UCL News


Bright Club launches with 'Lust' at the Wilmington Arms

29 May 2009

Young Londoners with an appetite for lust got the chance to learn about the subject from every angle at an innovative new variety show this week.

Mark Carnall

Hosted in the Wilmington Arms in Islington, 'Lust' was the first of a series of shows, named Bright Club, run by UCL's Public Engagement Unit in order to introduce the talent and ideas of the UCL community to a non-academic audience of 20-40 year olds.

Comedian Richard Herring was compère at the event, providing appropriately smutty introductions to the UCL performers, who were drawn from across UCL's breadth of subjects.

Mark Carnall of the UCL Grant Museum of Zoology, gave an eye-popping slide show on the colourful sexual habits of the animal kingdom, from mate-eating spiders to turtle-humping whales, while Dr Cath Mercer, a statistician from UCL Epidemiology & Public Health, gave equally striking insights into the sexual habits of our very own species, drawing on edited highlights from the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles.

Rosie Coates of UCL Chemistry revealed why lust is better with a chemist, with investigations into our favourite aphrodisiacs (hint: oysters aren't worth the money, the Spanish fly maintains an erection only at the cost of extreme pain or death - and just like Shakespeare warned, alcohol may provoke the desire, but the results aren't always quite so satisfactory).

A literary perspective on lust followed an interval, with clips of early erotic films from film studies specialists Dr Claire Thomson and Richard Farmer (UCL Scandinavian Studies) incorporating clips of a snowy-white ankle, a skirt blown up in an air vent (half a century before that Marilyn Monroe photograph) and a train disappearing into a tunnel in a riot of double entendre.

Reynir Eggertsson, also of UCL Scandinavian Studies, proved wrong the common myth that our medieval ancestors were prudish, with his introduction to Boccaccio's sex-saturated work 'The Decameron', ending his spot with a spicy excerpt from the Icelandic saga of Bosi and Herraud.

Fast forward in time to the English Commonwealth, and PhD student Sasha Garwood (UCL English Language & Literature) gave a recital of the poetry of John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester. An infamous libertine, Rochester was banished from court by Charles II when he accused the pleasure-seeking king of prioritising sex over the affairs of his kingdom in the poem 'In the Isle of Britain'. Armed with a leek, a corset, and willing co-conspirator Matthew Wiltshire, Sasha gained whoops and cheers for her startlingly vivid performance of Rochester's bawdy verse.

The evening was finished off in style by local band Ginger Tom, who blended British indie, American rock n' roll, sophistication and sexiness to bring the house down.

Images from top: Mark Carnall and Rosie Coates


UCL context
Bright Club is a series of events run by the UCL Public Engagement Unit, in collaboration with One Green Firework Productions. It aims to create opportunities for UCL staff to engage with a new audience, primarily of
20-40 year olds, who have no existing relationship with academia. Bright Club participants receive training from comedians, and have usually never done anything like this before.

For more information on Bright Club, join our Facebook group, or email publicengagement@ucl.ac.uk

The UCL Public Engagement Unit is part of UCL's Beacons for Public
Engagement programme, funded by HEFCE, the UK Research Councils and the
Wellcome Trust.