On Saturday afternoon sip a cocktail and listen to some of the country’s greatest minds telling you how wonderful the world is, including talks from: Dan Cruickshank, Selina Hastings, John Julius Norwich, Michael Bracewell, Simon Martin, Thierry Morel, Tim Knox and Peter Parker.

Dan Cruickshank on Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall, Catherine The Great and The Hermitage

The legendary Architectural Historian will talk on Houghton Hall and the return of its original art collection to its original setting – the subject of a BBC documentary he is currently filming.

Selina Hastings on Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Mitford: A Literary Correspondence Course

The Celebrated biographer describes the pupil/teacher relationship that existed for almost fifteen years between Evelyn Waugh (the teacher) and Nancy Mitford (the pupil).  Their friendship endured much longer, but this particular aspect of it, charming, comic and frequently contentious, existed while Nancy was engaged in writing her three best novels.

John Julius Norwich on Venice, Paradise of Cities

Venice through the eyes of famous visitors who spent time there in the nineteenth century, beginning with the history-altering Napoleon himself (“The city’s enduring beauty seems to have been lost on him”).  Other of these nineteenth century visitor/observer/temporary residents include art critic John, writer Henry James, painter John Singer Sargent and Baron Corvo.

Michael Bracewell on The Dark Monarch: Magic and Modernity in Modern British Art.

The critic and writer will discuss his 2009 exhibition at Tate, taking its title from the infamous 1962 book by St Ives artist Sven Berlin. It explores the influence of folklore, mysticism, mythology and the occult on the development of art in Britain. Focusing on works from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present day it considers, in particular, the relationship they have to the landscape and legends of the British Isles.

Tim Knox on Flights of Fancy: Stuffed Birds as Interior Decoration in the English Country House

The director of The Fitzwilliam Museum, writer and collector will talk about the peculiarly British past time of filling their houses with dead animals and what a beautiful and wonderful thing it is to do.

Peter Parker’s Literary Tour of The Gardens

The fabled biographer of Christopher Isherwood and horticultural writer will lead a literary meander through the walled gardens, summoning up memories of literary lives and allusions from the foliage and flowers of a very English Arcadia.

Simon Martin on the Contemporary Sculpture Collection

The curator, writer and art historian will lead a tour of the contemporary sculpture collection in the grounds, including work by Jeppe Hein, Stephen Cox, Zhan Wang, Richard Long, James Turrell and Anya Gallaccio.

Thierry Morel

The curator of the exhibition “Houghton Revisited” – who brought Robert Walpole’s collection back from the Hermitage, will lead a tour of the house and exhibition.