Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Lost Lectures, 16th May

The Lost Lectures aim to turn discover and learning into nighttime entertainment – something exciting and interesting far and above your usual lecture. And this they do. Picking unique and glamorous settings, such as The Troxy for this event, they encourage dressing up and making it a bit of a party.

To this, my first, there was a loose 1920s theme to fit with the art deco venue, though most people didn’t make that much effort with their costumerie. There was a regular bar, a cocktail bar manned by Barchick no less, and as well as popcorn they had street food from Speck Mobile (If you felt like braving the queues). I had been to the Troxy before and hadn’t expected them to make full use of the place, as it is huge. I thought we’d be kept on the ground floor around tables set up and I rather wish we had as I forgot to take my glasses with me, meaning the speakers and they accompanying visuals were all rather blurry.

Bizarrely, had we turned up a little earlier, we could have just grabbed one of the tables that had been sold for a higher price – no one was checking the sort of ticket you had, and indeed, I walked in without anyone checking I’d paid anything at all to be there.

The evening started promptly at 7:30 but still managed to overrun somewhat. Each of the speakers only had 20 minutes or so to talk, meaning they couldn’t delve too far into their subject but they were still able to give more than just a superficial overview.

First up we had Dame Sally Davies imploring us to wash our hands when we go to the bathroom in a big to fight the antibiotic-resistant bacteria which threaten to wreak havoc on our relatively disease-free countries. It was interesting and scary to hear all the routes that antibiotics can take into your body and why bacteria are building these resistances. Put simply, we took antibiotics for granted, pumping them into animals, vegetables and ourselves with nary a care for future generations and how they would fare when the ones we had ran out. And they’re running out now.

Then we had Vicky Pryce who, at first, I thought was telling us trivial stories about her time in jail, but who actually talked in a meaningful way about reform of the prison service, especially for women, many of whom, in her researched opinion, are there through circumstance rather than being evil people who need to be locked up. It was hard not to empathise with her way of thinking (and I am a liberal lefty after all).

We then heard all about the dark web and how it will soon be more accessible to everyone. Our speaker was keen to point out that, yes, it may be somewhere terrorists and paedos can lurk without fear of prosecution but there is also a more altruistic, moralistic side to it that cannot be dismissed out of hand. It’s not just a place to buy drugs, although, yes, you can do that pretty easily too.

Before the next act we had something of an intermission which we used to buy a cocktail from the Barchick bar. They lived up to my expectation, being so alcoholic they made me cough. Mine came in a fake medicine bottle and my friend’s was served in two water pistols. Yes, you had to shoot the cocktails into your mouth!

After watching some rather odd dance moves while the stage was set up for the scientist Andrew Szydlo, we watched his mad cap experiments unfold. This guy was like the Keith Floyd of Chemistry – in that I mean he was the very definition of eccentric, speaking so quickly you could barely keep up, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if he were drunk. Hilarious.

We then had Nir Paldi speak on what it means to provoke an audience, and what happens when you manage to do so, but not in the way you had envisioned, recalling one of his drag performances on the Israeli-Palestine conflict that threatened to get too heated, which was thought provoking in itself. And we rounded off the evening with a thigh-slapping performance from the Hackney Colliery Band doing modern songs to a swing rhythm, which, as the loyal readers of my blog that you are, you’ll know I adore.

Interesting, education and entertaining in equal measure.

*Photos (c) Richard Davenport (except for the crap one of the cocktails).

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