The Shakers are not well known outside the United States, or at best we may recognise them through the current fashion for Shaker style kitchens and furniture. In the last twenty years several museums have been established on the former sites of Shaker settlements and each of these receives thousands of inquisitive visitors every year. When genuine examples of Shaker furniture come to auction they fetch prices far in excess of fine European examples of a similar period. If examined more closely this furniture is rather plain or even austere so what is the attraction and why is it so popular and so highly valued?
The Shakers or Shaking Quakers as they were derisively called, were a small group of religious dissidents that grew out of Quakerism and had their origins in mid-eighteenth century England but they are much better known as a successful nineteenth century North American fundamentalist sect. They established themselves initially in the north eastern states in agrarian communities as they attempted to build Utopia, their Heaven on earth. By the middle of the nineteenth century there were some 6000 Shakers living in twenty communities, today they have all but disappeared but their influence has not.
In this engaging talk John tells the extraordinary story of the Shakers, exploring their beginnings, what they believed and how they lived their lives before examining examples of their wonderful buildings and furniture. For it is only with such an understanding of their devout faith and way of life that we can begin to appreciate the beauty of their intriguing legacy.
Formerly a lecturer at the University of Bath where he was Director of Studies in the School of Education with responsibility for the professional development of teachers. He has worked extensively overseas as an educational consultant and this has given him the opportunity to give lectures and presentations at conferences all over the world. In 2011 and again in 2017 he undertook extensive lecture tours of Australia and New Zealand and has been a popular speaker on the NADFAS circuit for a number of years.
In his professional life he has developed a particular interest in presentation skills including the role of pictures in learning and the appropriate use of PowerPoint. This coupled with his ability to relate well to people of all ages and backgrounds makes him an impressive and confident public speaker.
As well as the talks he has developed from his professional background, he offers presentations on an eclectic range of topics that are derived from his diverse interests and enthusiasms such as, Pub Signs, Children’s Book Illustrations and the Shakers of North America. All his talks, are entertaining, highly informative, very well illustrated and presented with warmth and humour.