Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Christmas lectures: Lecture 1

So things all got rather busy of late, hence the lack of update. So this is a sort of retrospective update

The week leading up to the first lecture I ended up getting a bit more hands on with the preparation work, helping move things around the building and constructing the shelving units for the lemon batteries. There was also the photographer brief to write, the volunteer press releases to write, volunteer forms to print out and stick onto clip boards and advent video's to advertise and update on storify.

The demo room with the lemon shelves

Our job for each lecture was to sit in the screening room and watch the lecture with a script and a pen in front of us. When a volunteer stepped up to help Saiful, we noted down their name and something memorable about them (e.g. lime green jumper), so we could identify them later on. After the lectures, when the volunteers headed over to the Windfall team to sign the release forms to say they were happy to be on TV, we were to ask them if they were happy for us to chat with them, ask a few questions and then send off the answers with a photo to the local press for their area to promote the lectures and give the kids their 5 minutes of fame.

Lecture 1:

The first lecture was filmed on the Saturday evening on the 10th December. I arrived at the Ri for 2pm as I had to give a tour of the building to a group of people at 3 and had a bunch of stuff to do first (Not in the least learn all the info for the tour!). It was pretty strange coming to work on the weekend, mainly because it was daylight and there were so many fewer people on the tube in comparison to normal!
Saturday was also the day I had my first bursary student coming down from Gloucestershire. We ran a competition for schools in the area to tell us why one of their students should be the one to get an all expenses paid trip with a guardian to come and see the lectures and spend the night in London. The four of us who looked at all of the entries were pretty unanimous in our decision - the kid we chose had had a really rough time of late, but had such a passion for science and he needed something good to happen in his life.
The tour went pretty well. I met Anthony and his guardian when they arrived, and it was so nice to watch him loving every moment of the trip. He's the kind of person I would have love to have known at school, so we could have shared an enthusiasm of all things science. The whole group was just lovely, and I managed to sneak them into the rehearsal just as Sir Richard Dawkins walked on stage to practice his iconic swinging cannonball demo

Once the tour was finished, the building went into full preparation mode. All of the stewards were briefed, wired up with radio's and hurried off to their positions. I ended up running around trying to sort out a visitor who had ended up hurting himself walking around and making sure he had water and a chair and such. Not the most relaxing start to the evening!
I did also get to sneak behind the scenes and get some sneak peeks and some photo's of the rehearsals before the lecture started, including watching the Tesla coil practice! It was very cool. I do love Tesla coils. We were so close to not getting them in the end, as what Saiful said in the lecture about the previous time we had a Tesla coil in the building leading to half the block being fried was true! Thankfully the guy came to our rescue, and was very lovely.
The crowds started entering the building at 4.30pm, and they all walked across the special energy generating floor, which was put in the wrong place so they all had to take a weird detour to do so. Then things started to go a little wrong. Lecture 1 was by far the most complicated of the three to sort out in terms of demo's and getting things on and off the stage, so rehearsals were overrunning massively. So the audience, who were supposed to start being seated by 6 didn't end up going in until around 7.

The rube goldberg machine on the night we filmed it

I found the lovely young scientist journalist Tavleen in the crowds and took her up to the screening room where we were to spend the evening watching the events in the theatre. At first it looked like it was going to be nearly empty, but soon the people started flooding in and we had to get more chairs brought up!
There was a real energy about the building all evening, excitement from the audience mixed in with frustration at the wait, and the stress and enjoyment from the staff as they all whizzed about doing the best they could.
Finally though the lecture started, with me, Ailie and Ant perched on the floor in the library fireplace so we could see the screen. Saiful, Tasha, Rosie and the team did a wonderful job of a very difficult lecture. Saiful kept smiling and making jokes, Matt the mathematician rallied the audience during the gaps, and the floor team worked hard to make the complex demo's work. The rube goldberg went wrong as of course those things always do, but eventually it set off the big wavy man and the lecture continued. The rookie mistake of taking the girl (called Alex) to the mens toilets to look at the 'pee power' station occurred, but that was soon sorted out.
Everything you saw in the lectures really happened - the roof was kitted out with a wind turbine, the mens loo's really had a pee power station, and the cake at the end iced by Selasi was actual cake (not baked by him, and insanely sweet).
Sadly the lecture ran on so long that our little team gave up on our job for the night and headed off before the audience had finished leaving the theatre.

I got to meet Selasi from Bake off and have cake! (Sadly not baked by him)

The buzz in the building all evening was tangible. It was a shame things went so wrong that first night, but in the end the majority of people still had a fabulous time. It felt great to hear back from my bursary winner about how much of a good time he and his guardian had had. To have played a small part in giving him that chance just felt great. And the staff seemed to have a good time, I certainly did!

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