Candidate Profile

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Architecture & its History
Extraordinary Lives & Famous People
Gardens & Gardening
History - Art & Culture
History - Social
Danny’s talks, tours and courses are an eclectic mix of social and cultural history, with Victorian and early 20th century British history taking precedence, as well as a focus on Norway. From the East End of London, he lives in the Peak District .He has over forty talks on offer covering aspects of architecture, art, biographies, gardens, local history, literary heritage and social history.

A qualified history teacher with an MA Degree in Architectural History, he spent 40 years in community development with the likes of the ILEA, Oxfam and Save the Children. ‘Breathing Life into History’ was established in 2004 and December 2019 bore witness to the 900th talk. He enjoys ‘unlocking the past’ and in the words of Marcel Proust,

‘The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes’.
(A series of talks exploring the art and meaning of gardens,gardening and flowers)

1. The English and Gardening
Gardening is one of the most popular activities in contemporary Britain. This talk will explore the history of and meanings and symbolism invested in gardens. The main focus for these two talks will be Georgian and Victorian Britain and the first half of the 20th century.

2. Art of the Garden (One Hundred Years of Gardens in British Art (c.1850-1950)
British gardens have proved to be a rich source of inspiration or artists. This is a celebration and appreciation of paintings of gardens in the Victorian age and first half of the 20th century. Symbolism explored within the paintings shines a light on society, culture and style.

3. Art of Flowers
Flowers accompany us in every major event in life–birth, marriage, holidays, graduations, illness, and finally death. Since antiquity, flowers have been associated with symbolic meaning. This illustrated talk is an appreciation of flowers in art whilst exploring symbolism, meanings and the language of flowers.

4. Joseph Paxton: Gardener Extraordinaire
‘The busiest man in England’ (Charles Dickens)

From a humble Bedfordshire background, Paxton became the Head Gardener at Chatsworth in Derbyshire by the age of 23. ‘Ask Paxton’ was the advice given to anyone in any kind of difficulty following his incredible design of the ‘Crystal Palace’ for the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in1851. But there is so much more. A titan of the Victorian Age.

5. ‘A Garden within Doores’

Houseplants and arranged cut flowers have historically played an important role in homemaking both aesthetically and symbolically. This talk explores the history of the changing fashions and tastes of plants and flowers in the home in Georgian and Victorian Britain.

(A series of talks exploring its social history and culture)

1. In Darkest England and the Way Out
In late Victorian times Britain was indisputably the most powerful and richest nation in the world yet in London, the very heart of Empire, on its doorstep lay the East End, the stained slums of Empire'. Chronic overcrowding and rife with poverty and crime. it was the haunt of the infamous Jack the Ripper. It was here that some great Reformers-Dr Barnardo and the Salvation Army amongst others - set forth in their efforts to redeem, reform and civilise.

2. The Life & Times of Marie Lloyd and the Music Hall.
In the late Victorian Age, Music Halls spread throughout Britain and it was within them that local East End culture found its voice.
This illustrated talk celebrates the rambunctious nature of the entertainment with characters such as Champagne Charlie, Little Tich, Gus Ellen, the coster comedian, George Robey-the "Prime Minister of Mirth" and Vesta Tilley. It ends with the much-loved Marie Lloyd, both the "Queen of the Music Hall" and of the double entendre. "Our Marie" had a turbulent life both on and off the stage.

3. East End life through the lens of the camera (from one World War to another).
Life and culture in the East End of London as captured on camera from World War 1 to World War 11. A tumultuous period for the locality, rocked by events of national and international significance. Now let the camera tells its tale.

4. Art & the East End
Explore the significance of art and the East End of London, an area at the epicentre of issues of local, national and international importance.

(Five fascinating biographies from the Victorian Age.)

1. Joseph Paxton, "the busiest man in England".
"Ask Paxton" was the advice given to anyone in any kind of difficulty following his incredible design of the "Crystal Palace" for the Great Exhibition in 1851. Described by Dickens as "The busiest man in England" Paxton was the designer of gardens, conservatories, parks, architecture and lots more.

2. Florence Nightingale, "The Lady with the Lamp".
Apart from the Queen, Florence was arguably the most famous woman of the Victorian period. Florence fled from publicity yet became an icon of the age? What do we know of this woman and her achievements?

3. Catherine Booth, "The Mother of the Salvation Army."
From a humble rural Methodist background, Catherine Booth (nee Mumford) always suffered from poor health. Yet she went on to have eight children and proved a major inspiration behind the creation and development of the Salvation Army, which remains a religious and social welfare organisation of global significance to this day.

4. "Cook’s Tours" (Thomas Cook & Son)
"The Julius and Augustus Caesar of modern travel"
In 1841 Thomas Cook organised his first tour-a Temperance train trip from Leicester to Loughborough. When Thomas Cook was born in 1808 the words "tourism" and "sightseeing" were unknown yet by the time of his death, both he and his son had played key roles in opening up the world to popular tourism.

5. Lord Curzon of Kedleston, Viceroy of India
Often referred to as "a most superior person", Curzon was a talented, colourful and controversial British statesman. A devout imperialist he became the Viceroy of India at the tender age of 39 and later was arguably the most knowledgeable Foreign Secretary of all time. His life however has been described as an unparalleled blend of triumph and disappointment.

A series of presentations on Norway-a land of wonders. A social, cultural, artistic look at Norway and its national identity primarily from the 18th century.

1. The Land of Thule
The Land of Thule-the most northerly place in the ancient world-a land of mystery; a land at the edge of the maps; a land obscured by mists; a silent empty world; a terrible beauty.
But where is it? We are off in search!

2. Aspects of Norwegian Art
Looking at Norway through the eyes of key Norwegian artists such as Astrup, Backer, Balke, Hertevig, Kielland, Munch and Sohlberg. What do they tell us about this country?

3. Art of the Norwegian Landscape
The Norwegians have a deep affinity with nature. Focusing primarily on the 19th century, we will explore the Norwegian landscape through art. Looking at those that played a role in the development of Norwegian national identity and the golden age of Norwegian art.

4. Fridtjof Nansen
Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930) is known as ‘the father of modern polar exploration.’ What’s more, a champion skier, scientist, diplomat and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. An incredible man, an extraordinary life.

5. Norwegian themes-Times Past
Focusing on the likes of Bergen, Oslo, Finnmark and Narvik, we take a brief look at certain key Norwegian themes from times past- the Hanseatic League, the Vikings, Norway’s Sami and occupation during World War 11.

6. Norwegian Themes-Pot Pourri
Mainly architecturally themed, here we focus on the likes of Oslo, Tromso, Alta and Stavanger to include topics such as stave churches, oil and tourism.

In total, there are also eight separate presentations on Norwegian towns and cities:

ALTA – ‘Land of the Northern Lights’
ANDALSNES – ‘The Mountaineering Capital’
BERGEN – ‘The Gateway to the Fjords’
KRISTIANSUND- ‘Klipfish, Opera & the Gateway to the Atlantic Ocean Road.’
NARVIK – ‘In Nordland County’
OSLO -‘The Capital of Norway’
STAVANGER – ‘Oil Capital of Norway’
TROMSO – ‘Gateway to the Arctic

Danny Wells
'Breathing Life into History'
2013 May - Voyages of Discovery-(Voyager)-British Isles & Chelsea Flower Show

2014 July - Fred Olsen Lines-(Boudicca)-Greenland's Glaciers & Great Lakes

2019 March- Saga-(Saga Sapphire)-In Search of the Northern Lights
The following recent Cruise History has been recorded for this candidate.
Saga Sapphire SA366 Magic of the Northern Lights 15 Dover Wednesday, February 27, 2019