Open Meeting Reports 2020

December 2020

Graham Keal


Graham Keal “Oprah Winfrey Touched My Elbow” Had we been meeting in the real world Graham’s audience might have been a bit smaller as it was a really dark, wet morning but as we were ZOOMing, over 80 of us were comfortably sitting in front of our screens. Graham has been a journalist for over 46 years and during that time has interviewed many celebrities. He gave us the impression that he found some much more likeable than others!!

He began his career as a cub reporter on the Sleaford Standard and his first scoop in 1975 was an interview with Eric Morecambe who had been playing cricket for the Lords Taverners at R.A.F. Cranwell on a very hot summer Sunday. Even though Eric was obviously tired and was at that time working during the week, he was very cooperative and kind to young journalists and Graham obviously still holds him in high regard. On asking him why he was prepared to give a lengthy interview for the people of Sleaford, Eric replied that it was the people like that that had put him where he is today. Since that time, Graham has interviewed over 4000 celebrities, some more sober than others!

He moved on to the Lincolnshire Chronicle as Trainee Editor and in that rôle had more interesting experiences, even being part of a media pack including foreign respondents, television crews and a representative of Reuters when Henry Kissinger visited Lincolnshire. Graham found Paula Wilcox, Lulu and Valerie Singleton much more alluring than Henry Kissinger! It was all in the eyes apparently.

His assignments were not always glamorous but on one occasion he was offered a day trip to Grenada, expenses paid by Channel 5 to interview Peter de Savary. We got the impression that Graham enjoyed his taste of the High Life!

In 1988 Oprah Winfrey began to host her own television show and in advance of this in 1986 a reception was given for her at the Savoy in London. Graham was there with many other journalists and found the lady in red to be very patient and sympathetic and even held the door open when the press pack was leaving. This is when Graham had the encounter with Oprah which he has remembered to this day!

Graham finished his entertaining talk with an anecdotal story about Fred Allen a friend of Benny Hill who did not make the leap from success on radio to television. He said “Television is known as a medium because anything well done is rare”

Anne Allery
PS A link to Graham’s blog:

November 2020

Fools Gold

Fools Gold. Music and Stories on the theme of ‘Unsung Heroes’.






October 2020

Bill Raynor

Former police officer Bill Raynor gave a light hearted talk on ‘How to spot a serial killer’.







September 2020

Elizabeth Morton

First Open Meeting after Lockdown by Zoom. Elizabeth Morton Actress and author married to actor Peter Davison gave a talk about her new novel ‘A last dance in Liverpool’.







March 2020

Nigel MacKnight

Nigel Macknight gave a talk: Life as an author. “Holding Tight”. Author Nigel and a team of volunteers plan to regain the water speed record for Great Britain.







February 2020

Philip Caine

Philip Caine gave a talk “Barrow to Baghdad and Back”.

It sounded like a travelogue, but it was actually the story of Philip’s break-neck speed travels during his life, and how he ended up as an author, selling his books on his public speaking engagements. After 45 minutes of fascinating tales, the predicaments that he found himself in and his humorous telling of his life story, we were all quite exhausted just listening to it.

So, the ship-yards of Barrow didn’t quite appeal, and a career as a chef in the catering and hospitality industry began. Philip worked across the country in all the best hotels and became a hotel manager. He then went on to become a chef on a North Sea oil rig and worked for 17 years bobbing up and down on the North Sea. The oil and gas industry offered some interesting locations: in a desert in Algeria, a jungle in Nigeria and out on the frozen steppes in Kazakhstan. A chance meeting with a “manager” who turned out to be a KGB man led to an opportunity to invest in a large night club, but when the ripples from the collapse of Enron hit, the future looked bleak. But you can’t keep a hard-working adventurer down, and the opportunity came in Baghdad to accommodate US troops, and this experience went on for 7 years, dodging the bullets and bombs.

The international experiences led to becoming a writer of novels with the Middle East as a backdrop, and judging by the number of titles currently available, they are coming thick and fast! Having spent a lifetime travelling the world and working away, at least Philip is working back at home now, although his public speaking is taking him all over the country.

Celia Billau

January 2020

Mike Storr

It might have been called “Masters of Mirth” but one of the mirth makers he talked about was in fact a “Mistress”. Mike explained how Music Halls grew up during the 19th century when singing was a popular activity in taverns, and rooms were set aside for singing and comedy. In the late 1800s there were 300 such Music Halls in London alone.

He then mentioned several Music Hall stars including Robb Wilton and Sir George Robey, who was knighted for services to comedy. Not many of us had heard of Marriott Edgar but we knew of humorous poems that he had written including “The Lion and Albert” which Mike recited for us. He also treated us to other monologues which showed his acting ability and was very convincing when he wore a bead necklace to recite poems by Pam Ayres, the one mistress of mirth!

Lots of us were more familiar with Stanley Holloway, Sir Bernard Miles and Gerard Hoffnung. Mike’s talk was a great light hearted way to start the New Year, and he performed his impersonations with aplomb, using hats to change his persona.

Anne Allery

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