Britain from the children's perspective.
Stranger in the House
Illustrated talk - 45 to 60 minutes.
For over sixty years the effect of men returning from the Second World War has been felt in homes and families. Often troubled by their experiences of battles or prison camps, men found it hard to readjust to life in Britain in the immediate aftermath and the repercussions have been felt by mothers, wives, children and even grandchildren. But how was it for the women? This talk will look at some of the stories and consider why this important area of our social history has been so little examined. With the enormous interest in family history today, this talk is relevant to any one interested in the whys and wherefores of our immediate past.
Remember, Remember, the 11th November
Illustrated talk - 45 to 60 minutes.
In May 1917 a remarkable organisation was given Royal Charter. Its brief, one of the most ambitious imaginable: to commemorate in perpetuity the one million Imperial servicemen who died in the Great War. Extended to cover the dead of the Second World War the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is represented in 150 countries, 23,000 burial locations and commemorates 1.7 million men and women. This talk, illustrated with stunning images by award winning photographer, Brian Harris, traces the early history of the Commission focussing on the personalities that brought this great institution into being.
From the Crimea to Korea: a History of War Cemeteries
Illustrated talk - 45 to 60 minutes.
It may surprise people to learn that the war cemetery is a modern phenomenon that developed simultaneously with better care for sick and wounded soldiers. Prior to the Crimean War battlefields had to be cleared quickly and efficiently, since disease was a far bigger killer for the soldiers than warfare. Men were buried in mass graves. Only officers – and not all of them by any means – were accorded the dignity in death of a grave, headstone and permanent memorial. There are few exceptions. This talk traces the history of British and Commonwealth War Cemeteries from 1854 to 1951, after which the policy of burying the Forces dead in war cemeteries more or less ceased. Today men and women's remains are repatriated. But the hundred years of war cemeteries have given us some of the most remarkable and evocative images of remembrance.
Major Events of Recent Times
  • Shrewsbury School
  • Denman College
  • The Arney Theatre, Abingdon School
  • National Geographic, Washington
  • Glasgow City Hall
  • Chipping Norton Theatre
  • Chesterfield, Winding Wheel Theatre
  • Canada House, Trafalgar Square
  • Wilfred Owen Association for his Centenary
  • Imperial War Museum
“You are an incredible speaker and the talk was so perfectly pitched for the audience and the atmosphere - a real triumph!  We have been inundated with positive comments and compliments, which is the icing on the cake.'”
Sally Johnson
Festival Director, Frinton Literary Festival
“Many thanks for a truly interesting talk last night at Redhill. As someone in the audience said, it was one of the best we have done and I am in awe of the way in which you can deliver a talk like that without notes. Comments from the audience as they left were excellent as were the written comments.”
Kay Hadwick, Surrey Libraries
“Julie Summers presented 'Everest needs you Mr. Irvine' at Derby Guildhall and stunned us all with her incredible knowledge, depth of research, wonderful pictures and heartfelt passion about her Great Uncle, Sandy Irvine.”
Nigel Vardy, Explorer (aka 'Mr Frostbite')
“ Impeccable professionalism of execution and the brilliant way you put over the story - neither too much, nor too little, but beautifully honed and crafted to fit the audience and the time. The accompanying, memorable images were so cleverly chosen and slotted in at the perfect moment: they will live long in the mind. ”
Margaret Wilkes,
Co-chairman RSGS Edinburgh Centre
“ Through her description of the complex research she carries out in order to prepare for her writing, she enthused our students on the more personal side of World War 2 and what it was like for the individuals who lived through it. An enjoyable evening was had by all. ”
Anna Proudman,
Director of Higher Education, Badminton School
“Great stuff. Write another book and come back to talk to us again.”
Lori Dynan, Events Organiser,
National Geographic, Washington
“Well structured, clearly and enthusiastically delivered.”
Angela Prysor-Jones,
Director, Oxford Literary Festival
“A powerful story and a magnificent performance! Not a word was out of tune, truly impressive and a pleasure to hear.”
Professor Nick Trefethen,
Balliol College, Oxford
“Thank you again for the fascinating evening you provided for us. The response here from staff and the public has been really positive.”
River & Rowing Museum,
Henley on Thames
“Julie is a marvellous speaker. Knowledgeable, articulate and enthusiastic. Her appearance at 90 Years On was one of the highlights of the weekend. ”
Vanessa Davis,
Hon. Sec. of the Wilfred Owen Association
“Thank you so very much for coming up to Glasgow last week to give our guests a most splendid lecture. It was a huge success. I thought the fact that what you said resonated with the experience of so many in the audience first underlined how wise I was to ask you to do this, the inaugural lecture. I also thought the slides worked very well. Afterwards many spoke to me about how much you had moved them.”
Commander Toby Elliott RN,
Chief Executive, Combat Stress - the ex-services mental health charity.
“Really enjoyed the talk - makes one wonder how we cope sometimes.”
“I have heard Julie speak before and found her interesting, colourful and clearly passionate about writing. That inspired me to buy Stranger in the House and also to attend this talk to hear more. Julie's a joy to listen to and her energetic personality always makes her talks fun!”
“I really enjoyed it”
“You were a 'tour de force'. Impeccable in your delivery style, and spellbinding in the personal stories you chose to share with the audience. What a fantastic talk and one that will stand out in my memory for years.”
Comment from Alison at Spellbound Talks, October 2012