Chichester's flourishing Talks at Six series celebrates three years

Marilyn and Freddie Humphrey
Marilyn and Freddie Humphrey

Chichester’s popular Talks at Six series has celebrated its third birthday – a happy landmark for an innovation which has launched a seemingly-inexhaustible supply of speakers on the city.

Its success, according to organiser Marilyn Humphrey who runs it with her son Freddie, comes down to three things.

“The talks are varied, and they are different, and they are interesting.

“I started it basically because I love finding out about other people and about other people’s lives and what those lives are like. I am not very good at dinner parties, so I thought I would invite people along to hear talks without me having to give them dinner!

“It has just been so lovely to hear other people’s stories which are always so entertaining.”

The series started life at the New Park Centre but eventually outgrew the venue. More recently it moved to the Boston Tea Party, which didn’t quite work out.

“It was a lovely space but we had to move tables and chairs and it was difficult to get in to start at six because people were still eating.

“There were customers who were lingering on, and we needed the space to set up.”

When the venue decided they needed to charge, Marilyn moved the series to its current home at the Bassil Shippam Centre in Tozer Way.

It has proved the perfect venue – even if it has led to a reduction in the number of talks Marilyn is able to offer each year.

“The Bassil Shippam Centre is excellent. It is big and it is flexible and it has got good free parking, and it is still central Chichester. And we can get up to about 100 people in.

“The slight downside is that instead of having 32 talks a year, three a month, two of the Thursdays a month are already taken on a regular basis, so instead of having 32 talks a year, we are having 25, but that is fine.”

And the demand continues.

“I have finished booking for this year now, and I am booking now for next year. Finding the speakers is always such fun.

“Some are recommended; others I find. And I have got a really long list for next year now. I have got enough thoughts and ideas for next year already.

“It is certainly not all about to dry up!

“Hopefully we will keep going well beyond our fourth year of existence.”

The talks are free, but the speakers are invited to select a charity for their talk, to which donations are given.

The statistics so far are impressive.

As Marilyn says, the series has raised more than £18,000 across more than 100 talks attended by more than 5,000 people supporting more than 60 different charities.

Among the talks coming up are:

April 25, Harbour Seals – John Arnott, Common/Grey Seals in Chichester, Bassil Shippam Centre.

May 9, Tintin – by Herge: the Belgian Shakespeare? Hugo Frey, The Studio, New Park Centre.

May 23, Let’s Talk about Death! Bev Downie. Good Life, Good Death, Steve Thomson, Bassil Shippam Centre.

May 30, Illness in World Leaders, Robert Palmer, Bassil Shippam Centre.

June 6, Britain’s Seaside Piers, Graeme Payne, Bassil Shippam Centre.

June 20, 500 years of Cambridge Spies, Craig Gershater, Bassil Shippam Centre.

The spies talk is part of this year’s Festival of Chichester.

Advance booking for all talks is available on talksatsix.co.uk or 07960 346922.

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