Below you will find a photo-journal from The Institute of Ideas' 'Genes and Society' Festival event Paul Kane attended in London on the weekend of 26th-27th April 2003
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One of the first panel debates is 'Genes and Longevity: How Long Should We Want to Live?' The guest speakers include the novelist John Hands (author of the forthcoming Immortality), Phil Mullan (author of The Imaginary Timebomb), Richard Ashcroft, a senior lecturer in Medical Ethics at Imperial College, and David Wynford-Thomas, Professor of Pathology and Director of Cancer Research UK at the University of Wales College of Medicine. The heated and often entertaining session was chaired by the delightfully witty Tiffany Jenkins from the Institute and held upstairs in the Gallery, where they also have an exhibition based on Genetics which includes fashion design.
And situated right next door is the popular Theatre Bar. Yes, it does serve Smirnoff before you ask.
At the same time as the Discovery film screening, there's also a session about Genetic Broadcasting...
Another interesting debate follows on the topic of Stem Cells, this time featuring guest speakers Robin Lovell-Badge, Head of Division, Developmental Genetics, MRC National Institute for Medical Research, Alistair Kent, the director of the Genetic Interest Group, Simon Best, BioEthics spokesperson for the US and UK Biotechnology Industries and Dr Stephen Minger from the Centre for Neuroscience Research, King's College...
Saturday night, and it's time to see what London can offer in the way of nightlife these days...Then back for a nightcap in the hotel bar and a practice of my speech for the next day.
The festival is also dealing with the cultural concerns of genetics, which is where I come into it. Sunday morning, and the name of the session I'm speaking at is 'Sci-fi Futures: Popular Films and Contemporary Concerns'. It's due to take place in Studio 1 at 11:30, but I'm to meet the other panel members at 11:00. The Chair is Dolan Cummings, who introduces me to a really nice bloke called Sandy Starr - TV Critic for The Sun and regular contributor to Spiked. The very down-to-earth Louis Savy is the next person I meet, organiser of the excellent Sci-Fi London film festival - who is very excited to have just acquired the cinematic world premiere of Aliens: Special Edition for the festival. Soon we're all chatting away in the speakers room, but with one eye on the clock as it ticks round to 11:30.
Nigel Floyd is the last member of of team, and arrives just as we're about to go in. I can remember reading Nigel's stuff for the late, great Shock Express, although now of course he's a broadcaster, writes for SFX and Fangoria, and is a consultant to the Sci-Fi Channel. It's really hot under the lights at the front as we sit down behind the table, ready to begin. I'm up first and my mouth's very dry - but the speech goes okay I think, and it's fascinating to hear what the other panelists have to say. The audience questions come next but they're a really nice bunch, including famous SF author Ken MacLeod (The Star Fraction, The Stone Canal and Engine City). Ken is here to talk on the next panel, about SF Futures in literature.
Copies of Touching the Flame are also on sale in the foyer after the session finishes at 1:00, next to various other publications. 'If Paul impresses you, go and buy a copy...' says Dolan. No pressure, then.
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