Talks about The Poison Garden
Poisonous plants are not likely to be first choice for many people if asked what they would like to hear a talk about but my experience at the Alnwick Garden Poison Garden showed that, if they heard a few stories about these plants, most people wanted to hear more. Much more than could be delivered in the context of the Poison Garden.
A Talk about All the Plants
When I first set out to see how to offer more information to people I thought I would give a talk covering all the poisonous plants with the facts, fiction and folkore about them but it soon became clear that such a talk would run for up to four hours. I decided to fragment the subject and it seemed logical to do that division by a topic area.
Out of that came the present package of talks but there are a number of other areas which would lend themselves to a separate talk and the programme is likely to increase.
The following is a brief insight into the talks so far on offer. Please see the right-hand column for details of how to book one of these talks for your organisation.
This is as close to an all encompassing talk as it is possible to get without going over the forty-five minutes to an hour time span which seems to be the norm for most purposes.
The basis of the talk is to look at the three ways to avoid being harmed by a poisonous plant; don't touch, don't eat, don't sniff. This is followed by a look at the most notorious of the plants and a brief overview of the issues surrounding the misuse of the substances the psychoactive plants contain.
The actual plants featured are mostly the same but the time spent on each and the stories told vary from talk to talk and there are people who have heard 'Lethal Lovelies' more than once and say that no two talks are ever the same.
There is something ghoulish in all of us so it isn't surprising that many people want to hear about the use of poisonous plants as a murder weapon.
Again, to try and cover all the many ways the plants have been used to kill would produce a training course not a one off talk so I decided to focus on the medical professionals who have used the plants as their weapons.
This does more than simply restrict the territory to be covered so that the talk can be kept to a reasonable length. As our knowledge grows it becomes more difficult to obtain and use both the plants and the extracts from them so, increasingly, poisoning is the domain of the expert and, by limiting the theme to medically trained murderers, it is possible to include the most famous serial killer of the 20th century.
But there is more to 'Medical Murderers' than just satisfying ghoulish curiosity. By asking why and how these killers were able to function, the talk is also a thought-provoking look at what we believe and why we trust some people and not others.
Click on the arrow to watch a short video edited from the full Medical Murderers talk concentrating on the use of morphine as a murder weapon.
Who Wants to be a Murderer?
Though drawing on a number of the cases used in 'Medical Murderers', the approach of this talk is a little more light-hearted and, in particular, looks at the historical reaction to death which enabled so many murders to go undetected. It also questions our complacency and asks whether murder could still be all around us.
'Phantastica' is a term coined by Doctor Louis Lewin to embrace all the substances, mostly plant derived, which affect the human brain in any way.
This talk is about the best known of those plants and looks at why we use them, how we use them and what the real harms they can cause are as opposed to those harms which exist only in the headlines.
Though dealing with a serious subject, the talk has its lighter moments and is an entertaining way to get the audience thinking for themselves about the issues surrounding substance abuse.
It is suitable for all age groups and has held the attention of teenagers and grandparents alike.
War and Remembrance
This is a more specialised talk intended for use around the time of November 11th and Remembrance Sunday. It looks as the plants which have had a role in warfare, or the justification for waging war, and follows a timeline from the Roman invasion of Britain through to the present 'war on terror' and the troops fighting in the poppy fields of Afghanistan.
There are a number of other subject areas which could easily be covered. Everything from plants in the Bible, in Shakespeare, in literature generally to plants that poison horses or other specific animals. In time, more of these subject areas will become the topic for a talk.