26th June – Dr Nick Clarke – Mass Observation

Science of the people, by the people, for the people

Mass-Observation was founded in 1937 by one anthropologist working in Bolton and two surrealists working in London. For a brief moment in the late 1930s, before the surrealists quit, it sought to practice an experimental science of the people (studying the everyday lives of ordinary people), by the people (involving ordinary people as observers and writers), for the people (involving ordinary people as readers of this writing).

The democratic project was to make everyday life available for critique, to mobilise people as critics – of their own lives, the lives of others, and the conditions in which these lives were lived – and to facilitate public formation around emerging issues. This project was not particularly successful, but it did produce a fascinating book, May the Twelfth, based on ‘day-surveys’ by two hundred observers on 12th May 1937, the day of George VI’s Coronation.

In 2010, inspired by this book, the Mass Observation Archive at University of Sussex began collecting day-diaries annually on 12th May. For the next decade, they received a few hundred diaries every year, which they archived but were never really used by anyone.

Then on 12th May 2020 something changed. They received 5,000 diaries from people keen to record a day in the life of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nick used these diaries to produce his own book, Everyday Life in the Covid-19 Pandemic.

It attempts to provide a humanising, democratic account of the pandemic and how it was experienced in the UK – an alternative to the statistical accounts of epidemiology and the expert accounts of professional critics. It also attempts to revive the democratic project of the original Mass-Observation: science of the people, by the people, for the people.

In this talk, he discusses this project, his book, and everyday life in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Biography

Nick Clarke is Associate Professor of Human Geography at the University of Southampton. He studies governance and citizenship, taking approaches from human geography, political science, history, and cultural studies. His books include Globalising Responsibility (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), The Good Politician (CUP, 2018), and Everyday Life in the Covid-19 Pandemic (Bloomsbury, 2024).

Standard Stuff

Talks are usually on the 4th Wednesday of every month,  at 7:00 for 7:30, at The Winchester Club in Winchester.  Please take a look at the FAQs for more info.

Admission is £5 which also gives you an entry in the book raffle. We take cash and major cards (cards preferred).

The event is in two parts – the talk and then a Q&A after the interval. We encourage you to support the venue by indulging in the available drinks before and during the event.

You are also welcome to join us for a drink in the bar after the event.

22nd May – Prof Chris French – The Science of Weird Shit

Ghostly encounters, alien abduction, reincarnation, talking to the dead, UFO sightings, inexplicable coincidences, out-of-body and near-death experiences… Are these legitimate phenomena? If not, then how should we go about understanding them?

In this fascinating talk based on research for his latest book, The Science of Weird Shit, Chris French not only provides authoritative evidence-based explanations for a wide range of superficially mysterious phenomena, he also explores further to draw out lessons with wider applications to many other aspects of modern society– where critical thinking is urgently needed.

Paranormal psychologist Chris French will show that belief in paranormal phenomena is neither ridiculous nor trivial; if anything, such claims can tell us a great deal about the human mind if we pay them the attention they are due.
Filled with light-bulb moments and a healthy dose of levity, The Science of Weird Shit is a clever, memorable, and gratifying journey– with a conclusion you won’t soon forget.

Brief Bio

Chris French is Emeritus Professor and former Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit in the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and a Patron of UK Humanists. He has published well over 200 articles and chapters covering a wide range of topics. His main current area of research is the psychology of paranormal beliefs and anomalous experiences. He frequently appears on radio and television casting a sceptical eye over paranormal claims. His second to most recent book is Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience and his latest book, published in 2024 by MIT Press, is The Science of Weird Shit: Why Our Minds Conjure the Paranormal.

Standard Stuff

Talks are usually on the 4th Wednesday of every month,  at 7:00 for 7:30, at The Winchester Club in Winchester.  Please take a look at the FAQs for more info.

Admission is £5 which also gives you an entry in the book raffle. We take cash and major cards (cards preferred).

The event is in two parts – the talk and then a Q&A after the interval. We encourage you to support the venue by indulging in the available drinks before and during the event.

You are also welcome to join us for a drink in the bar after the event.

24th April – Dr Erica McAlister – Do we need flies?

You moan about them in your kitchen, you are filled with horror and rage at their persistence in trying to feast off you, and you turn away in disgust when spotting them feeding on faeces.

They are everywhere, they are in their millions, and they are the best animals on the planet. Yes, indeed, these much-maligned creatures are some of the most morphologically diverse and ecologically important species alive. They have been shaping this planets evolution and are thanking are still helping all that is on the planet, including ourselves.

In this talk, Dr McAlister will highlight the morphology, ecology and how these have bio-inspired our species to better look after ourselves.

Brief Bio

Dr Erica McAlister is a Principal Curator, Diptera and Siphonaptera, at Natural History Museum, London. Her research focuses on museum Collections, conservation Issues, ecology, and all things Diptera. She has undertaken fieldwork across the globe and is currently working on new species descriptions.

As well as all of this she has published popular science books – The Secret Life of Flies, The Inside Out of Flies and the latest Metamorphosis: How Insects Changed the World) as well as appearing in and presenting on TV and Radio.

Standard Stuff

Talks are usually on the 4th Wednesday of every month,  at 7:00 for 7:30, at The Winchester Club in Winchester.  Please take a look at the FAQs for more info.

Admission is £5 which also gives you an entry in the book raffle. We take cash and major cards (cards preferred).

The event is in two parts – the talk and then a Q&A after the interval. We encourage you to support the venue by indulging in the available drinks before and during the event.

You are also welcome to join us for a drink in the bar after the event.

 

27th March – Prof Michael Kelly – Are French and English secularist traditions so far apart?

Those who watched the coronation of King Charles III in May 2023 would be forgiven for thinking that England is the very opposite of a secular country. But appearances can be deceptive. This talk will compare the British and French traditions of secularism and suggest that, like France, England is on its way to becoming a secular society, but without having adopted the French lay principle (laïcité).

The talk follows the American philosopher Charles Taylor in distinguishing three major elements in the secularisation of Western societies: the decline of religious belief, the concept of religion as a personal choice of the believer, and the separation of church and state.

With regard to the first two elements, France and England are quite similar.

But in the separation of church and state, there are different historical contexts, which Michael will explain, and very different constitutional arrangements. He will argue, however, that the differences are less stark in practice than in theory.

Brief Bio

Michael Kelly is Emeritus Professor of French at the University of Southampton. Born and raised in Hull, Yorkshire, he studied at the University of Warwick and taught briefly in Caen and Coventry. He lectured at University College Dublin before taking the Chair of French at Southampton, where he worked for 30 years. He is a specialist in French cultural history, particularly focusing on ideas and cultural practices. He has also worked widely on language policy, especially on language education and on the relationship between languages and conflict. He has been a strong advocate for the study of other languages and cultures in the UK and in Europe. He was awarded an OBE in 2014 for services to higher education and European cooperation.

Standard Stuff

Talks are usually on the 4th Wednesday of every month,  at 7:00 for 7:30, at The Winchester Club in Winchester.  Please take a look at the FAQs for more info.

Admission is £5 which also gives you an entry in the book raffle. We take cash and major cards (cards preferred).

The event is in two parts – the talk and then a Q&A after the interval. We encourage you to support the venue by indulging in the available drinks before and during the event.

You are also welcome to join us for a drink in the bar after the event.

28th Feb – Fluke – Brian Klaas

Fluke: Chance, Chaos, and Why Everything We Do Matters

If you could rewind your life to the very beginning and then press play, would everything turn out the same? Or could making an accidental phone call or missing an exit off the highway change not just your life, but history itself? And would you remain blind to the radically different possible world you unknowingly left behind?

In this talk based on his new book, Fluke, social scientist Brian Klaas of University College London draws on philosophy, science, history, social science, and evolutionary biology to dive deeply into the phenomenon of seemingly random chance and the chaos it can sow, taking aim at most people’s neat and tidy storybook version of reality. Klaas argues that we willfully ignore a bewildering truth: but for a few small changes, our lives—and our societies—could be radically different.

So, why do we pretend otherwise? Offering an entirely new lens, Fluke explores how our world really works. How did one couple’s vacation cause 100,000 people to die? Does our decision to hit the snooze button in the morning radically alter the trajectory of our lives? And has the evolution of humans been inevitable, or are we simply the product of a series of freak accidents?

Drawing on social science, chaos theory, history, evolutionary biology, and philosophy, Klaas provides a fresh look at why things happen — and the lies we tell ourselves about our world.

Bio

Brian Klaas grew up in Minnesota, earned his DPhil at Oxford, and is now a professor of global politics at University College London. He is a contributing writer for The Atlantic, host of the award-winning Power Corrupts podcast, and frequent guest on national television. Klaas has conducted field research across the globe and advised major politicians and organizations including NATO and the European Union. You can find him at BrianPKlaas.com and on Twitter @BrianKlaas. Klaas lives in Winchester.

Standard Stuff

Talks are usually on the 4th Wednesday of every month,  at 7:00 for 7:30, at The Winchester Club in Winchester.  Please take a look at the FAQs for more info.

Admission is £5 which also gives you an entry in the book raffle. We take cash and major cards (cards preferred).

The event is in two parts – the talk and then a Q&A after the interval. We encourage you to support the venue by indulging in the available drinks before and during the event.

You are also welcome to join us for a drink in the bar after the event.

24th January – The English Language in the County of London: From the East Saxons to the EastEnders – Prof Christopher Mulvey

This lecture will show how Cockney English owes its origins to the Kings and Queens of the Kingdom of Essex. The story goes back sixteen hundred years, and it involves accents, class, snobbery, and rhyming slang.

The lecture will be given by Professor Christopher Mulvey, Trustee of the English Project and Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Winchester.

Brief Bio

Christopher Mulvey is a graduate of Magdalen College, Oxford. He received his PhD from Columbia University. His articles are numerous, and his books include Anglo-American Landscapes (1983), Transatlantic Manners(1990), William Wells Brown’s Clotel (2006), and A History of the English Language in 100 Places (2013). He is a trustee of the English Project.

Standard Stuff

Talks are usually on the 4th Wednesday of every month,  at 7:00 for 7:30, at The Winchester Club in Winchester.  Please take a look at the FAQs for more info.

Admission is £5 which also gives you an entry in the book raffle. We take cash and major cards (cards preferred).

The event is in two parts – the talk and then a Q&A after the interval. We encourage you to support the venue by indulging in the available drinks before and during the event.

You are also welcome to join us for a drink in the bar after the event.

13th December – Prof Leslie Carr – All A.I. Want for Christmas Is You

For our Christmas special, we are delighted to bring back the supremely entertaining Prof Les Carr who gave one of our most popular talks back in July.

We look forward to welcoming him back on Wednesday 13th December!

All A.I. Want for Christmas Is You

Christmas – the stable, the baby, the three wise men – might be called the greatest story ever told, but even God only gave it one star.

Professor Les Carr aims to do better by bringing a seasonal message of good cheer in the latest from science, technology and AI, featuring Rishi Sunak, Elon Musk and ChatGPT as the three ‘wise’ men bringing us unexpected and wildly inappropriate gifts.

Prepare to be entertained!

Brief Bio

Professor Leslie Carr is the Head of the Web and Internet Science research group and a Director of the Web Science Institute at the University of Southampton. He started stand-up comedy in 2017 and is a confessional storytelling comedian with a warm and engaging stage presence, performing standup regularly in London and at comedy venues around the South Coast. In 2022 he wrote and performed a show with his daughter, about their family colliding with technology and asking the question “is it easier to teach computers or teenagers to act like humans?”

Standard Stuff

Talks are usually on the 4th Wednesday of every month,  at 7:00 for 7:30, at The Winchester Club in Winchester.  Please take a look at the FAQs for more info.

Admission is £5 which also gives you an entry in the book raffle. We take cash and major cards (cards preferred).

The event is in two parts – the talk and then a Q&A after the interval. We encourage you to support the venue by indulging in the available drinks before and during the event.

You are also welcome to join us for a drink in the bar after the event.

22nd November – Dr Ana Aznar – Smacking children: What does research really say?

Whether or not to smack children still remains a highly controversial topic in some communities. Even though in many countries smacking your child is now illegal, some people still consider that it is the parents’ right to do so.

In this talk, we will examine what the research really says so that parents can understand the consequences of different methods of child-rearing.

Bio

Ana is a developmental psychologist with a special interest in family relations and children’s socio-emotional development. Born and raised in Spain, she moved to London where she completed a BSc in Psychology (The Open University), an MSc in Applied Child Psychology, and a PhD in Developmental Psychology (Kingston University).

Since then, realizing her passion for academia, Ana has worked as an academic at the University of Surrey and Winchester University. She recently moved to Rome where she continues to collaborate with different universities and where she has recently launched REC Parenting, an online platform for parents.

Standard Stuff

Talks are usually on the 4th Wednesday of every month,  at 7:00 for 7:30, at The Winchester Club in Winchester.  Please take a look at the FAQs for more info.

Admission is £5 which also gives you an entry in the book raffle. We take cash and major cards (cards preferred).

The event is in two parts – the talk and then a Q&A after the interval. We encourage you to support the venue by indulging in the available drinks before and during the event.

You are also welcome to join us for a drink in the bar after the event.

25th October – Fully Charged with Robert Llewellyn and Dan Caesar

Myths & Mindsets in a Decade of Electric Transport

We’re excited to announce that for this month’s talk, on Wednesday 25th October, we’ll be hosting the writer, broadcaster and actor Robert Llewellyn (Kryten in Red Dwarf, gameshow presenter of Scrapheap Challenge) for an in-depth exploration of ‘Myths & Mindsets in a Decade of Electric Transport’.

Ten years ago, Robert Llewellyn visited Winchester Skeptics to talk about electric cars. His infectious enthusiasm so transfixed the audience that many cite his talk as the reason they became electric vehicle (EV) owners!

Since then, consumer production models of EVs have become more readily available.

In spite of data which shows EVs are more efficient than fossil fuel vehicles, with reduced CO2, emissions and particulates, in a recent policy U-turn, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak kicked back the date for full transition to EVs to 2035, eliciting heavy criticism from the world’s major car manufacturers, who had already invested billions to meet the original deadline.

There’s also been a significant uptick in anti-EV media headlines. Pervasive stories about EVs have returned. Aren’t they too expensive? Too heavy? With dangerously flawed batteries? Can our energy infrastructure even cope with the demand? Are they really ‘greener’ anyway?

With 2023 global fossil fuel subsidies at a mind-blowing $7 trillion (IMF data) it’s no surprise there’s been pushback.

In this talk, Robert Llewellyn and Dan Caesar aim to get us up to speed on progress during the last 10 years of electric vehicle production. They’ll aim to demonstrate how the barriers to electric transport are primarily psychological, not engineering.

Bio

Robert Llewellyn is a British actor, presenter and writer, famous for his thirty-year stretch as the rubber-masked mechanoid Kryten in the much-loved science fiction comedy, ‘Red Dwarf’. With his interest in engineering, Robert then turned his hand to presenting the long-running TV gameshow, ‘Scrapheap Challenge’ and also ‘How Do They Do It?’ and ‘Carpool’.

In 2010, after being blown away by early Electric Cars, Robert launched Fully Charged, a YouTube channel focussing on the future of electric vehicles, of all shapes and sizes, and clean energy. Fully Charged has exceeded 55 million views around the world and Robert was recently acknowledged as ‘Tech Legend’ at the T3 Awards.

Standard Stuff

Talks are usually on the 4th Wednesday of every month,  at 7:00 for 7:30, at The Winchester Club in Winchester.  Please take a look at the FAQs for more info.

Admission is £5 which also gives you an entry in the book raffle. We take cash and major cards (cards preferred).

The event is in two parts – the talk and then a Q&A after the interval. We encourage you to support the venue by indulging in the available drinks before and during the event.

You are also welcome to join us for a drink in the bar after the event.

27th September – Prof Chris French – The Psychology of Ghosts and Hauntings

Do ghosts exist? If not, how are we to explain why so many people believe in ghosts with many of them claiming to have personally had a ghostly encounter?

This talk attempts to answer these questions by considering a number of psychological factors that may lead someone to reach for a supernatural explanation when in fact a natural explanation would suffice.

Brief Bio

Chris French is Emeritus Professor and Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit in the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and a Patron of UK Humanists.

He has published well over 150 articles and chapters covering a wide range of topics. His main current area of research is the psychology of paranormal beliefs and anomalous experiences.

He frequently appears on radio and television casting a sceptical eye over paranormal claims. His most recent book is “Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience” and his next book, to be published in 2024 by MIT Press, will be “The Science of Weird Shit: Why Our Minds Conjure the Paranormal.

Standard Stuff

Talks are usually on the 4th Wednesday of every month,  at 7:00 for 7:30, at The Winchester Club in Winchester.  Please take a look at the FAQs for more info.

Admission is £5 which also gives you an entry in the book raffle. We take cash and major cards (cards preferred).

The event is in two parts – the talk and then a Q&A after the interval. We encourage you to support the venue by indulging in the available drinks before and during the event.

You are also welcome to join us for a drink in the bar after the event.