Wednesday 9 February 2011

A Year (or so) in Birmingham SitP

A Blogpost by Patrick Redmond

I’ve just realised that it’s been about a year since I first became aware of Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub. This coincides quite nicely with the calendar year (that is if you ignore the fact that it’s now February) and so I thought I’d do a bit of a review of 2010 and what we can look forward to in 2011.

The first I knew of the existence of the group was a Facebook page with people saying “lets do it” and “where shall we do it?” and no one actually doing it. That was until Adrian Bailey got things going and started booking events. Adrian is a man with so many fingers
in so many pies that Jack Horner can only stare on in professional admiration. He somehow managed to fit in some great speakers and even got 10:23 organised with a televised interview with David Gregory from the BBC, who would later return to talk to the group.

Simon Perry, the stalwart of fledgling SitPs had kicked things off in December, but the first event that I turned up for was actually a talk by Adrian himself, in January 2010. The speaker had cancelled and he stepped in. We were in the Board Room of a cavernous pub that had once been a bank. A room full of people crammed around a big table staring at a computer screen that kept going blank as the PC overheated. He carried on despite this and it was a great night. From these humble beginnings we moved on, although we have recently returned to that venue, Bennett’s, for our socials.

February saw Skeptics in the Pub transmogrify to Skeptics in the Classroom at Aston Uni as Rebecca Watson educated and entertained us. Having spent hours listening to her on Skeptics Guide to the Universe it was a thrill to meet her and Mr Rebecca Watson (aka the mighty Sid Rodriguez). Adrian had lined up some more speakers including the inimitable Iszi Lawrence and David Allen Green who made a return to the lands of his birth whilst the Singh vs the BCA case was at its height.

It was about this time that Neil and myself got involved. Between all of Adrian’s other commitments it was unfair to expect him to carry on doing everything. Possibly one of the best things to happen was Neil finding us a home at the Victoria. For a city the size of Birmingham venues of the type that we need are few and far between and this was a great move. The character of the place and the nature of the people that tend to work and drink there have made it a welcoming environment for our talks. I think the management have been blown away and gratified by the numbers that something as geeky sounding as Skeptics in the Pub draws in.

About those numbers, our secret statistician clocked around 40 in the crowd about this time last year. We now regularly attract well over 100 people and I see new faces at every meeting. We must be doing something right.

I won’t review every other talk of 2010 but I’ll quickly list the speakers that came as they each gave of their time and they each deserve a mention and a thank you. David Gregory, David Colquhoun, Chris French, Simon Singh, Andy Lewis of Quackometer, local girl Tracy King and to end the year in style the Mathmagician himself Matt Parker.

What does 2011 hold? Steve Fuller kicked us off in January by asking us what we were all about, quite a fitting way of starting the year really. You can check out our other website for upcoming events, but we’ve got a lot of variety in the offing. In short, booked so far, there are ghosts, tattoos, smutty songs, UFOs, Bad News, Scientology, psychopaths, and a comedian with insight into the future. If you can’t find something of interest in that lot then tell us what you want and we’ll see what we can do.

We want to do more and do it better and there are more organisers involved behind the scenes making that happen. I tend to get noticed because I stand up on stage at the events but I’d like to do my Oscar speech bit now and give out a special thanks to the other organisers; Adrian, Neil, Paul, Chris and Laura who take very little credit for what they do. I have to also mention the man who in many ways started it all by creating that Facebook page, kindly forced me into doing the podcasts and still offers all the support he can, the mysterious Mr Jon Donnis.

Without them the events and the socials wouldn’t happen, speakers would have no travel or accommodation, decisions wouldn’t be made, blogs not posted and the myriad of jobs that need to be done to make the show go on just wouldn’t be done. We’ve got lots of ideas and hopefully as these take shape we’ll be able to announce them. We mean it when we say that you should tell us what you want. This isn’t our SitP it belongs to everyone that walks through our door or considers themselves part of the group.

So, as I dab the moisture from my eyes I will urge you to sign up for the mailing list, sign up on Facebook, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, follow us on Twitter and get your backside down to the Victoria on the second Wednesday of every month, we’d love to see you.

Patrick Redmond was Born in Stoke and moved the vast distance to live in Birmingham. He is one of the organisers of Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub and presents the podcast.


Andy said...

Been a great year. Heard some excellent talks; met lots of wonderful people. May it long continue... :-)

Mark said...

Thanks for your help Pat!