This short film gives a wonderful flavour of what it was like to be part of the 24 Hour Inspire this year. It was, once again, extraordinary, a delight and a privilege.
For a start, the talks. From the Big Bang to the smaller but still quite startling bang that ensued when Nate Adams set fire to Professor Vanessa Toulmin. From the beginnings of the universe to research that’s hot off the press, and the source of some lively disagreements amongst our speakers. Across history from the home villages that our ancestors came from long ago, through to the twentieth century and the pity and horror of its two world wars. From the abstract to the deeply personal. From the tiniest things – spider silk, minute insects (with some very bizarre habits) – to the biggest telescopes and the Large Hadron Collider, and to the vastness of the cosmos. Several talks focused on our health, from a personal account of living with illness, to sperm banks, brain blood flow and MRIs, and to the latest news from the front line of cancer research. We travelled to South Africa, to welcome the dawn with their national anthem, to the Parisian suburbs, to China with the catalytic clothing project, Mozart’s Vienna, 16th century Rome, CERN and deep underground in North Yorkshire, and wartime Warsaw – and back home to Sheffield, city of immigration. Even with that long list, there are so many talks that I’ve failed to mention – but with a programme like that, all we can do is to give some little glimpses, some impressions.
And as well as the talks we had musical performances in the cafe, from guitarists, a flute quartet and a choir, as well as Ed Daw’s legendary blues piano.
It really shouldn’t work, and it really should have been a nightmare to put all of this together. But it did, and it wasn’t. People wanted to be involved, whether by giving a talk, or baking a cake. People wanted to be part of it, and so they volunteered, and offered their time and their expertise. And when things threatened to go awry, as a couple of speakers had to pull out fairly late in the day, the problem was solved almost as soon as it was identified – within (literally) minutes, replacement speakers had stepped in, and all was well.
The atmosphere and ethos of the 24 Hour Inspire is so very Tim. It celebrates his passionate commitment to learning, as something that goes on throughout one’s life, something that makes a real difference. It celebrates his refusal to be pigeonholed – he was a scientist, of course, but also an artist, a poet, a linguist, someone who was interested in lots of things and wanted to communicate that interest to other people. And in the laughter that was part of so many of the talks, and the informality (even in the grand surroundings of Firth Hall) of speakers and audience being in their jimjams, we celebrated someone who was funny, warm and irreverent. Last year when we did our first event, those of us who knew Tim were grieving so intensely that it was hard to do that fully – though we did laugh, because too much solemnity felt so inappropriate – but deep sadness was always threatening to overwhelm us. There were moments when it did.
A year on, even as we laughed, danced, sang, listened and learned, many of us still had tears for the loss that we continue to feel. And as people queued up to buy their copies of Tim’s diary, For When I’m Sleeping, they knew that their hearts would be broken, but also that they would be inspired. Tim started writing when he was first told that he probably had cancer, and he drew it to a close (he hoped it would be Volume 1 of several, but that was not to be realised) after he finished his chemo, and learned that the treatment hadn’t halted the progress of the disease. During these months, of hope and despair, Tim’s diary shows him seeing the world around him more and more intensely. We hear his thoughts on human relationships, on garden ecology, on the exquisite beauty of snails, on light, and the quality of surfaces, and on the origins of life. And we hear him, as a scientist, edging carefully toward the biggest questions of all, questions of faith, and love, and what we are here for…
Information about how to purchase the diary will follow shortly here, and on the Inspiration for Life website. We will be also posting lots more about the event, photographs (official and unofficial), the twitter archive, and links to the talks themselves. And we’re already starting to think about next year – we’ve got an excellent and growing list of speakers already!
So, from Inspiration for Life, thanks to all of those who contributed, who made the event such a rare example of true collaboration, collegiality, and community, expressed in the most practical and the most profound ways. Everyone listed below played a part.
Accommodation & Campus Services, Elizabeth Adams, Nate Adams, Zahra Ahmed, Alumni & Development Services, Izzy Archer, Ruth Arnold, Peter Bath, Donna Binyon, Huw Birch, Kamal Birdi, Mike Braddick, James Bradford, Katie Brooman, Sharon Brown, Lauren Browning, Carsten van de Bruck, Russell Buchan, Keith Burnett, Ashley Cadby, Stewart Campbell, Susan Cartwright, Dave Cavill, Robbie Chapman-Thong, Lisa Clark, Nigel Clarke, John Cockburn, Davide Costanzo, Ben Cotton, Harriet Coulthard, Amanda Crawley Jackson, Terry Croft, Sarah Cross, John Cully, Kieran Darcy, Ed Daw, Val Derbyshire, Stavrina Dimosthenous, Jamie Doherty, Nicola Donkin, Ellie Dougherty, Dave Draper, Alan Dunbar, Beth Dunne, Branislav Dzurnak, Lygia Eleftheriou, Eran Elhaik, Sam Fargher, Catherine Fletcher, Jess Forsyth, Tom Foster, Jonathan Frazer, Jenny Freeman, Helen Gentle, Izzi Gessey, Tom Goodall, Simon Goodwin, Valeriya Gosteva, Hallway District, Jack Hampson, Margaret Hart, Mary Harvey, Angela Harvey-Watson, Rhoda Hawkins, Tim Heaton, Ines Henriques, Tracy Hilton, Lynette Hodges, Xanthe Hoad, Ingunn Holen, Chris Holland, Clare Howarth, Gill Hughes, Susan Jarvis, Jessop Flute Quartet, John’s Van, Amy Jones, Glenn Jones, Richard Jones, Juice Choir, James Karanicholas, Simon Keefe, Aneurin Kennerley, Charlyn Kindermann, Marie Kinsey, Ian Knowles, Krebs Cafe, Joe Langlands, Martin Lewis, Tom Loades, Doris Lowman, Claire McGourlay, Pat McGrath, Ursula McGuone, Fran Marshall, Lucy Martinez, Caryn Masters, Harry Matthews, Matt Mears, Sarah Medway, Sally Anne Merrett, Julie Milner, Paul Mitchener, Susan Molyneux-Hodgson, Pravina Moses, David Mowbray, Val Mowbray, James Mullaney, Chris Musgrave, Marieke Navin, Charlotte Nicolaou, Rod Nicolson, Greg Oldfield, Sarah Oliver, Tamzin Owen, Allan Pacey, Sean Paling, Jeanette Peat, Jonathan Perkin, Stacey Perkin, Monifa Phillips, Portering Services, Tony Prescott, Print & Design Solutions, Jack Proctor, Amber Regis, Barbara & Keith Richardson, Liam & Matt Richardson, Sue Richardson, Alex Robertson, Elena Rodriguez Falcon, Tony Ryan, Chris Sexton, Thomas Sexton, Lorna Sinclair, Mike Siva-Jothy, Ruth Slattery, Richard Steadman Jones, Miles Stevenson, Brendan Stone, Marek Szablewski, Louise Taylor, Katie Tehrani, Lee Thompson, Vanessa Toulmin, Chris Turgoose, Rosie Valerio, Joseph Walker, Michael Walsh, Alastair Warren, Kim Weir, Mike Weir, Ben Wesson, Paul White, Hannah Wilson, Colleen Winter, Angela Wright
If I’ve missed anyone, let me know and I’ll add their name to the list.
And, of course, and always, thanks to Tim.