(A) Public Engagement

On Tuesday night, Jo Hall and I -along with about twenty-something other people- attended an Open Mic Night for science-inspired fiction at the Centre for Public Engagement in Bedminster, hosted by Tania Hershman, Writer in Residence at the Science Faculty of Bristol University.

The Centre is part of Bristol University’s plans to be more open and to interact with the public on a regular basis, countering such charges as that higher learning facilities are ‘ivory towers,’ irrelevant to today’s society.

I already knew Tania from her guest lecture at Bath Spa University last year, in which she encouraged the audience to write flash fictions from randomly chosen sentences. That indirectly led to my sale of ‘Chameleon.’

Open Mic nights are events where members of the public turn up with a piece of work which they read aloud to the audience. They are more commonly associated with poetry in my experience, although they’re also widespread in music.  This is the first time that I’ve seen one tried for anything like SF or related fields (Tania’s definition of ‘science inspired fiction’ encompasses SF, but includes anything that has a relationship of sorts with science).

It was a fascinating evening — several people read poems, some of them very good (I shall treasure one woman’s fantasy of impregnating Professor Brian Cox for a long, long time). Jo read ‘Pirates of the Cumberland Basin’ from Future Bristol, while I read a selection from ‘Spindizzy’ from Dark Spires.

After the readings we chatted a while and I got to know some of the rest of the audience -and I already knew at least a half-dozen people there from the BFSF Society monthly meetings.

I hope Tania will host other such evenings, because she’s very good at putting people at their ease, and her own readings were both entertaining and  enlightening — she’s written some very good stories on the interface between science and the literary world, two areas that often have little time for each other. We also get to use facilities such as the CPE, rather than meeting in commercial locations like pubs or hotels. 

It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

One Response to “(A) Public Engagement”

  1. Colin,
    thanks so much, I enjoyed it as much as you did, I was delighted to see so many people interested in writing and reading fiction & poetry connected in some way to science. (The impregnating Brian Cox poem was incredibly memorable, wasn’t it?!) I do hope it happens again. I would quite like to be a participant next time though… so we might have to rope in another host!

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• April 21st, 2011 • Posted in Appearances • Comments: 1