Monthly Archives: July 2011

Liverpool new developments: photo blog

Liverpool was back in the news this week.

The new Museum of Liverpool, the £72m development on the city’s World Heritage waterfront, opened its doors.

Given that summer holidays had just started, I took my girls to have a look around.

I thought the section on Liverpool writers was a bit sparse but the music section did cover Erics, Probe …

… and not just the Beatles.

Maya loved dressing up as a Chinese princess in the more compelling ground-floor section, which explores Liverpool’s place in the world as a key trading city.

And Olivia liked the soft-plat area as part of a good little gallery for children, a decent learning resource based around the alphabet.

The museum was packed on Friday and the cafe heaving at lunchtime, so we escaped to one of my favourite Liverpool boozers, The Baltic Fleet.

It was nearly empty, has some great ales on tap from the Wapping microbrewery in the basement and plates of Scouse for lunch.

Not bad for a ten-minute walk from the coach-party frenzy of the Albert Dock.

We didn’t stick around for the evening son-et-lumiere show but, if you’re in Liverpool this autumn, there’s more On the Waterfront during September.

We did pop into the exhibition at the Royal Liver Buildings to mark the centenary of Liverpool’s most famous landmark building.

My grandfather worked here in the Fifties for the shipping company, Palm Line Ltd.

The business is long since defunct but I’d love to hear from anyone who has memorabilia, documents or memories of the trading route from Liverpool to West Africa.

There will be tours of Royal Liver Building in September as part of the Heritage Open Days weekend.

I’ll be going back to explore in more detail and try to find the offices where Harry Millington, my granddad once worked.

More from Visit Liverpool.

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More talk than action with the bad scientist

Gillian McKeith in a white coat, Harold Shipman the mass murdrerer and Bruce Forsyth circa Play Your Cards Right. These are the characters who inhabit the world of Bad Science columnist Ben Goldacre.

I saw him speak last night at Glydwr University as part of the Wrexham Science Festival. The talk was being recorded for the Science Cafe programme on Radio Wales.

I like his column and often refer to it in my classes, especially to teach students about the importance of verifying their sources.

So I was hoping for some new insight on how we the media report on science. But, disappointingly, there was a lot of medicine and little on the changing nature of journalism.

Better reporting

The session ran over thanks to some poor interview management by host Adam Walton of Radio Wales.

We touched on reporting science only briefly in the truncated Q & A at the end. And the only advice he proffered was thus: “What popular science really requires is more editors and less writers.”

I think he means more subs. But it was his advice for reporting on science that really grated with me. “Make it about data not stories about people,” he said.

Data journalism is a fine area for students to develop but, ultimately, if you want to bring key scientific issues to the wider public, then giving them a human face is vital.

Playing up the human-interest angle is clearly a better way to engage readers than a phone-directory-sized report crammed full with baffling statistics.

Doing the rounds 

Ultimately I guess this was just another book-pushing session for Dr Goldacre.

I’d probably be trotting out the old faithful anecdotes by this point in the promo tour, too, if I knew they’d raise a moderate-sized titter from the crowd.

But, on this showing, I’m not moved to buy the book.

As Ben himself said, “There’s an element in all this of wanting to be a massive clever dick.”

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Filed under Glyndwr University, Journalism, Wales

Talking up a storm at Gladstone’s Library

“Life is short. Live it up.”

That was Nikita Khruschev’s best-known aphorism and my starter for ten last week when I attended the second Conversation Dinner at Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden, North Wales.

The concept, modelled on a project from the School of Life, is simple: three courses, changing table after each, and a set of pre-compilled questions to accompany each course and inspire discourse.

It is, according to the residential library’s warden Peter Frances, “An attempt to remember the lost art of conversation.”

The starter

Over chilled gazpacho, Robert, just retired, lead the charge on the issue of ‘What is the best age to be and why?’ When I revealed to the all-boys table my concerns about an upcoming and somewhat landmark birthday, he came over all paternal. I was quite touched.

I also learnt that a man is not considered an independent man until the age of 55 in Japan. So 15 years to go.

The Mains

The mains of grilled sea bass and new potatoes was served with a frisson of theology thanks to my companions on the next table.

Debating ‘If you could travel in time, where would you go?’, Andrew, a vicar from The Wirral, was keen to go back and see Jesus preach to satisfy his own scepticism.

I was tempted to do the back-to-the-future routine but my companions were less sure.

“What if,” says theology lecturer, Geoff, “you find your own tombstone.”

The desert

The more reserved desert-course table pondered the limits of compassion over lemon syllabub. Could we feel compassion for Colonel Gaddafi? We couldn’t agree.

But Barbara did chip in that, “No matter where you are in the world, just like this dinner, everyone brings something to the table.”

The coffee

By the time we retired for coffee to the resident’s lounge, a statue of Mr Gladstone himself looking around the room approvingly, the conversation was flowing freely.

We had covered why Facebook is a curse, why Belfast is the place to be next April (check the reference, Titanic fans) and why my golden period is still ahead – not behind me.

Most of all, I’d been amazed at how easily people opened up, divulged their inner-most thoughts and spilled the beans about their personal circumstances to a group of complete strangers. I couldn’t help but join in.

As I headed off into the North Wales night, I vowed to make Khruschev’s words my new mantra.

News of forthcoming dinners will be posted here.

Details of newly refurbished accommodation here.

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Filed under Travel writing, Uncategorized, Wales

The Flaming Lips at Jodrell Bank: photo blog

It was a night of Pulsar Astrophysics and psychedelia, headlined by The Flaming Lips.

We started with a touch of cosmology, the study of the origin and evolution of the Universe.

And did some experiments: infra-red sensors and recreating sound of the Big Bang.

Then Wayne Coyne turned up in his giant space bubble and we went to say hello.

By sunset I was turning into a robot while the crowd cheered, “Science, science, science.”

But the Lovell Telescope, our eye on the sky since 1957 and now bidding to become a Unesco World Heritage Site, was gearing up for action.

The Flaming Lips were about to take to the stage. That is, after Dr Tim O’Brian did his Brian Cox audition.

But it was the encore that really stole the show. Science meets psychedelia.

Here’s a taster.

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Filed under Northern England, Northwest, Uncategorized