tue 16/08/2022

The Lost Lectures, Westbourne Studios | reviews, news & interviews

The Lost Lectures, Westbourne Studios

The Lost Lectures, Westbourne Studios

New club for chic brainiacs gets off to a brilliant start

The Lost Lectures: brainstorming under the Westway

There are 300 or so people in the Westbourne Studios, although it was only a couple of days ago we knew we would be there. We are on the mailing list of The Lost Lectures, and this is the first one. Under the Westway in Acklam Road, we’re in Clash territory. Think of it as post-punk intellectualism. In the course of the evening, several speakers get up and have about 12 minutes to put their case.

Like a punk song, they have to make their points with maximum concision with no frills or drum solos. Tickets are a tenner and they say it sold out over a month ago.

Billed as “enchanting talk from secret locations”, clever marketing asked us to “keep it to a whisper”, ensuring we were flattered into going along by being in some inner circle. There were one or two teething problems. The tube to Westbourne Park basically stopped working, so quite a few people, including me, missed the words of wisdom of artist Gordon Young and Gavin Pretor-Pinney, author of The Cloudspotters Guide, who were we are told settling such pressing questions as who would win in a fight between a cumulo-nimbus and a nimbostratus.

The evening was rounded off by a magician dressed as dragon with a pet chihuahua

The other problem was the sound. I could barely hear Professor Elaine Fox talking about "Optimism and Pessimism". An experimental psychologist, she said that patterns of thought become hard-wired in the brain, but they are reversible. She recommended realism rather than blind optimism, walking and meditating. Fair enough: I could have told her that might work. But she had the lab results.

An interval had a giant “gorilla-sized” brain-shaped jelly being shared out and then we had David Barrie, social entrepreneur, talking about his "The People’s Supermarket" idea where locals work in the supermarket in return for discounted food. Apparently the bread is delicious and cheaper than Tesco.

Then there was an amusing character called Thomas Thwaites who set about making a toaster by going to abandoned iron and copper mines in Wales and melting down plastic. Actually, he only switched his home-made toaster on for about 30 seconds as it was quite clearly dangerous. He came over as rather whimsical; what it did remind me of was an art piece where somebody had traced where the components of a light bulb came from. Describing the dire conditions of the copper miners in South America gave a different, Marxist perspective on the simple act of switching on a light bulb. But you felt an unwritten rule of this evening was to keep things light and keep it moving along, aided by the MC and “Lost founder” Jullian K-S, who does something groovy with brand management in Soho.

The evening was rounded off by a magician dressed as dragon with a pet chihuahua, which wasn’t really necessary even if the idea of providing entertainment with ideas is sound enough. Looking at the crowd, there was a social, even romantic, undertow to the evening; unlike a club or most pubs you could actually talk, with ready-made topics of conversation thrown in. In the same way that book festivals like Hay are booming, The Lost Lectures appeal to an audience stuck behind screens all day who want to socialise and enjoy a good think as well.

Under the Westway in Acklam Road, we’re in Clash territory. Think of it as post-punk intellectualism

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