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Hello to Autumn with Sunday Papers Live! By Kerenza Evans

Unlike most of my pals, I quite look forward to the end of summer. Sure, I love days at the beach, frolicking in the park and other bucolic delights, however I’ve always resented the guilt that comes with the warmer weather. You can’t lie in, lounge on the couch with a book or turn on the television when the sun is out without it poking, tauntingly, through your windows shouting ‘What are you doing, you idle wretch! Stop wasting me! You’ll rue this time when I’m gone!’. With this in mind, I was delighted for the chance to welcome some less-than-clement weather and get down and cosy at the eleventh edition of Sunday Papers Live in Camden…

The format of Sunday Papers Live has remained largely the same since its inaugural event in 2013. A host of speakers ranging from scientists to journalists to adventuresses bring the Sunday papers to life with a series of informative, engaging and thought-provoking talks throughout the day. Complemented by a delectable Roast, board games, pub quizzes and a dedicated Bloody Mary bar, the event always promises the perfect mix of socialising and relaxation.

Martha Orbach delivered a thought-provoking and impassioned speech about the importance of community gardens, particularly in cities as frenetic and, often, socially divided as London. Emphasising how such gardens provide a calming and invaluable space that is free and open to all, Orbach also spoke of her Room to Heal therapeutic gardening programme which specifically supports asylum seekers and refugees who have survived torture. At a time when councils are under huge pressure to cut their community services, the importance of such spaces should not be underestimated.

Following Orbach, Louise Gray spoke of her self-imposed role as an ‘Ethical Carnivore’ after making a decision to spend a year only eating animals that she had killed herself. As she spoke of the first animal she killed (a rabbit) and the daunting task of shooting a deer, I noticed the dog nestled beside me looking decidedly uneasy. Yes, that’s another brilliant facet of Sunday Papers Live – it’s a baby and dog-friendly zone! Try taking your dog to other indoor events in London and the organisers won’t be nearly as relaxed. I found this out the hard way with a golden retriever and matinee of Madame Butterfly. 

One of my favourite parts of the day was the walk from Cecil Sharp House to Primrose Hill with esteemed science writer Marcus Chown. For those who could bear to tear themselves away from their couch-based stupor in the main hall, Chown led willing guests on an hour long walk to educate them in the marvels of the solar system, using objects such as peppercorns and toffees to illustrate the planets’ various sizes. Attendees who asked questions were rewarded with these substitute planets and, two days later, I still lament not gaining a planetary peppercorn. I tried plucking one out of my pepper mill but it’s just not the same. Chown, whose new book The Ascent of Gravity is on sale now, has authored many other scientific yet accessible works including We Need To Talk About Kelvin which is possibly my favourite title in existence. 

The event also focused in on the ‘Post Truth’ era with Matthew D’Ancona of The Guardian, David Aaranovitch of The Times and writer and comedian Matilda Wnek. It is no exaggeration to say that, these days, people check the news and think, with increasing frequency, ‘What on earth is happening and how do we fix this?’. Our panellists shared their thoughts on Brexit, Trump, the role of the media and the role of the citizens in trying to restore some degree of harmony to society. Crucially, they spoke of the importance of not dismissing or belittling the arguments of those with whom you disagree but instead entering into dialogue with them and avoiding the creation of an Us vs Them narrative. As someone who wants to hurl the remote at the television anytime I hear a news story along the lines of ‘Person who voted for Brexit now worries about the impact of Brexit on their business’, I plan on heeding this advice.

The headline acts of the evening were right-leaning, Brexit-supporting comedian Geoff Norcott and left-wing comedian Shappi Khorsandi who brought some levity in their take on the state of the UK. Braving a room of North London liberals, Norcott defended his views to a mixed audience. I’m always intrigued as to why the Right votes the way they do and Norcott offered little insight here, instead admitting he saw the Tories for what they were but would vote for them anyway. Such a view always perplexes me akin to merrily inviting a lion to dinner and willingly serving it your own foot, but one can admire Norcott's adherence to his beliefs and eagerness to take on a tough crowd. He was followed by top comedian Shappi Khorsandi who delighted the audience with her quickfire wit, stories of an impulsive youth and some heartfelt anecdotes about Corbyn. 

Other speakers included economist Professor Steve Keen, radio presenter and scientist Adam Rutherford and Mercury-nominated singer Sam Lee. The Sunday Roast by Sam’s Feast offered guests a choice of Roast Mechoui Lamb or a Chestnut Stilton Nut Roast, both of which provided the perfect complement to the mental-fuel from the wonderful variety of speakers. 

All in all, Sunday Papers Live offers a thoroughly enjoyable, social and action-packed Sunday all to be enjoyed from the comfort of the sofa. Take that, sun.

The next edition of Sunday Papers Live will be on April 8th 2018. Tickets do sell out in advance so be sure to get yours here


All photos by Sabrina Dallot-Seguro

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