Refugees, Brexit and art feature in Upper Room charity lectures

A BBC reporter’s reflections on the European refugee crisis will be one of the intriguing lectures in the annual Upper Room charity’s winter season in Shepherds Bush.

Matthew Price, chief correspondent on the BBC’s Today programme, delivers a talk entitled Brief Encounters on the Refugee Trail on 18 April at St Saviour’s church in Cobbold Road.

Other topics in the series are Brexit, the Grenfell Tower fire and Impressionist art. The talks – organised by the charity which provides 25,000 meals a year to homeless people in west London – have become a seasonal Wednesday evening tradition, with respected speakers drawn from the local community.

“Over the years I’ve done a lot of stories on refugees and immigrants crossing the Mediterranean,” said Matthew, 45, who reported on the 2013 Lampedusa boat disaster in which more than 360 migrants from Libya died.

“The talk is my reflections on the stories. And I’ve spoken to people at various points, from the bereaved of the Lampedusa tragedy to people on boats, and migrants in their new homes in Europe.

“There’s a political angle for EU countries. Who we take in, the resources, individual countries’ population make-up... and it’s relevant because we live in a diverse city which has attracted people from all over the world – including refugees. Some came decades ago. Others are only now arriving.”

Matthew said that his most powerful experience was reporting from the Greek islands, meeting people who had just got off the flimsy dinghies after perilous sea crossings.

“Their hands were still stone-cold two hours after they had reached safety, and their glasses were covered in salt,” said the journalist. “I’ll be talking about that human dimension and their personal stories.”

Lecture series


St Saviour’s Upper Room in Shepherds Bush

The first lecture of the winter season is Matthew Morgan from the National Gallery, who will speak on Monet’s paintings hanging on London walls on 7 February.

Then on 7 March, the Rt Rev Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington, will tackle the topic Living Together after Grenfell Tower. The bishop become a patron of the Upper Room charity a year ago, following the retirement of the Bishop of London.

Matthew Price’s Brief Encounters on the Refugee Trail takes place on 18 April.

Entry to the hour-long lectures is free, but donations are welcome. Places can be booked by emailing arlene.burnett@theupperroom.org.uk or calling 020 8740 5688.

All lectures take place in the church, 8-9pm, with refreshments available from 7.40pm. Last year’s speakers were Lord Dubs, Lord Willetts and Misha Glenny.

The Upper Room works with socially disadvantaged people to improve their lives, give them a second chance and help them become economically independent. For more details about the charity’s work, visit: www.theupperroom.org.uk.

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