4 September 2009

Beards 'n' Bowlers: a flashmob proposal

First, a bit o' backstory. The UK Science Tweetup is a quasi-regular meeting of scientists and sci-curious tweeps (twitter + peeps, in case you were wondering) in London, usually on a weekday evening at a pub. The tweetups are organised and followed-up using a hashtag; anyone interested in the tweetups just need bookmark and/or subscribe to a twitter search for #ukscitweetup. All welcome.

Anyways, a fellow #ukscitweetup regular @ayasawada suggested a science flashmob and then @rpg7twit, @steinsky and I jumped on the idea and agreed to discuss it a bit more at the next #ukscitweetup (which I think is happening during and after the Lord Drayson-Dr. Goldacre debate at the Royal Institution on the 16th of September).

I've given it some occasional thought, wondering if we should do some kind of cool citizen-science project like a London bioblitz, but flashmob style, but nothing had really crystallised until...

I saw @QuestionDarwin's very cute Darwin emoticon complete with bowler hat and beard and then...

BOOM into my brain came 'Beards 'n' Bowlers', a flashmob to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species on November 24th, 1859.

The idea is that at an appointed time of day (perhaps 18:59?) on Tuesday, the 24th of November, in a large, public space* with plenty of unsuspecting commuters mixed in with all of us in-the-know flashmobbers, we will suddenly don bowler hats and/or fake beards, open our copies of On the Origin of Species (1st Ed.) and, at some signal, and perhaps following along with someone with a loudspeaker, we will recite, in unison, the last few sentences:
There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

After which, everyone removes their props and disperses.

After the initial giggling came a bit more thinking, and a problem started to bother me: where are people going to get bowler hats? Will not having an easy source of bowler hats and/or beards be a deterrent? So I did some googling (as one does) and was delighted to find Bring Back Bowler Hats, the blog/website of Bowler Hat Day 2009. I kid you not: on Friday 13th February, 2009, half a million City workers (okay maybe not quite all of them) went to work in bowler hats. The event was even covered in the Financial Times.

As I guess you might expect of City-folk, they solved the whence-bowler-hats problem in fashionable and profitable style. They convinced not one but three bowler-hat suppliers to donate 10% of their bowler hat sales to their selected charity, SOS Children's Villages. Their suppliers were http://www.hatsandthat.com/ , for fancy dress felt http://www.madworldfancydress.com/ on Tabernacle Street in the City, or plain old plastic www.onlinejokeshop.co.uk (though we frown on plastic here at the Beagle Project).

So I've sent an email to the address posted on Bring Back Bowler Hats asking them if they want to collaborate with The Beagle Project Blog in this special bowler hat flashmob honouring Charles Darwin and benefitting two charities: The HMS Beagle Project and the Galapagos Conservation Trust. I have yet to receive a reply...

*It can't be the Natural History Museum as it closes its doors at 18:00 - perhaps Charing Cross Station as that's where Darwin would have alighted when he traveled from London from his home in Downe, Kent?

11 comments:

Bob O'H said...

What an idea! I would join in, if I was in London. I'm already working on the beard.

tideliar said...

Love. It!

I shall do same, albeit, here in Memphis...and it'll be the middle of the day...hmmm.....

Karen James said...

Well, if we're going to go global with this I'd say people should do it at 18:59 local time wherever they are.

rpg said...

Top wheeze! Count me in.

I'll grow a beard especially for the occasion.

BTW, 16th Sept is the special screening of 'Creation' hosted by NPG, so I can't make the 2-tosspot debate. Nor the #ukscitweetup. Soz, ducks.

Dawn Sanders said...

Great idea-I'll be there :)

Karen James said...

Thanks all.

rpg--I'm invited to the 'Creation' screening too. Am conflicted.

Kate said...

This idea is magnificent (and my 8-year-old agrees.) I wish we could be in the UK for it, but perhaps we need to organize the US side. Will email our local flashmob authorities. Whatever happens, please please please take a video! - Kate of Charlie's Playhouse

Mun-Keat Looi said...

What a great idea Karen! I was wondering what form the flashmob would take and this is perfect. Count me in!

Captain Skellett said...

I shall set one up here in Australia as well! I need a new hat anyway (and a new beard...)

Kristen said...

There's an event at the Royal Institution on Thursday 29 October 2009,7.00pm-8.30pm:Darwin, FitzRoy and the voyage of the Beagle: the untold story.

On the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's seminal work On the Origin of Species, join us for a one-off performance of Juliet Aykroyd's play The Ostrich and the Dolphin and the subsequent discussion.

The Dolphin is Robert FitzRoy, pioneer of weather forecasting and captain of HMS Beagle. Charles Darwin, his seasick passenger, is the Ostrich. The outcome of their adventurous sea voyage between 1831-6 was Darwin's momentous account of the Origin of Species: a Theory which subverted FitzRoy's beliefs and threatened his very being.

In a 4-way dialogue between their younger and older selves, the play dramatises the FizRoy and Darwin's doomed friendship, and reveals one tragic aftermath of the great Beagle voyage.

Following the performance there will be a discussion between Juliet Aykroyd, Lord Julian Hunt, former Chief Executive of the Met Office, and Prof Armand Leroi, an evolutionary developmental biologist, which will be chaired by Baroness Susan Greenfield. This discussion will pick up on the themes raised by the play and will further explore the radical nature of Darwin's ideas in the 19th century, thinking on his work today, and the next big avenues in evolutionary biology.

Tickets cost £8 standard, £6 concessions, £4 Ri Members.

see:www.rigb.org/contentControl?action=displayEvent&id=931

Mun-Keat Looi said...

In terms of venue, someone suggested to me Darwin's house on Gower Street as a more appropriate location? (is there a blue plaque?)

Admittedly, not as busy as Charing X and may not therefore gain as much attention.

@ayasawada