St Martin-in-the-Fields launches new programme of Monday night talks with Stephen Fry, Natalie Haynes and more

Stephen Fry (PA Wire)
Stephen Fry (PA Wire)

St Martin-in-the-Fields is launching a new programme of thought-provoking talks, with the first, a conversation with Stephen Fry, taking place this evening.

The series of talks, which will run nearly every Monday night until July 15, will feature leading writers and intellectuals including Natalie Haynes, Ben Okri, Jeremy Bowen, Anita Anand, Jung Chang, and Helena Kennedy.

They’ll be asked about some of the biggest questions facing the world, from peace and climate action, to democratic vulnerability and equality.

“We are delighted to launch this unique new series,” said St Martin chief executive Chris Denton. “Building on the success of our popular Autumn Lecture Series, director Peter Florence has brought together a powerful roster of some of today’s leading thinkers and writers to stimulate discussion and conversation on important issues of the day.

“We want The Conversation to become established as a place where the discussion really begins as the talking on stage stops.”

Hosts will include Hay festival founder Florence, Guardian associate editor of culture Claire Armitstead, and curator Caitlin McNamara.

After each talk, which will take place in the church’s nave, guests are invited to move downstairs into the crypt (where there’s a fully stocked bar) to continue their own discussions in a more relaxed environment.

The talks have been programmed to reflect St Martin-in-the-Fields’s important role in the formation of Shelter, Amnesty and Liberty – and its part in the early Pride movement.

The church, it says, has always been “a place that invites open and honest discussion about key issues affecting society”.

St Martin-in-the-Fields was the home of the Social Service Unit which was founded in 1948 to help homeless individuals. Today these efforts continue: St Martin-in-the-Fields looks after around 7,500 homeless people every year.

“I love the activist heritage of St Martin-in-the-Fields and I hugely admire all these writers,” said Florence. “We’re going to have a great summer in the city talking about big ideas.

“I’ve always loved the conversations that grow from talks and literary events, like a big public book club, and I am thrilled to have the freedom and the context to make the audience more and more a part of the whole experience.”

The Trafalgar Square parish church hosts a series of inspiring classical concerts, as well as jazz, comedy, soul, folk, country and cabaret nights, throughout the year.

An historic spot, there has been a church at the St Martin-in-the-Fields site since the medieval period, though its current building was constructed in the early 18th century.

The Conversation, St Martin-in-the-Fields;