Brighton Fringe 2013
Unbound Meets The Catalyst Club
David Bramwell, John Mitchinson, Julie Burchill and Robert Llewellyn
Venue: Studio Theatre
Four speakers waxed lyrical on strange cults, giant animals, aspirational Judaism and positive science fiction, while plugging their books.
I have to declare my interests up front: I have been attending Brighton’s Catalyst Club since it’s inception, nine years ago, and currently hold the “record” for the most talks. Over that time the event has become somewhat of an institution, showcasing a wide variety of presentations on everything from giant squid and martinis, to tinned meat and John DeLorean. As creator and host, David Bramwell, explained, it’s about allowing people to share—for 15 minutes—a topic they feel passionate about, or more succinctly “Keeping the over thirties off the streets since 2004.”
Unbound is a crowd-funded publisher, releasing books by Terry Jones, Jonathan Meades and Kate Mosse. They often hold public events where authors pitch their ideas and the audience vote for the books they’d most like to see printed.
This evening was a blending of these two events, split equally in half.
Unbound publisher John Mitchinson kicked the proceedings off with a witty talk about his love for all creatures great and huge. As researcher for TV’s QI he is apparently the go-to-guy for everything animal, and he provided a litany of fascinating facts about the African elephant, the blue whale and the giant tortoise. The talk was also tinged with sadness and Mitchinson noted the increased extinction of the world’s largest beasts.
Bramwell followed up with a fascinating chat about a commune of time-travellers in Italy at a place called Damanhur. He had literally returned from the place the day before, and while I’d heard a similar talk previously, this was full of additional insights into a fascinating society who have built an underground shrine the size of St. Paul’s!
There was a quick 15-minute break, while everyone rushed to the bar, followed by the second half, which was more based around Unbound and its authors.
First up was Julie Burchill, reading from her forthcoming book, Unchosen, which explores her love and passion for all things Jewish, despite being a Gentile.
For someone renowned for writing such savage, biting texts, she seemed surprisingly fragile, nervous and was an uncomfortable public speaker—practically curling up in a foetal position in the chair on stage.
By contrast, actor/TV presenter/author Robert Llewellyn (Kryten from Red Dwarf) spoke eloquently about the reasons behind writing his successful first Unbound book, Tales from Gardenia, and its forthcoming sequel, News from the Squares. His love of technology, and despair of the surfeit of dystopian novels, drove him to write a sci-fi novel that yearns for a better, and technical feasible, world.
While the temporary relocation to the Dome Studio Theatre meant The Catalyst was oddly more formal and slightly less raucous than usual, the quality of the speakers made up for that. Perhaps the biggest disappointment was the lack of time to question each speaker, often the most interesting part of the evening. That said, it was a highly informative and entertaining evening.
I would recommend getting down to the Catalyst and experiencing it for yourself in the basement of the Latest Music Bar, but it’s already bloody hard getting tickets, so please, don’t come!