After-Dinner & Group Talks
by Ashley Wakelin

QL bus QL bus

Author of the new books Inside Midland Red, Midland Red Influence and Midland Red and its People, Ashley Wakelin gives entertaining and engaging talks to groups about the history and development of Midland Red, which was once the second largest bus company in the UK.

If you are responsible for finding speakers for your group, you may find that a talk here will suit you and your fellow members. My talks are ideal for most occasions including After-Dinner talks, Breakfast Clubs, Womens Institute and Townswomens Guild meetings, church groups, car and transport group meetings, retirement clubs, U3A, Rotary and Probus, etc.

Talks are suitable for most group meetings and are not too technical. They are social history based, and include personal tales handed down over the years to make them more engaging; and most of all they are appealing to both men and women – especially if you are of a certain age! Talks can be personalised to suit particular groups if specific knowledge, a specific topic or interest is required.

Below is a range of talks which are transport related. My specialist subject is Midland Red and there are a number of talks ranging from the “Big” Story which can be from 90 to 120 minutes or longer and best with a refreshment break during the talk, to individual topics from the greater history such as the story of Midland Red’s bus building factory, or the story of the Midland Red Motorway Express coaches which can be shorter.

canal boat canal boat

There are also talks on the Canals and Waterways of Britain, and whilst I don’t have quite as much experience as I do on the subject of buses, for a long time I have had a deep interest in the history of some of the Midland’s canals and how the transition from industrial to leisure use has changed the canal scene today. I also have the experience of buying a large restored narrowboat, and in understanding the importance of choosing carefully, deciding on boat type and layout, considering costs, places to have work done, and especially the enjoyment of the waterways community.

Midland Red talk Midland Red talk

Midland Red was England’s largest bus company outside the capital. It grew from humble and difficult beginnings through enterprise and determination to become an empire covering 12,000 square miles of the Midlands!

It was the only bus company to design and build most of its buses and pioneered many very advanced features.

From chaotic beginnings at the turn of the last century and thriving during WW1, through the roaring 20s and the depression of the 30s the company did well; from an unregulated industry to setting up the Associated Motorways coach network, owning Stratford Blue and taking and absorbing lots of independent operators along the way.

WW2 brought fuel rationing and service cuts, but exciting new designs and revolutionary prototypes were developed.

But from the mid 1960s a downhill trend emerged – a rise in ownership of cars and televisions, and closure of cinemas all brought new trends in transport usage, then Nationalisation, Privatisation, and finally what remains today. There is a lot to be learned from the past!

Midland Red Talks Available

Bigger than you Ever Imagined – A more full and general historical talk (90mins to 2hrs plus). This is a comprehensive look over the most interesting 90 years of bus history in the Midlands.

A Busman’s Dream of Home – The story of the D9 red double decker, the most popular post-war Midland Red bus (30-45mins)

The Friendly Midland Red - Social history over 12,000 square miles of the Midlands (45-90mins)

Never to be Repeated – The development and operation of Midland Red’s 100mph Motorway Coaches (30-60mins)

The Story of Carlyle Works and Post-war Vehicle Developments – The story of the most advanced and successful designs and the building of buses and coaches in Birmingham during and since WW2 (45-90mins)

Painting the Midlands Red – How Midland Red became the UK’s biggest provincial bus operator (30-60mins)

The Midland Red Way – The story of one of the very best Bus Driver Training Schools (45-90mins). This talk discovers how bus drivers were made good, and then discusses the changes that have taken place over the years as money dictates our lives.

Question and Answer sessions can be added to any of the above talks. The Speaker has personal knowledge of many aspects of Midland Red’s activities, and has stories handed down from working colleagues and ex-employees from Management, Engineering, Traffic and Training sections of the Company, dating back to before the war. The speaker will set the scene, and usually end by discussing memories of his own and the audience, as he continues to keep the history and traditions of Midland Red alive for future generations to enjoy.

Specialist lectures can also be arranged for professional bodies who are involved with older vehicles, and on their ownership, use, regulation and responsibilities. These are suitable for small groups interested in purchasing vehicles for further use, business or leisure use or preservation, and to Police and Fire authorities with issues relating to further uses, and benefits and risks etc.

Canal Talks Available

Motorways of the Past – A look back at how important canals were to industry, their long decline and more recent revival, across three hundred years of transition (60mins plus)

A Never Ending Holiday – Life on the waterways is a more gentle and peaceful way of life (60mins approx)

Contact us with any further enquires, or to check dates.

©2020-2024 Ashley Wakelin. All rights reserved.