From Sheffield to Zaatari – 24 hours of inspiration

We started this year’s 24 Hour Inspire with a celebration of the city of Sheffield.  City of beer, art and music – and all three were on offer over the course of the event (albeit the beer only in very restrained quantities).  This remarkable and moving video by playwright Chris Bush summed it up:

Straight into Sheffield music, from the Vivacity choir.

vivacityWe crossed all sorts of boundaries – those between the academic disciplines, for a start.  ‘Unweaving the rainbow’ brought together scientists exploring colour in physics and biology with a contemporary artist and with poets – and audiences could also explore an abstract virtual reality colour environment, and make their own contributions to a colour wheel.

We heard from a physicist at Durham University, talking about his family history in Poland, during the Nazi occupation, and from a physicist here at Sheffield, talking about Elizabethan/Jacobean revenge tragedy.

All in all, there were 45 talks, from 52 speakers.  Some were Professors, some were postdocs, some were PhD students – and some were Sheffield sixth formers talking about their work with our Outreach programme and how it’s helped their post-16 journey.  There was 36 hours of broadcasting on Radio Inspire, as well as live performances not only from the Vivacity choir but the Flute choir, and other musicians,

drama both on the radio and live (a production of an extract from Ice & Fire’s Asylum Monologues), poetry both on the radio and live (a kind of poetry ambush to mark the launch of the 2017 issue of the University’s creative writing magazine, Route 57).

And on the programme itself, blues piano and stand-up comedy, primary school science and mindreading.  A rich variety.

If there was a more fitting and inspiring way to bring this event to a close than Tony Ryan’s account of his work in the Jordanian Zaatari refugee camp, I really can’t think what it might be.   We saw how our experts are working with the experts already within the camp – the refugees themselves, whose ingenuity is being applied to many of the problems they face there. It was a reminder of one of the most pressing crises that we face today – the forced movement of peoples as a result of vicious war, persecution and starvation – and of what we have in common with those people, people like us, in circumstances we can barely imagine.


The 24 Hour Inspire started with the personal – our grief at the loss of a friend and colleague.  But even then it was a celebration, an assertion if you like, of what a University is for. And the need to assert those values seems more urgent now than it did in 2013

Firstly, we’ve been celebrating the contribution of experts.  Experts – ‘so-called’ or ‘self-appointed’ experts, to use the full term – have been under fire of late.  We have, apparently, had enough of them.  Well, no, we haven’t.  We heard from experts in all sorts of areas, people who’ve devoted their time, their energy, their passion to pushing further, digging deeper, shedding brighter light on the subjects they care about.  We heard how their work makes a difference, whether that’s in fighting back against disease, creating innovation, challenging received wisdom on all sorts of topics.

And secondly, we have been celebrating the intrinsically international nature of what we do here.  Here in Sheffield, academics from all over the world teach students from all over the world and work with peers from all over the world.  Just take a few examples from our programme.  Paul Collini, from our Medical School, is a UK citizen but his inspiration came from setting up one of the first HIV treatment clinics in Ghana, while based at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi (a place I remember from my own childhood, where my father taught Maths & Physics to a generation of young Ghanaians shortly after independence).  Kate Shaw, of Greek/British heritage, did her PhD here but now works in Italy and Switzerland, and we heard about the International Centre for Theoretical Physics’ outreach work, taking physics all over the world.   And Tony Ryan’s talk showed us how researchers in a UK University, with funding from an American alumnus, are working with Syrian refugees in a Jordanian refugee camp.

world map

Without the contribution of migrants, we’d have mustered only a measly 15 hour Inspire at best, and we’d have been exceedingly short of people to sell you wristbands and cups of coffee – this event has always been and will always be international.


The funds we raise are used closer to home, and this year will be shared between the Weston Park Cancer Charity and the Teenage Cancer Trust.  We’re very pleased to say that our current total stands at £2515, and our fundraising page is still open here.

It’s been a blast.  We had not only a programme of fascinating talks but wonderful live performances from poets, musicians and actors.  We had Radio Inspire on the air throughout, with interviews and music and quizzes and drama and poetry.  And as always there is a host of people to thank for making it all work so smoothly, for being so flexible, so generous with their time, so passionate about the event and the cause.  Not just the speakers, but the MCs, the DJs, the artists, the musicians, the bakers, the poets, the actors.  And the volunteers – we have had the most creative, enthusiastic and committed support from students both in the planning phase and on the day, and it’s been a privilege and a delight to work with them.

See below for the long list of thank-yous (with the usual apologies to anyone who has been missed out!).

This event means so much to us.  It is the expression in one 24 hour period of everything that Inspiration for Life stands for – our commitment to promoting lifelong learning, and the public understanding of science, and our commitment to support cancer research and treatment through raising funds for cancer charities.  It’s a celebration of the University, and a celebration of the people who make the University what it is.  It celebrates the life and work of two remarkable teachers and researchers, Tim Richardson and Victoria Henshaw.

It’s a joy to be part of it, and we’re already starting to plan for next year.  See you there?


Thank you to:

Accommodation & Commercial Services, Nate Adams, Tayla Adams, Naima Ahmad, Ramsha Ahmed, Jonathan Aitken, Daniel Albrighton, Cliff Alcock, Blessing Alele, Zoe Allin, Ana Amaruitei, Xiaomei An, Maja Antoniou, Carmen Apostol, Sara Bacon, Mehdi Bahadorkhalili, Harriet Barker, Stuart Barkworth, Amy Barratt, Rosie Barrow, Sean Barton, Josh Bason, Peter Bath, Nick Bax (Humanstudio), Georgie Beardmore, Claire Beecroft, Cormac Behan, Chris Bibby, Gulsah Bilge, Miles Bingham, Chris Blackmore, Jamie Blakeman, Wayne Bond, Frances Borthwick (PhySoc), Heather Bowen (Teenage Cancer Trust), Ryan Bramley, Luke Bray, Andrew Brodie (Vivacity Choir), Lucy Brooke, Chris Bush, Lorna Byrne, Ines Henriques Cadby, Campus Services, Hadrian Cawthorne, Ishita Chaterjee, Adrien Chauvet, Matthew Cheeseman, Lalitha Cheruvu, Liz Chesworth, Shedrach Chukwujekwu-Ezeokeke, Thea Chrysostomou, Mark Clowes, John Cockburn, Alex Colley, Rachel Collier-Wilson, Paul Collini, Jonathan Cooke, Debs Coupe, Sam Coveney, Georgie Darling, Ed Daw, Val Derbyshire, James Devan, Ana Dolan, Yuyang Dong, Ben Dorey, Laura Drew, Manuela Engelbert,  Imoh Essien, Paul Evans, Elena Rodriguez Falcon, Sam Fargher, Lucy Fell, Marie Flanagan, John Flint, Flute Choir, Forge Radio, Jess Forsyth (PhySoc), Drew Garnham-McEwan, Ian Gardiner, Heidi Gilchrist, George Gillard (PhySoc), Matt Hallett (Give as you Live), Simon Goodwin, Michael Goudreault, Jules Gray (Hop Hideout/Sheffield Beer Week), Becky Haire, Jon Hall, Lucy Hamilton, Shu Han, Melanie Hannah, Richard Hardcastle, Liam Hardy, Tricia Hart, David Hayes, Vanessa Hearnden, Tony Henshaw, Kristin Hildenbrand, Angus Hill, Lenka Hladikova, Jamie Hobbs, Ingunn Holen, Sam Holland (Theatre Delicatessen), Anne Horn, Christopher Howett, Ice & Fire, Amy Iveson, Peter Jalowiczor, Susan Jarvis, Joe Jeffrey, Dan Jenkinson, Lucy Jessop, John’s Van, Jenny Johnson, Chris Jones, Richard Jones, Sally Jones, Mbachi Kambele, Ruby Kell, Tom Kennelly, Aneurin Kennerley, Devni Kitulagoda, Ian Knowles, Dian Kurniawati, Jackie Labbe, Edward Lawrence, Jenny Lee, Brian Lewis (Longbarrow Press), Chuhan Li, Peggy Lim, Arron Lord, Graham McElearney, Jordan McElwee, Pat & Nick McGrath, Michaela McKone (Humanstudio), Adam McSweeney, Lucy Machin, Matthew Malek, Oliver Manning, Harriet Maxwell, Georgia May, Claudia Mazza, Matt Mears, Media Team, Pete Mella, Zihan Meng, Christina Metcalfe, Jost Migenda, Amalie Minarova, Kate Mitchell, Wyn Morgan, Fahmina Mridha,  Nic Mullin, Aysha Musa, Gemma Noon (Weston Park Cancer Charity), Yaseen Noorani, Patrick O’Hare, Kate O’Neill, Greg Oldfield, Ziqing Pan, Andrew Parnell, Amy Pearson, Catherine Phillips,  Jamie Pinkerton, Ana Popa, Print & Design Solutions, Yili Pu, Public Engagement & Impact, Amy Pullan, Chen Qian, Radio Sheffield, Diana Read, Angie Rees, Amber Regis, Ian Revill, Lauren Rhodes, Barbara Richardson, Isabel Richardson, Matt Richardson, Matt Robson,  Angie Rollinson, Komarine Romdenh-Romluc, Kathryn Rooney, Tony Ryan, Sacred Heart Primary School, St Marie’s Primary School, Maria Samodra, Jordan Saul, Adrian Scott, Chris Sexton, Beth Shaw, Kate Shaw, Sheffield Live, Sheffield Students Union, Sheffield University Drama Studio, Kelly Simpson, Adam Smith (York St John’s), Conor Smith, Jemma Smith, Agnetha Spencer, Natasha Steels, Hannah Stevens, Ben Stevenson, Brendan Stone, Nicola Strafford, Casey Strine, Anthea Sutton, Marek Szablewski (Durham University), Andy Tattersall, Simon Thake (Sheffield Live),  Harpreet Thandi, Theatre Delicatessen, Andy Thompson, Annabel Thompson, Neil Thompson, Nicola Thompson, Sarah Thursby, Victoria Tippett, Vanessa Toulmin, Dave Trickett, Bob Turner, Joan Upson, Gill Valentine, Rosie Valerio, Maria Vegro, Joy Victor, Vivacity Choir, Darren Wainwright, Maddy Wainwright, Alistair Warren, Richard Webb, Kim Weir, Mike Weir, Jess Wellburn, Xin Wen, Sovra Whitcroft, Adam Whitworth, Charlotte Wilcox (Room Bookings), Beth Wiles, Lindsay Wilson, Anjani Wirasinghe, Caroline Wood, Bethany Wootton, Tracy Wray, Angela Wright, Weilin Wu, Yi Yu

Special thanks to task group members: Georgie Beardmore, Jamie Blakeman, Frances Borthwick, Ryan Bramley, Mark Clowes, Sam Fargher, Jess Forsyth, Shu Han, Ian Knowles, Arron Lord, Aysha Musa, Greg Oldfield, Diana Read, Isabel Richardson, Nicola Strafford, Andy Tattersall, Nicky Thompson, Mike Weir, Caroline Wood



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