From the sublime to the ridiculous

A little while back, Jo and I attended an event at the Wellcome Centre in Euston. This is one of my favourite places to visit in London, packed full of unusual curiosities and thought provoking exhibitions, I always learn something or feel inspired after a visit. Encouraged by the title of this event, Wrong!, and the fact it was on a Friday night, Jo and I ascended the stairs wondering what surprises awaited us. As we browsed our little info booklets handed to us by a smiling assistant we were bypassed by a band, dressed rather strikingly, who nestled themselves into a corner of the lobby and started playing rather comic songs. They were performing under the name Carnival of Fools, and their song lyrics consisted of error confessions of the general public submitted to the Centre prior to the event. Utterly hilarious.

We only heard their performance towards the end of the evening and after a couple of drinks which made them even more entertaining.

The first segment of the event we participated in involved us writing an error of our own on a card and sitting in a small group with a ‘therapist’ discussing the nature of error and human nature for about ten minutes.

The next room we entered was hosting about four different kinds of games designed to confuse and subvert one’s logic. One we watched involved participants being shown a flashcard a random image as well as an unrelated random word. The aim was to then say another word out loud that was also totally unrelated to whatever was on the card. Really difficult when you’re being timed! The second game we decided to participate in – chinese whispers. The words however were on a sheet of paper given to the first person in the line, and they were three letter sequences which completed an actual DNA sequence. The last person would then write down what they heard as the ‘words’ were whispered down the line, and then the complete set was evaluated to see whether we had evolved, remained the same or in fact made ourselves extinct. It must be mentioned though, that whilst we were whispering and trying not to giggle there was someone blowing up balloons attempting to pop them to distract us. Frightening thought.Our sequence was one of the most accurate thus far that evening, problem was we made a wrong move and made ourselves extinct by the fourth ‘word’. We received stickers with a red symbol as a result – which I took as a badge of honour.

We participated in a memory experiment next (an official one through Holloway Univeristy) called The Malleability of Memory which delved into the accuracy of eyewitness acounts. We were shown a video, distracted by a word search puzzle and then asked to identify certain details from the video we’d seen. I don’t think I’d make a good eye witness…

The whole evening was such a blast and so stimulating. I must say I felt quite grown up and intellectual wondering through libraries, even whilst holding a drink, on a Friday evening. I could almost hear the synapses firing.

Jo and I continued the festive mood and carried on the discussion at a couple of local bars and I was amazed to find myself on a bus home at 3.30am (sticker still intact). I feel so spoiled to live in a city where amazing events like this are regularly occurring. I very much look forward to the next one…