Speaker for groups in the UK
See below for a list of my talks and lectures, available live or via Zoom
I am an experienced public speaker - over the last few years I've given over 250 lectures and talks in schools (as a guest in classrooms, at assemblies, or as the motivational speaker for prizegiving) and universities, on Excess Baggage, Saturday Live and 'From Our Own Correspondent' on BBC Radio 4, ABC Radio in Australia, at beekeeper groups, bookshop signings and ticketed events, a cookery demo at the London Book Fair, women's groups, branches of U3A, the English Speaking Union, Rotary Clubs and NADFAS/ The Arts Society, the Albanian Presidency at the invitation of the First Lady, in London at the Royal Anthropological Institute, at the American Embassy, Prishtina, and to foodies, literary festivals, RHS Wisley, museums, a lifeboat station and a jazz club.
To get a flavour of my presentations you can:
listen to the Saturday Live recording of me interviewed by John McCarthy on Radio 4, or
listen to one of my contributions to Radio 4's 'From Our Own Correspondent' e.g. the dispatch I wrote about the 'Troubleshooting Teddies of Tirana' on iPlayer or my pieces telling the story of manhole covers in Kosovo or Kosovo's sportsmen's ghosts, Albania's adventurous pelicans or the 'ill winds' of Montenegro, or
listen to my piece on Radio 4's 'From Our Home Correspondent' about yoga in prisons, or
watch my recent TEDx talk.
The talks are illustrated with my photographs (you can see examples on my Flickr photostream, under the name 'ElizabethinKosovo' or in my Instagram feed). My photographs have been published in national newspapers in Kosovo and by The Guardian and National Geographic as well as being exhibited at the National Gallery of Kosovo and in London.
Get in touch if you'd like me as a speaker at your group.
I offer seven talks and all of them can be delivered to your group live or via Zoom. When talks are offered on Zoom I can also make the recording available to your group for a week, by sharing an online link, making the talk accessible even to those who aren't available at the time or who don't want to download Zoom :
Also on this page are details of the talk on 'Bad Boys and Gutsy Girls: two centuries of British travellers in the Balkans' and 'Off the Rails: Mayhem and Murder on the Orient Express and Elsewhere, in Fact, Film, and Fiction' offered by my partner, Robert Wilton
Unlikely positions in unlikely places; a yoga journey around Britain- tells the stories from my explorations of yoga. I am not a likely yogini; I am too fond of chocolate and To-do lists, and sometimes fall over on my mat. So this is not a 'how to' talk - it's given by an explorer rather than an expert. Sometimes funny, sometimes touching, it evokes the characters and communities met along a fascinating journey, from doga (yes, yoga with your dog) to my dripping day of 'hot yoga', hanging upside down in aerial yoga, to yoga in prisons and with asylum-seekers, children and Stand-Up Paddleboards. It will be of interest to those who love Britain – its quirkiness and its multiply layered communities, from inner city community centres to exclusive spas. It will also be loved by the ‘armchair yogini’ and the armchair traveller. It’s a light introduction to some mind-bending ways that ancient positions can find new homes, and ordinary and extraordinary people in crisis can find peace and a sense of belonging.
Edith and I; on the trail of an Edwardian traveller in Kosovo - drawing on the adventures which led to my book of the same title. In 1900, Europe’s last wilderness was explored by a most unlikely champion, a stout, stubborn Englishwoman who travelled in her tam o’shanter across the Accursed Mountains into Kosovo. Edith Durham was dubbed ‘Queen of the Highlanders’ by the Albanians who honoured her for her anthropological writing, her humanitarian aid and her tireless lobbying for their cause. One hundred years later, I came to Kosovo and also fell in love with the country. Dividing my time between there and London, I thought that no-one would understand my identity crisis; but as I unravelled Edith’s story through archives and museum collections in Britain and retraced Edith’s steps in Kosovo I learned from her what I should do with my life.
The silver thread: filigree jewellery - an ancient craft which spread across the former Ottoman Empire. It is still practised by men and women who turn into dragons as they puff fire, sprinkle silver dust, and magic thick silver rods into fine wire and this into lacy jewellery, adornment and religious artefacts. My book The Silver Thread; a journey through Balkan craftsmanship was published in 2017.
Getting a gratitude attitude - for more than 4 years I've been keeping a daily gratitude diary and reading, writing and giving talks about the science of gratitude (I even took part in a University of Berkeley study) and its impact on well-being. I've learned (from theory and practice) what to do with my journal entries to maximise the impact on my happiness (and maybe the world's). I've ended up in some ridiculous situations and mulled on the link between gratitude and such diverse phenomena as charity volunteering and cystitis. Want me to share these with your group? Thank you!
Morocco Blues: why and how Morocco got painted blue [available from July 2021] - this lively lecture draws on my time in Morocco in visits spanning more than 25 years. The lecture focuses particularly on the stories behind the blue pigment used for the fishing boats and doorways of photogenic Essaouira on the Moroccan coast, and the Majorelle Blue developed and patented by French artist Jacques Majorelle in Marrakech in the 1920s. The story of Morocco’s blues thus takes us from Yves Saint-Laurent to a very special snail.
Yves Saint-Laurent bought and restored the Majorelle Gardens, and beautiful photographs of the gardens showcasing his distinctive blue illustrate the lecture, along with images of this cobalt blue in traditional tiles and the blue of the Tuareg burnous. You’ll also hear of Roman adventures (and executions) in producing the special Mogador blue from the murex molluscs on the coast off Essaouira and my own adventures in trying to capture it today
The Rubbish-Picker's Wife; an unlikely friendship in Kosovo - what happens when you find your community but it's a long way from home. The story of what I've learned with, from and about the Roma and Ashkali community over a decade of working and living with them in Kosovo. The book of the same title was published in 2015.
‘A courageous and skilled shot’; Montenegro’s photographer princess, Ksenia Petrović-Njegoš (1881 – 1960)
Princess Ksenia’s father, King Nikola, was nicknamed ‘The Father-in-Law of Europe’ having successfully married off his daughters to the royal houses of Italy, Bulgaria, Germany, Serbia and Russia. His eighth daughter – Ksenia - chose a different route, carving out a place for herself as secretary and valued advisor to her father, becoming the first woman in Montenegro to drive, and developing a particular talent for photography (though a contemporary also described her as ‘a courageous and skilled shot with a pistol’).
This lecture shares the photographs she took during her years in the brand-new Montenegrin capital of Cetinje, where the royal family had their palace before they were exiled to France in 1916. Despite her privileged life of garden parties and tennis, Ksenia’s photographic record also shows how she drove out to take beautiful photographs celebrating ordinary life in Montenegro among its schools, soldiers, fishermen, cooks, horses and villages.
This lively lecture draws on my research in the archives of Ksenia’s correspondence, and on collaboration with the staff at the National Museum of Montenegro (to whom thanks for permission for use of the photograph reproduced here, and those used in the lecture). It gives a face and a human narrative to the history and culture of a part of the Balkans which is just beginning to be visited by British travellers.
125 000 flowers - what it takes to make a spoon of honey, and how you can use it in cooking and natural remedies. And what to plant in your garden to keep the bees happy
This draws on my experiences as a beekeeper and my research for my Little Book of Honey, published in 2012.
Mulberry trees, macchiato, mosques and Mother Teresa: an online tour of Kosovo's capital, Prishtina
I have had a home in Prishtina for 15 years and am happy to share the things I love about this little-known city. Visit the library which qualified for inclusion in a list of the world's ugliest buildings (I love it), the youngest population in Europe (and the creative cafe life and excellent coffee you would expect to go with it) in a majority Muslim city whose main boulevard commemorates Mother Teresa. as one of the country's most famous daughters. Hear the impressions of travellers here in wartime and peacetime. Can you work out who is being commemorated in Medlin Olbrajt square - and why?
Bad boys and gutsy girls: two centuries of British travellers in the Balkans is a talk available live and on Zoom from my partner, Robert Wilton. He writes, The Balkans region has always been seen as one of the wild parts of the world: mysterious, exotic and dangerous. Since the early 1800s, British men and women have been attracted there: adventurers, soldiers, poets, painters and humanitarians. Some were trying to find; some were trying to escape. From Lord Byron to Rebecca West, Edward Lear to Trotsky Davies, they opened up a world to us. In the lands we now know as Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia, these diverse and colourful characters encountered places beyond their imagining, and none of them was unchanged. 'Bad Boys and Gutsy Girls' is the entertaining story of these remarkable individuals, what they discovered, and what it means to us today.
Off the Rails: Mayhem and Murder on the Orient Express and Elsewhere, in Fact, Film, and Fiction - a talk available live and on Zoom from Robert Wilton.
Enjoy Hercule Poirot working through the glamorous suspects in Murder on the Orient Express? Remember Sean Connery fighting Robert Shaw in one of its compartments? Heard the (true) story of the unsolved death of an American attaché on the same train?
For many of us, trains remain the most romantic form of long-distance travel: the gently rattling pace; the places; the people; the possibilities. For more than a century they've been the focus not just of romance, but also excitement and intrigue. Railway lines have been aggressive political statements, and railway trains have been the scene of scandal and mystery. (A French President was forced to resign after one unfortunate incident.) Writers and film-makers have seized on them as the perfect location for some of our favourite thrillers.
Join historical novelist and train traveller Robert Wilton for a journey through some of the best stories, and an exploration of just why trains have always been such a focus for excitement - in fact as well as fiction.
Robert is a widely experienced speaker who has been working on and in the Balkans for more than twenty years. He was a Whitehall specialist on the region for many years, advisor to the Prime Minister of Kosovo in the period leading to the country's independence, head of a human rights mission in Albania, and co-founder of The Ideas Partnership charity helping marginalised children into education. He's the author of several historical novels - his most recent Edwardian thriller, Poison in Paris, set on the Orient Express - and a published translator of Albanian literature.
I think he's lovely!
Feedback from our talks:
65% 'Excellent'; 35% 'Very good' - results of polling of members of Weston Turville U3A
'A fascinating and inspiring speaker... I received many warm and enthusiastic comments concerning your address from parents, girls and Governors afterwards' (Head, Oxford High School)
'A wonderful presentation... they listened with such rapt attention... top quality' (SW19 WI)
'An excellent talk... everyone enjoyed it hugely' (Kent ESU)
'It was superb' (Broxbourne U3A)
'Last night we had the amazing Elizabeth Gowing come and speak to us. Fascinating women, as was her book and her stories. Highly recommend her!' (Harrow WI on Twitter)
'What an interesting, amusing and informative talk' (Worcestershire ESU)
'A most engaging talk and so clearly delivered - thank you. It has given us a new perspective'. (Wokingham U3A)
'Such an entertaining and informative address on such an unusual subject... one of the best speakers this year' (Diss U3A)
Photo credits from top: Emily Vaughen Lindland; reproduced by kind permission of the Durham estate; Elizabeth Gowing; Dorit Hoffmeister; reproduced by kind permission of the staff at the National Museum of Montenegro - further photographs can be seen in the books Crna Gora u Magicnom Oku Princeze Ksenije by Ande Kapičić and European Fashion at the Montenegrin Court by Tatjana Jović; Caroline Greenslade; Roland Lösslein