The Catalyst Club

I’m a big fan of Ted Talks and heard that there’s going to be a TedX in Brighton so did a little web search and found the Catalyst Club.

The first time I saw a TED talk on the web what I wanted more than anything was to be in the audience, because I wanted to be with those people. The TED slogan Ideas Worth Spreading is what had me wanting to be in the audience at a Ted Talk. I was living abroad and hungry for connection (in my own language) with people who had that kind of curiosity and who were willing to risk having their minds opened to new ideas. So of course I went to the Catalyst Club – which invites speakers who can speak passionately about a single topic for 15 minutes.

Last night’s talks were okay. Nothing as earth shattering as the first TED talk I heard, but it made for a pleasant evening. If you look at the The Catalyst Club webpage you’ll see that host and creator of the event, Dr. Bramwell simply says: “Thanks to Rose, Lynne and Will for three excellent talks this month….” He doesn’t give their last names! Tch tch! Perhaps an entry made quickly on The Catalyst Club’s blog? Or perhaps part of a marketing strategy to create a little mystery and curiosity – as early last evening, before the doors opened, several people told me: “He doesn’t announce who the speakers are until the doors are opened and people are inside.”

Will Cottrell was the first speaker. He’s from the Brighton Energy Co-operative. He gave us a very brief history of electricity complete with an image of an electrocuted elephant (something I and many others in the audience could have done without!) as well as a brief discussion on how fossil fuels get to us (to unnecessarily justify the evident superiority of solar panels on roofs delivering energy directly to the building beneath!) He also talked about a few wind projects, as well as other renewable energy projects – mostly in Holland, and spoke very, very briefly about their current solar energy project which is to get solar panels on the roofs of local schools to provide the schools with renewable energy.

What he didn’t talk about was how the Brighton Energy Co-operative came into being, the struggles and successes they are experiencing, and their long-range goals. So what I as an audience member didn’t get was the passion that drives Will to do what he does, and a brief look at his bio on the co-op’s About Us page tells me he’s got stories to tell and I’ll bet travel pictures a plenty to show!

Note to Will: I suspect you usually deliver talks to get people to sign-up and buy shares and therefore are used to explaining why people should be investing in renewable energy – though I think the audience last night was pretty-much the converted and I, for one, would have loved to hear about some of your passion. And I think I told you that when I spoke to you afterwards and said it was an interesting talk but I would have liked to hear more about how the Co-op came into existence. And look at this! Your colleague Damian Tow touches on it here: How Did We Get Here. But don’t despair Will – it was an interesting, well-presented talk. Just a wee bit dry. Next time, please give us more of your passion and what drives you to want to put solar panels on roofs! Make me excited – please!

The next talk was given by Dr. Lynne Murphy who is an American linguist working in the linguistics department at Sussex University. She talked about differences between British and American English, but more to the point she gave specific examples of American spelling and pronunciation which she says the British criticise (or is it criticize?), and showed us that in actual fact it’s the British who have buggered the language and the Americans who are saving it! Her talk was quite entertaining, complete with video clips of David Mitchell’s Soapbox and provoked lots of commentary and questions from the audience. Indeed, there were more hands raised for questions than there was time for answers! I shouted louder than anyone else to get in the last question, which was: What do you have to say about Sarah Palin’s “refudiate”?

Interestingly enough Dr. Lynne said it hadn’t made Word of the Year, but I guess that must depend on who’s doing the naming and what you’re reading, because the New Oxford American Dictionary made it Word of the Year (Maybe refudiate will be Sarah Palin’s lifetime achievement?) Dr. Lynne was definitely passionate about her topic.

Read Dr. Lynne’s Word of the Year here

For some American humour look here:

The last speaker of the evening was Rose Collis, author of The New Encyclopaedia of Brighton. She started off by telling us a few historical tit-bits (or tid-bit if you insist!), like the building we were sitting in, which is currently The Latest Music Bar, was once a YMCA boys club, and finished off by telling us about Brighton’s 6 to 20 foot (depending on who’s reporting) high tsunami, and in between gave us a very long, detailed account of Colonel Victor Barker – who was a woman who lived as a man.

Colonel Victor Barker

Rose Collis spoke passionately about her topic and I am sure she went over her 15 minutes, as there wasn’t time for questions at the end! Pity, as I really wanted to ask her where she gets her facts and stories, and how she differentiates between fact and fiction.

Note to Rose: Try building a talk about Colonel Victor Barker, and only Colonel Victor Barker. And please up the technical game a bit and include some pictures and news clippings. She sounds a great character, and you obviously love to talk about him/her.

And the people in the audience? Did I meet open-minded, curious types? It seemed so. I even bumped into a blues guitarist whose playing I’ve admired! And that both pleased and surprised me, indeed!

3 thoughts on “The Catalyst Club

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  1. I should mention that The Catalyst Club has been going for about 6 years now in Brighton and my compliments to David for getting it going. Hats off to you! Bravo for a job well done.

    1. Something else to mention, because tickets generally sell out and people are turned away at the door, the Catalyst Club will sell tickets in advance through the bar at the Latest Music Bar. I guess it’s going to become one of those exclusive clubs. Moving to a larger venue would change the atmosphere, and the intimacy of the current venue works well – though I wonder if the Basement might create the same intimacy with more space?

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