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Archive for the ‘Robin Ince’ Category

Robin Ince’s School of Gifted Children May Ball – Bloomsbury Theatre

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Friday 7th May 2010

Considering I’d missed an earlier School of Gifted Children 5 weeks ago, I was determined to make it to the May Ball – Module One.

It was the evening after the early hours of the General Election result. With no clear winner, most of the audience seemed exhausted after staying up through the night to watch the race unfold. The only thing that was clear, was that nothing was clear. A slightly somber Robin Ince entered the stage, sharing the pain felt by most of the audience. However, an array of ‘gifted children’ from the worlds of comedy, science and beyond were backstage waiting for their opportunity to enlighten us.

It was up to Martin White, with his karaoke-style entertainment to give us a kick up the backside and awaken us from this nightmarish dream. With random audience answers defining the lyrics and musical notes, along with a 3 syllable title, Napalm Death was the astonishingly catchy outcome.

On stage next was Andrew Collins with his attack on the red squirrel brigade and their somewhat racist goal of wiping out the grey squirrels. He also let it be known that he’d like a robin to eat from his hand, a duck to give him a kiss on the cheek and to walk hand in hand with a pigeon. I wish him well with all his ambitions.

With her self-confessed Susan Boyle appearance, Susan Vale cracked on with ‘normally I just do gags about quantum physics and end with a joke about nobs, but I can’t because Brian is here tonight.’ With her enormous collection of CD’s from the Fall and audience participation, her routine was disturbingly funny.

‘Wonders Man’, Professor Brian Cox focused on the lack of government investment in scientific research. As I’d hoped, a spectacular slide show followed, with astonishing images including the Earth as a just a pale blue dot, along with the Milky Way in all its glory. Climate change deniers were provided with a lesson on ‘known’ facts, while astrologers who continue to correspond with him were told where to go in no uncertain terms.

Surprisingly, Dr Simon Singh was introduced next for a brief talk on libel reform, covering his ordeal with the British Chiropractic Association. He in turn introduced Ben Goldacre, focusing the plight of Dr Evan Harris, having lost his seat in the General Election to a Christian fundamentalist Conservative in the early hours. Both Simon and Ben arrived as a show of support for Evan, and after the 4th attempt to sound out the ex MP in the audience, he finally made his whereabouts known and the response was an immediate standing ovation.

The science talk continued with Adam Rutherford taking on mantle covering topics like ‘if we came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?’ He focused on evolution and genetics, with the latest evidence on the often maligned Neanderthal. Maybe we really are closer to them than we are led to believe.

Gavin Osbourn, still fresh from playing the music to Napalm Death earlier, gave the audience a superb performance on the first time he’d seen Professor Brian Cox on HD. So yet another ‘gifted child’, focusing on the rise and rise of the ‘young’ professor.

Marcus Brigstocke was to provide the finale with a bout of comedy to send us all home with a smile on our face. He didn’t disappoint with his magic numbers routine, along with one of my favourites, the London bus ad campaigns.

So that was it. Or was it? The headmaster Robin Ince came out once again to a fully enlightened, and extremely tired audience, to announce yet another special guest. This time it was Tim Minchin. Walking barefooted onto the stage, the audience were given a rendition of The Pope Song, the first time he’d performed it live. That was the icing on the tastiest cake ever made!

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The Big Libel Gig – Palace Theatre

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Sunday 14th March 2010

The Big Libel Gig at the Palace Theatre brought together united thinkers from the worlds of comedy, science and politics, addressing the unjust libels laws in the UK.

The event was created and hosted by Robin Ince in support of Dr Simon Singh’s libel case against the British Chiropractor Association. The BCA, ‘unhappy’ with comments made by Simon, used current laws to put together a libel case against him. At this point, due to the huge sums of money involved in defending yourself in the UK, up to 14 times higher than the rest of the EU, most people would just back down against a more powerful and richer organisation. Simon Singh had other ideas and decided to defend himself, even if it meant winning, yet losing out financially. Why be silent, when you think, or more likely, know you are right?

Arrived in Leicester Square and walked towards The Palace Theatre. It seemed as though the huge crowd outside was queuing for Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, but it was Sunday and it was their day off. Once inside, I noticed David Baddiel on my left, whilst a friend pointed out that Jonathon Ross was standing right in front of me. For years, I’ve been called ‘Baddiel’ due to a tiny resemblance, via a goatee and glasses, so I guess that’s why I didn’t spot Ross.

We took to our seats in the fourth row, just in time for Robin Ince to commence proceedings. He described the background to the ‘unfair’ case brought about by the BCA and how everyone could help make a change to current UK libel laws. This was explained further by Observer Journalist Nick Cohen, who was up first on stage. It was a pretty educational start to the night. Now time for Marcus Brigstocke to provide the first of many laughs at the event, with a fantastic routine on the London Bus Ad Campaigns.

It was clear by now, that we were all in for a very long night, but it’s doubtful anyone really cared. Dr Simon Singh illustrated his current predicament and the impact it has had on his family, as this libel case has been ongoing for the best part of 2 years. Then he played an intelligent reworking of Katie Melua’s Nine Billion Bicycles. A former member of the Astronomy Club, Katie met up with Simon, and offered to amend the inaccuracies in her hit song, to one that science were more likely to approve of. Superb.

Shappi Khorsandi continued to entertain the audience, before it was time for the politicians to have their say. Up first was the Lib Dem Dr Evan Harris MP, an active supporter of investment in science and changes to UK libel laws. Whilst a number of high-profile MP’s are in favour of Libel Reform and have signed the Parliamentary Early Day Motion 423, there are still far too many who refuse to do so. The baton was passed on to the Conservative Peter Bottomley MP, followed by Labour Paul Farelly MP interviewing Dr Peter Wilmshurst. It was very clear by now, that Simon’s case was not unique. Peter was also being sued for libel in a more bizarre and ludicrous case, with a hefty financial burden that would destroy many.

Back to the comedy. Tim Minchin’s clever musical rendition of ‘Storm’ was hilarious, followed by an enlightening science lesson by Professor Brian Cox. Ariane Sherine, the creator of the Atheist Bus Campaign, continued as Tim Minchin and the audience joined in with ‘Sing-A-Long-A-Simon-Singh-Song’. Simon’s hair clearly the main victim of the song.

An entertaining routine by Richard Wiseman, with a clever use of illusion and magic, began with the audience asked to choose a card from the 5 options. The couple next to me were so proud and shocked to have chosen the same card, only to be astonished seconds later that their chosen card wasn’t even one of the 5 cards that reappeared. The laughter continued with Ed Byrne’s witty routine on Right-Wing Christian Groups.

Time for comedy to be put to one side. You could hear a pin drop as Ben Goldacre spoke. He discussed the situation in South Africa, with the apparent disregard and admission to the severity of the HIV Aids virus. Concluding with his libel case brought about by a European entrepreneur, who didn’t take to kindly to Ben Goldacre’s examination of the science behind his money-making operation in the world’s poorest continent.

It was left to Dara O’Briain to wrap up the show with clever mixture of science and comedy, probably helped by the fact his wife is a doctor. Throughout all the routines, the BCA’s actions were shown to be pretty misguided. For instance, as Dara pointed out “how many infants actually complain about backache?”. An excellent routine to end a wonderful night.

It was a memorable evening and a big thank you must go out to Robin Ince and the other ‘performers’ for their humourous and enlightening take on what is an essentially a serious issue. It’s important for everyone to sign the petition on the Libel Reform website and for MPs to sign EDM 423. It’s just a shame that my current MP, David Burrows, does not feel the need to sign it.

UPDATE: Wow, a day after my blog entry and the BCA drops the case against Simon. Glad I could help! Hopefully Simon can fully recover his costs and then pass them on the Big Libel Gig’s audience who may now sue him to recover their booking fees! In any case, the fight for Libel Reform continues.