The quandary of time, variety and space – our night in Hammersmith

On the day, I went through many running orders trying to balance the technical side and balance of art, science and comedy, but this is roughly what I remember of what went on at Hammersmith.

Oh, and before we began, Josie Long and I recorded a new very shambolic, Utter Shambles podcast with guest Brian Cox.


6.59pm and with 5 minutes before show time, it’s the Cosmic Genome puppets of Brian and me.

7.04pm Laser harps and jazz from Steve Pretty and the Origin of Pieces. The laser harp has to be on a high setting for a big room, so Steve burns his gloves and plays in a sort of “ow, ow, my fingers way”

Brian and I go on, I talk quickly, he looks at me. He plays a little piano.

Greg Foot comes on and talks algebra and risks a bowling ball dropping on his head in a circus sideshow mechanism. he proves his point.

Baba Brinkman and Dr Heather Berlin mix neuroscience and rap.

Josie Long does her maths exam with 3500 other people.

Andrea Sella deafens and blinds the audience in a display of alchemy.

Steve Backshall does the tango, no he doesn’t, he talks about parasites, while the cast of Strictly whoop the parasitology from the stalls.

Festival of the Spoken Nerd

Carolyn Porco shows images of the solar system and talks of the human place in the universe. (a photographer came up to me in the interval and said, I just met the greatest photographer in the world. What images of Saturn)

Scroobius Pip recites his Letter to God poem.

Paul Abel showed some footage of Patrick Moore talking to a man who could speak Venusian, then Jon Culshaw came on and created his own celebrity garble.

Helen Czerski demonstrates how coffee cup rings are a reminder of the ideas of physics confronting us every day.

Brian Cox shows some pictures and diagram and smiles at them.

Then, it’s jazz Lovecats with Brian on piano, the Steve Pretty band on brass and Robert Smith on vocals.

INTERVAL – the audience are treated for Stockholm Syndrome and there is discussion of a police negotiator becoming involved.

9.26pm – Just as the audience felt their tinnitus was subsiding, Fran Scott blew things up with aplomb, leaving the stage covered in coloured balls – A HEALTH AND SAFETY NIGHTMARE – like the last clues to the mass suicide at a jugglers’ convention.
A speedy Q&A with Carolyn Porco, Chris Lintott, Brian and me. Astronomy and drug references briefly fly before we find out that Johnny Marr goaded Brian to hit Phil Collins for sounding like he was a moon hoax believer.

Chris Lintott leaves us on tenterhooks about the quest for knowledge

Grace Petrie sings a love song to her dog and how it pissed on my shoes.

It’s sloth time with Lucy Cooke talked of sloths.

Ben Goldacre talked so fast, so very fast, still the hot nomination for next Doctor Who – time for epidemiology in the TARDIS.

Al Murray talked spaghetti.

and now THE CURE… (and they were damn good)

11.03pm and CURTAIN

and Friday was similar, but the show was a mere 3 hours 58 minutes.

No Steve Backshall, Al Murray, Paul Abel, Lucy Cooke, Scroobius Pip, or Jon Culshaw, but…

Milton Jones did the best Caterpillar joke.

Alice Roberts talked evolution.

Jim Al-Khalili joined our Q & A.

Nitin Sawhney and Nicki Wells created beautiful things with voice and guitar (so much so that Brian forgot to introduce Carolyn Porco, so I did (but not as well as he would)
“where were you?” “oh, I was watching Nitin and it was so lovely that I got my pointing figure caught in the backdrop”

Rufus Hound formed The Julias, a spoken word and music rendition of The Snail and the Whale.

Dara O Briain was his usual excellent stand up self, plus he finished on the solution to the equation Josie had pitched at the beginning of the show, that’s what the people wanted.

AND… Eric Idle swore with musical aplomb at the beginning – “go tell the elves, to fuck themselves” being one of the more delightful couplets. Though it is now lodged in my mind, and I have to rapidly shut my trap as I start singing it while typing near my 6 year old son.

And when Brian felt sad the show was over, well Eric was back, and everyone from the Cure to Alice Roberts sang “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”

The End of Robin and Brian’s Compendium of Reason, but Brian and Robin will return in Compendium of Solace in 2015. Tickets here.

Some people have said, “oh if I had known (fill blank here) was on, I’d have booked tickets”, but our rule remains, a few hints, but we always like to keep the bill a surprise. Not so good for marketing, but better for the night.

Happy Christmas

Brian and I are on tour in USA in March

I am in Australia in April

and I am off to Salford, Berwick, Swindon, Edinburgh and many more

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The quandary of time, variety and space – our night in Hammersmith

  1. sonmicloud says:

    It really does sound like an excellent evening. I’m left with an image of Brian Cox playing a very small piano, so thank you for that.

    – sonmicloud

  2. “Some people have said, “oh if I had known (fill blank here) was on, I’d have booked tickets”, but our rule remains, a few hints, but we always like to keep the bill a surprise. Not so good for marketing, but better for the night.”

    I knew, I was just in bloody France! The only connection I can make is, I am reading Prof Alice’s new book at the moment, and it is a damn good read.

    Merry Christmas!

  3. clare Smithson says:

    My bestie and I attended Friday 19th December and it was brilliant!! The whole show was amazing and my personal favourite bit, that I will bore everyone with for the next 12 months, I saw Robert Smith and The Cure perform!!!!
    Can’t wait until next year’s show to see if it’s better than this year.

  4. latambourine says:

    I think you’ve forgotten Jim Al Khalili. I am so deaf that I thought you said it was ‘Rufus Hound & the Juniors’. I want to give you more compliments about the show, but words fail me. When Eric came back on the stage after the Cure & I realized what was going to happen I just started saying ‘shit shit shit’ (in a positive way) to a random person standing next to me. Even though i’ve seen lots of people’s photos & videos I think I agree that I think it was some kind of mass delusion. Oh i know, i was also going to comment on Robert Smith cardigan wearing, hurray! Another fellow cardigan wearer for ‘our’ collection. 🙂

  5. It was one of the best nights ever – well done Robin and Brian! London Geek Chic were just 16 people this year, but we were blown away and will be bringing three times that next year! Thank you for the best science event of the year. Alice made my heart melt, Carolyn made my heart soar, but ultimately for me, Ben Goldacre just killed it. Imagine how clever he must be to talk that fast and still make sense…really hope that’s recorded somewhere; genius 🙂

  6. Dave Drake says:

    I was there on Thursday during my personal Science Week (Chris Hadfield at Foyles on Tuesday). Never been before. What a random but brilliant evening. Like The Lost Lectures but with more science (and explosions).
    Part of me wants to preserve the memory of something rather special and not go again, another part of me can’t wait to go again!

  7. Neil Denham says:

    What was beautiful was that I never knew what was going to be next, by the end if Jesus had come out on stage and played an accordion it would not have surprised me! A Great evening!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s