MERL Annual Lecture 2009

NADAS logoA panel debate on Great British food and its future

7pm, Tuesday 20 October 2009
The Great Hall, University of Reading

  • Free
  • Ticket required

Distinguished panellists will take part in this special debate organised to mark the 100th anniversary of the Newbury and District Agricultural Society (NADAS) in conjunction with MERL.

The event will engage the views of prominent voices in a timely contribution to the wider national debate on sustainability and the future of British food.

To request a ticket and submit a potential question for the panel, please email


Please note that parking for the public will be in the Crown Place car park adjacent to the Great Hall. To reach this car park from London Road, go past the Redlands Road turning and turn left into the small road immediately after the traffic lights.


Hot and cold drinks will be available to purchase in the entrance to the Great Hall from 6.15pm

The panel

  • Dudley Fishburn (Chair)

Dudley Fishburn is on Reading University Council. He has just retired from the Board of HSBC Bank, having also been Executive Editor or The Economist and Member of Parliament for Kensington. Dudley has lived on the Englefield Estate in Berkshire for most of his life. For 10 years he was Treasurer of the National Trust. For six years Dudley was on the Board of Kraft Inc. in Chicago. This is the world's biggest food company which recently made a bid for Cadbury.

He has longstanding connections to a number of universities, having been the first non-American to serve on the Board of Harvard University; he currently chairs the Visiting Committee to Cambridge University library. He is Vice Chairman of the Peabody Trust and chairman of a number of public companies.

  • Mark Price, Managing Director, Waitrose

Mark PriceMark Price was appointed Managing Director, Waitrose in April 2007, and is responsible for the 201 Waitrose shops of the John Lewis Partnership.

Mark joined the Partnership on the Graduate Training Scheme in 1982, before becoming Managing Director of John Lewis High Wycombe and then John Lewis Cheadle.

Mark transferred to Waitrose in February 1998 as the Partnership’s first Marketing Director, and in 2000 was additionally given responsibility for retail operations, becoming Director of Selling & Marketing. Immediately prior to his current role, Mark had been at John Lewis since 2005, in the roles Managing Director, Partnership Development and John Lewis Development Director.

As well as being Managing Director of Waitrose, Mark is also a member of the CIES Food Forum Board of Directors, President of the grocery industry charity, Caravan, and is Chair of His Royal Highness Prince Charles’ Rural Action Programme.

  • Lady Cranbrook, Vice President, CPRE

Lady Caroline Cranbrook, Vice President, CPRECaroline Cranbrook is a food campaigner who has been successful in halting the domination of supermarkets in rural areas. Her research has proved that small, locally owned shops can thrive for the mutual benefit of farmers, shoppers and the community. Caroline received an MBE in 2006 for her campaign to keep local abattoirs and thus reduce animal cruelty and food miles.

Her work has been published by CPRE as Food Webs (1998) and The Real Choice (2006), and she has been called "the doughtiest fighter for good sense in agriculture" by none other than Prince Charles.

  • Richard Macdonald CBE, Director General of the NFU

 Richard Macdonald joined the NFU in the 1970s as a parliamentary lobbyist and adviser. In 1985 he became the NFU's Devon county secretary and in 1989 the South West Regional Director.

Richard then returned to the NFU headquarters in 1992 as the Director of Membership and Regions. He was appointed as the NFU's Director General in 1996. In June 2002 he was awarded the CBE for Services to Agriculture. Richard also sites on the Board of Associa and the DEFRA Strategy for Sustainable Farming and Food Implementation Group.

  • Christine Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Enterprise) and Professor of Human Nutrition, University of Reading

Christine WilliamsProfessor Williams obtained her BSc Nutrition from Kings College, University of London in 1973 and her PhD (Medicine) from Guys Hospital Medical School in 1978. She was Reader in Nutritional Biochemistry at the University of Surrey before becoming the first Hugh Sinclair Professor of Nutrition at the University of Reading in 1995. She was Head of the School of Food Biosciences between 2003-2006 and in August 2006 was appointed the Dean of Life Sciences.

Her research is primarily concerned with understanding the impact of dietary fats on human health, particularly in relation to cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance. She is frequently involved in providing advice to government and industry on matters relating to dietary policy and actively engages in dissemination of nutritional science to the public. I

n 1999 she was awarded the Royal Society of Medicine Gold Medal in Nutrition for her contribution to scholarship and education in nutrition. She is member of a number of expert and advisory committees. In the UK she is a Member of the Governing Body of the British Nutrition Foundation, she Chairs the BBSRC Agri-Food Committee and sits on the BBSRC Appointments Board. She was appointed a member of the Food Standards Agency, Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) which advises government on all aspects of diet in relation to public health.

  • Nick Weir, f3, local food consultants, and Founder member of Stroud Community Agriculture and Stroudco Food Hub

Nick WeirNick has worked as a part-time veg grower on an allotment-based Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project for 9 years. He helped to set up Stroud Community Agriculture ( 8 years ago and has since supported several other groups in setting up CSA projects around the UK including a third farm-based CSA project in Stroud and a woodfuel CSA. He is also developing a Food Hub in Stroud providing a low-cost, internet-based distribution system for local food producers to supply local consumers  

Nick’s paid work is as a facilitator of local food projects as part of f3 – a not-for-profit Community Interest Company made up entirely of people providing practical advice based on hands-on experience as food entrepreneurs. f3 has carried out over 150 projects for government departments, regional developments agencies, local authorities, sector support organisations, food and drink producers and community groups. For details see  


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