Over the past couple of years something odd has happened in London. The city’s inhabitants have defied their caricature as surly, cynical and self-interested and shown instead a remarkable thirst for knowledge. The latest event hoping to scratch the capital’s cultural itch is the Lost Lectures, which presents an eclectic line-up of six speakers in a secret location. The night we went, we learned about astronomical crowd-sourcing, saw a smiling picture of the new Belgian Prime Minister and found out what London’s secret rivers smell like, among other things.
Founder and compere Julian Kosicki-Slawinski was inspired to start the series by the Albert Einstein quote: “I have no special talent I am only passionately curious.” Leaving aside Albie’s self-deprecation, Julian wanted to offer an informal new space where intellectual fancies could be tickled. And where there’s a bar.
The stand-out talk of the night came from James Ward, founder of the Boring Conference, an event which was born out of a jokey Tweet that spiralled out of control. He makes out the conference focuses on “the mundane, the boring, the obvious and the overlooked” (think live milk taste-tests and a man who has documented every sneeze – time, location, strength– over a three year period).
But actually he spoke with passion and wit about the “transformative power of attention” and how to find the fascinating in the most unlikely places.
Also on the bill were Dr Chris Lintott, an entertaining astronomer who runs Zooniverse allowing anyone and everyone to help map the universe through “the very human property of saying what on earth is that weird thing down there?” and comedy duo Tom Williams and Matt Lacey responsible for Youtube super hits Gap Yah and Newport State of Mind. They spoke about how the online space has changed the comedy scene and gave us the great fact that 30% of videos make up 99% of all views on Youtube.
It was a pleasure too to hear Matt Brown of The Londonist describe some of London’s really secret spaces such as the plague pit under London Bridge (where he once spent the night) and the view from behind the iconic Piccadilly Circus billboards.
All in all an entertaining and enlightening night which is a worthy addition to the city’s many knowledge-hunting citizens.