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Inaugural Talks-on-the-Hill see John Lyon boldly go to space

The concept and reality of ‘space’ interpreted in numerous ways has helped create a memorable first Talks-on-the-Hill event at John Lyon.

Designed by the John Lyon Excellence Programme as a series of short lectures given by subject experts, pupils, teachers and notable members of the Harrow-on-the-Hill community, Talks-on-the-Hill: SPACE saw the audience given glimpses of outer space, great outdoor spaces, space as a visual and architectural medium, the challenges to our environmental space and how the concept of space has shaped human history for millennia.

Held on Wednesday 6th February, a packed Boyd Campbell Hall heard from the line-up of eight speakers, welcomed and introduced by Upper Sixth student Nathan Cuttica.

Keynote speaker Jeremy Curtis, Head of Education and Skills at the UK Space Agency talked about A Big Day in Space – how man’s explorations beyond our world do so much to add to our everyday lives on earth. He also spoke about his work to engage young people when Tim Peake undertook his mission to space.

Husain Abedi, a John Lyon Lower Sixth student with a keen interest in international relations, gave his lecture entitled A Changing Climate of Climate Actions, discussing the urgent and widespread problems of man-made climate problems and how small personal changes we are all able to make as well as larger solutions such as lawsuits and radical overhauls to the energy industry may be the route towards tangible change.

Noted professional photographers and Harrow-on-the-Hill residents, Dick Barnatt and Lucy Baker spoke together on Creative Space, exploring the infinite objectives of space in their very visual fields of work. Lucy discussed the idea of ‘positive space’ in every image, while Dick used his photographs of rock stars on stage to demonstrate how one physical space can change hugely over course of evening.

An interval gave guests the chance to view some of Dick and Lucy’s professional work, which had been put on display in the New Memorial Hall.

After the break, Harrow School‘s Head of Astronomy, Chris Crowe, took the audience to the far reaches of space to discuss Black Holes and Exploding Stars, noting that “we are all starstuff”. His journey through space showed how the universe could have evolved and how we, along with all other things, are all made from the same stuff as stars.

John Lyon Lower Sixth student Adam Zoromba looked to his Egyptian roots and his intrigue around the legends and myths of Ancient Egypt to present The Space of Spaces, an examination into how space how space was used in Ancient Egypt, and how the methods and philosophies adopted then are still used in society today. He looked at the Pyramids of Giza and said that today we still don’t know why they were built, but far from being merely tombs they could owe their existence to man’s ancient obsession with space.

Robert Ellis-Paul, a John Lyon Teacher in Learning Support, discussed his passion for the great outdoors in Space to Escape, revealing why some people chooses to spend nights under canvas. He set out a host of positives that can be gained by simply going out for a walk, or if we leave our comfort zones and modern trappings to find moments of adventure and challenge in our busy lives.

Finally, Michael Gollings, Hill resident and architect presented Architecture and the Poetics of Space, a lyrical assessment of the history of architecture and how today’s architects use space as the foundation for their ideas and creations.

After the event, Adam Zoromba said: “Talks-on-the-Hill was a sensational experience which brought together residents, students and teachers. The experience was truly magical and having an audience enticed and interested in the various talks made the experience monumental, and thoroughly enjoyable.”

Husain Abedi added: “I found the process of giving a speech to a crowd in such a setting to be a phenomenal experience. I had to battle with my racing heartbeat and adrenaline filled body, but seeing the look on my parents faces as well as the laughs from the crowd made it all worth it. To be able to at least spread a message on climate change I feel passionate about, if not convince someone to re-think their actions, was enough for me. It was the first time I have been called upon to speak in such a manner, and hopefully I did so to a high standard. In any case, I look forward to doing it all over again.”

Dr Florence Weinberg, who leads John Lyon’s Excellence Programme with Mrs Maria Trafford, said: “It was fascinating to spend an evening listening to such a diverse range of speakers interpret a single word subject in such a broad and engaging way. We are grateful to have welcomed speakers who are so esteemed in their chosen fields but I am especially proud of our students, Husain and Adam, who presented to a large audience with confidence and authority.

“Planning will soon begin for the next Talks-on-the-Hill and we look forward to working with our friends and neighbours within our community once again.”

Images by Usmaan Khan, Upper Sixth student


John Lyon’s Excellence Programme seeks to provide added opportunities for pupils who wish to aim high in different areas of School life.

The School’s Excellence Team provides activities to enrich and challenge all pupils. This may involve trips to cultural events or mind-stimulating lectures as well as in-house workshops and discussion groups.

Older students are encouraged to run workshops for younger pupils and act as leaders on trips. Pupils on the Excellence Programme also have use of the 1876 Reading Room, a quiet space designed for individual study. Here they can access a variety of books, publications and research for furthering their knowledge in a peaceful space.

Recent Excellence speakers include scientist Lord Robert Winston, BBC journalist Emily Maitlis and historian David Starkey. Upcoming speakers include Olympic champion Sir Matthew Pinsent and former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan MP.

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John Lyon is an independent school, a member of HMCISC and is reviewed in the Good Schools Guide.

Pupils typically join John Lyon in Years 7, 9 and 12, largely from a North West London catchment area including Harrow, Wembley, Stanmore, Pinner, Watford, Rickmansworth, Northwood, Ruislip, Hillingdon, Uxbridge, Ickenham, Northolt, Southall, Ealing, Acton, Edgware, Brent Cross, Finchley, Barnet, Camden, Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith & Fulham, as well as other parts of Middlesex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire.

See forthcoming open events, concerts and exhibitions on our What’s On page.