Thursday, 17 January 2019 Contact us

On the edge of our seats

On the edge of our seats

Just waiting for ‘The Four-Billion Story of Life on Earth’ to start.

Poor old John-Gordon Reid. He seems terrified that no-one’s going to turn up but already people are spilling in.

Dressed reassuringly in a bow tie (isn’t that what all academics are supposed to wear?) he’s perfect for presenting a talk on a wedge of world history most of us barely know about

Well, now it’s started and it turns out John didn’t need be worried about all - every seat is taken, full of families and, surprisingly, single people too.

“Your left finger is on the Big Bang and mine is on today” says John, calling upon his first under-10 volunteer, “so you’ll probably get the first round of applause of today.”

As indeed he just has.

Sadly - and appallingly - Blackwell Hall, which is open to the public, offers no wi-fi so I can’t upload this ‘live’.

So just accept this all happened about 42 minutes ago but the warm after-glow is still percolating through me.

“Hopefully we’ll get through four-and-a-half billions of history in about… 35 minutes,” says John, which he did with the constant help of a multi-pocketed coat and just about as many children as you could fit into a state junior school.

Indeed, I don’t think a single child was overlooked in John’s talk, with some willingly turning themselves into amphibians, and others enthusiastically becoming dinosaurs.

Of course with an audience of this type, tales of two-metre long millipedes are going to go down well, but even accompanying parents were on the edge of their seats and desperate to get involved.

You know, this is precisely the kind of event the Lit Fest does so well - it’s free, utterly accessible and leaves you almost fighting the inevitable: to leave sporting a huge, big, stupid grin.

Yes, the noise of baristas banging out people’s cappuccinos in the Bodleian cafe was an unnecessary interruption, but John and his audience managed to blank out this unwelcome distraction.

I liked this. I liked this a lot, and so far - although of course it’s only day two -  it’s been my favourite event.
Indeed, I’ve left feeling like David Attenborough though near near as intelligent….

FT Weekend Title partner University of Oxford BBC World Service International radio partner Bodleian Libraries Festival cultural partner Oxford Martin School Festival ideas partner Worcester College Worcester College: Festival college partner Irish Embassy, London Supporters of the Irish programme Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. Sponsors of the programme of American literature and culture The Dorchester Hotels Collection Festival London hotel partner Blackwell’s Festival on-site and online bookseller Head of Zeus The Macdonald Randolph Hotel The festival hotel Italian Cultural Institute HM Government of Gibraltar Festival green room sponsor Gibunco Group Sponsor of Gibraltar Lecture British Academy BBC Four Television Broadcast media partner Earthwatch Europe Ian and Carol Sellars Emily Rose and James Marrow Jill Dunsmore New College Lincoln College Lincoln College St Cross College St Cross College Jesus College St Hilda’s College St John’s College St John's College The Queen’s College The Queen's College Exeter College Exeter College Hertford College Keble College Keble College Oxford Brookes University Said Business School University of Oxford Mathematical Institute Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies The Oxford Times Regional media partner BBC Radio Oxford Local radio partner Bear Ram Elk Festival Digital Strategy & Web Design The Royal Society of Literature Royal Literary Fund Princeton University Press Felicity Bryan Associates University of Oxford Alumni Office Alumni Office Conference Oxford Oxford University Images Oxford University Images The Sheldonian Theatre Oxford University Press Floris of London Critchleys City Audio Visual Bayard Presse Eynsham Hall Macdonald Bear Hotel Sloane Club Ashmolean Museum British Humanist Association The Story Museum Oxford City Council The Litmus Partnership K T Bruce Photography K T Bruce Photography OX magazine Liaison Financial Services Steer

FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival partners & sponsors

FT Weekend Title partner University of Oxford BBC World Service International radio partner Bodleian Libraries Festival cultural partner Oxford Martin School Festival ideas partner Worcester College Worcester College: Festival college partner Irish Embassy, London Supporters of the Irish programme Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. Sponsors of the programme of American literature and culture The Dorchester Hotels Collection Festival London hotel partner Blackwell’s Festival on-site and online bookseller Head of Zeus The Macdonald Randolph Hotel The festival hotel Italian Cultural Institute HM Government of Gibraltar Festival green room sponsor Gibunco Group Sponsor of Gibraltar Lecture British Academy BBC Four Television Broadcast media partner Earthwatch Europe Ian and Carol Sellars Emily Rose and James Marrow Jill Dunsmore New College Lincoln College Lincoln College St Cross College St Cross College Jesus College St Hilda’s College St John’s College St John's College The Queen’s College The Queen's College Exeter College Exeter College Hertford College Keble College Keble College Oxford Brookes University Said Business School University of Oxford Mathematical Institute Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies The Oxford Times Regional media partner BBC Radio Oxford Local radio partner Bear Ram Elk Festival Digital Strategy & Web Design The Royal Society of Literature Royal Literary Fund Princeton University Press Felicity Bryan Associates University of Oxford Alumni Office Alumni Office Conference Oxford Oxford University Images Oxford University Images The Sheldonian Theatre Oxford University Press Floris of London Critchleys City Audio Visual Bayard Presse Eynsham Hall Macdonald Bear Hotel Sloane Club Ashmolean Museum British Humanist Association The Story Museum Oxford City Council The Litmus Partnership K T Bruce Photography K T Bruce Photography OX magazine Liaison Financial Services Steer