18 January 2021

La Peste: Third annual Talks-on-the-Hill to consider the past, present and future of plagues

With the world gripped by a pandemic the likes of which have not been seen for a century, John Lyon’s annual Talks-on-the-Hill lectures will look deep into a subject that has been a key part of human history: La Peste.

Inspired by the 20th century novel of the same name by French philosopher Albert Camus, Talks-on-the-Hill: La Peste — an online event open to all — will address the subject of plague from different perspectives, with 15-minute talks given by four speakers: a covid critical care specialist, a historian, a priest and John Lyon’s Head Boy.

–  What can we do, as humans, to stop another pandemic such as this?
–  How did pandemics begin and spread in times before mass transportation?
–  Should the Bible’s stories of terrifying plagues be talked about in the same way today?
–  What about Covid made people rush to buy a 70 year old French novel about plague?

Thursday 4th February 2021
7.00 – 8.30pm
Live broadcast, accessed by online link


– This is a free event to which all people are welcome.
– We especially extend an invitation to residents of Harrow-on-the-Hill and the wider Harrow area.
– All those registered will be sent a link to attend in the days before the event.

Prof Hugh Montgomery

The biology and sociology of Covid
After seeing nothing of its kind for 85 years, the world has seen three novel viral spillover events in the past 17 years, including Covid-19. But why is this the case? And what are we, humans, doing that has led to this turn of events? Professor Montgomery will look at these viruses from a biological and human environmental angle, trying to work out how we can all keep future pandemics at bay.

Professor Hugh Montgomery is Professor of Intensive Care Medicine at University College London and Director of the Centre for Human Health and Performance. Hugh obtained a 1st class BSc in cardiorespiratory physiology before qualifying from the Middlesex Hospital Medical School in 1987. He is trained as a specialist in General Internal Medicine, Cardiology and Intensive Care Medicine, and practices as a consultant in N London. He sits on the Council of the UK Intensive Care Society, and chairs the National Emergency Covid Critical Care Committee.

Dr Lori Jones

Pandemics of Plague
As we experience our own year-long (so far) pandemic of Covid-19, and think about how it moved so quickly around the world, we might wonder how pandemics spread in the past when rapid transportation didn’t exist. Dr Jones will talk about how pandemics of plague got their start, and what kept them going for centuries at a time.

Dr Lori Jones is a medical historian at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University, in Ottawa, Canada. Her main area of expertise is medical writing about the plague. She is also known for her work on detecting images from the past that have been wrongly labelled as showing plague and the Black Death. Dr Jones works with historians and scientists to better understand how plague moved across time and space.

The Revd Andrew Hammond

Plagues as God’s punishment
The Bible is peppered with terrifying stories of God punishing people with terrible plagues; and still today certain types of Christian talk in the same terms. Fr Andrew will talk about how to understand the first and (thereby) repudiate the second.

The Reverend Andrew Hammond is the Chaplain of St John’s College, Cambridge, where he is the primary point of pastoral care for students, staff and fellows. He was previously Chaplain at King’s College, Cambridge, Succentor at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, and twice worked in parish ministry. Before ordination in 2007 he was an opera singer and arts administrator.

Daniel Wong

La Peste: The prophetic tale of a post-war pandemic.
A novel that tripled in sales during the first Covid lockdown, La Peste has found a new audience. The eerie similarities and comparisons made between the events and characters of Camus’ 1947 novel and their contemporary counterparts have been highlighted by many. But to what extent are they accurate, and what can we learn?

Daniel Wong is an Upper Sixth student and Head Boy of John Lyon School. He is in his final A-Level year studying English Literature, French and Psychology. Daniel has already written and presented on French novelists Saint-Exupéry and Camus at the John Lyon Academic Society talks, and for his Extended Project Qualification. He hopes to study Modern Languages at university.

Talks-on-the-Hill is part of the John Lyon Excellence Programme, which provides an opportunity for all pupils, no matter their academic ability or age, to maximise their potential to learn and to discover their passion.

John Lyon Excellence Programme