Daily Archives: November 27, 2011

The Circus is Coming to Town

Tomorrow I am moving to London for most of December to concentrate full time on production for the Christmas Lectures. The production company Windfall Films are also setting up camp in the Royal Institute as the next two weeks are going to be frantic as we put the lectures together working with the Ri boys in the backroom, Andy and Melis. I am told that when we begin recording in 14 days, there will be about 30 people involved. It will be like the circus coming to town.

Last Thursday I had my baptism by fire with an almost full house preview for members and families of the Royal Institution. It was an opportunity to get a sense of what it is like to give a lecture in this august theatre where Faraday began the tradition of the public engagement of science. Where Huxley championed Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Where giants of public speaking like Attenborough, Dawkins and Sagan set the standards that other Christmas lecturers aspire to. To say that I am a bit nervous is an understatement. That said, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves at the preview last week. I met the director, David and I am working with a great producer, Leesa alongside science communicator expert Debbie. The team is great. However, the trouble with a topic like psychology is that while everyone is interested in how their brain and mind works, and we can all relate to psychological experiences, finding demonstrations that will reliably work with a teenage audience is proving very hard. To begin, people do not behave naturally in front of an audience. Teenagers can be acutely self-conscious in front of their peer group. Many of the classic psychological phenomena are implicit measures that are difficult to capture in a public arena. Other demonstrations are simply not visually compelling or make for interesting television. So I have my work cut out for me. However, I am pleased to say that I have recruited some excellent talent and experts to help me out in these final weeks putting the show together. I am very pleased that I will have the wonderful Billy Kidd who I specifically requested. As you can see, she is extremely talented.

I can’t give away much more but I can tell you that theme of the lectures is 1950’s B movies which is close to my heart as I used to collect original posters from these era and I have a fascination with the horror/sci-fi genre. We will meet the Locust Lady and take a boat trip to Zombie Island so I am hoping the teenage audience will like the sorts of things I loved as a kid. Anyway, I will be gone for some time and not blogging here during the event because there is an official Royal Institution Christmas Lecture website about to be launched on Dec 12th. But I will be back here after the circus has left town.

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