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 2017: Faith in politics? A testimony to equality

The 2017 Swarthmore Lecture will be given by Catherine West at 7:30pm (BST) on Monday 31st July.

Listen to the Lecture

You can listen to this lecture and others in the learning resources section or access it directly here.

Watch the Lecture

A subtitled video will be available here soon.

Read the Lecture

The book of the lecture will be available from the Quaker Centre bookshop soon.


Catherine West MPThe 2017 Swarthmore Lecture will be given by Catherine West MP, at Yearly Meeting Gathering. The lecture will focus on addressing inequality, tackling poverty and promoting social justice. It will examine how we can effect change through politics – both participatory and representative – whilst living out our faith in the world. Catherine says, “For me, actively advancing the cause of equality is both a political imperative and a spiritual vocation.”

Catherine became a Quaker in the 1990s and is a member of North West London Area Meeting. She is currently Member of Parliament for Hornsey and Wood Green. She was an elected member of Islington Council from 2002 to 2014 and Leader there from 2010 to 2013.

Catherine’s lecture will resonate with the theme of Yearly Meeting Gathering which will be looking at movement-building and how individuals can live out their faith in the world.

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.

The lecture will focus on addressing inequality, tackling poverty and promoting social justice.

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 2017

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