Swarthmore Lecture

The Swarthmore Lecture takes place each year during Britain Yearly Meeting. It is an important part of Woodbrooke’s learning programme and has a key place in the life of Quakers in Britain.

The lecture has two key purposes: firstly to interpret to Quakers their message and mission, and secondly to make the wider public aware of the spirit, the aims and fundamental principles of Friends.

This year’s lecture

Swarthmore Lecture 2018: ‘Changing ourselves, changing the world’ 

The 2018 Swarthmore Lecture was given by Chris Alton on Saturday 5th May, at Friends House, Euston Road, London.

Video Recording

You can watch a subtitled recording of Chris Alton’s Swarthmore Lecture here:


Read the Lecture

You can buy the book of the lecture from the Quaker Bookshop here: Changing ourselves, changing the world by Chris Alton.


Audio Recording

You can listen to an audio recording of Chris’s lecture here: 2018 Swarthmore Lecture audio.


Swarthmore Lecture Woodbrooke Quaker Conference CentreThe 2018 Swarthmore Lecture was given by Chris Alton, at Britain Yearly Meeting. 

Through his lecture ‘Changing ourselves, changing the world’ Chris  shared how he seeks to challenge people and create change through his art and how art can be an act of witness. He addressed the challenges we face in a changing and increasingly violent and fractured world, while considering how he as an artist and we as Friends (as Quakers refer to each other) might respond creatively, and offer subversive alternatives.

Chris is a life-long Quaker, artist and activist.

Terry Oakley, clerk of the Swarthmore Lecture Committee said, “The committee is really excited that Chris will be giving this year’s lecture and sharing with Quakers how he witnesses to his faith through his art. Chris gives testimony to his Quakerism through his art, which speaks an important message to the Quaker community and beyond”.

Chris’s art involves images, videos and music. He is possibly best known as the creator of the English Disco Lovers, a multifaceted protest movement and act of artistic musical resistance, which sought to reclaim the acronym EDL from the English Defence League. In 2017 the London Evening Standard highlighted him as one of ten young British artists to look out for, stating that “his ability to make protest fun while rendering his targets ridiculous means he may be the artist we need right now.”

About the lecture

Each year there is a spoken lecture and supporting publication, as well as usually audio and video recording and in recent years live streaming of the lecture. Those giving the lecture often lead courses at Woodbrooke to allow in-depth exploration of the subject explored in the lecture.

Chris will address the challenges we face in a changing and increasingly violent and fractured world, while considering how we might respond creatively.

The Lecture is funded by Woodbrooke and overseen and supported by staff and the Swarthmore Lecture Committee. The committee is responsible for discerning lecturers and topics. It considers Friends who may have a message for the Yearly Meeting and issues of concern and interest to Friends or which bring Quaker witness, faith and practice to a wider audience. The committee considers names put forward by Friends, relevant themes and its own leadings.

If you would like to suggest a lecturer and/or theme, please download and complete the Swarthmore Lecture Proposal Form.

Past Lectures

The lecture series has been running for over a hundred years, having started in 1908. You can see details of past lecturers and access video and audio recordings here.

The publications relating to past lectures can found in local Quaker meeting libraries or be purchased from the Quaker Centre Bookshop.

Further Information

For more information about the Swarthmore Lecture contact Simon Best, Head of Learning, Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, 1046 Bristol Road, Birmingham, B29 6LJ. Email: simon.best@woodbrooke.org.uk