After much on-line discussion and debate, the first meeting of the planning committee for SITP-Wales has finally taken place. It should surprise no-one to hear that sceptics and lovers of science are scattered all across Wales, and the coordination and planning required to get all those interested in setting up SITP-Wales to meet up in the same place at the same time is immense. But, after a long, hard slog, we managed. On Monday 21st of June 2010, the longest day of the year and the beginning of summer, the Welsh SITP core group met up in Cardiff for the first time ever.
Those present were;
My Wife (not really bothered about the whole SITP thing, but we met up in my flat, and she lives there as well, so had to be there by default)
The purpose of this meeting? Investigating all the candidates for SITP venues in Cardiff. After months of careful research by me, I was joined by Alice, a proud female astronomer who is DEFINITELY NOT AN ASTROLOGER. We set forth into Cardiff to see if we agreed on what made a suitable venue.
It's worth pointing out, also, that we were dressed for the occasion. Alice, as a professional, respected promoter of science and reason, was wearing a t-shirt with the following design.
Whereas I, favouring a different approach to promoting science, wore a t-shirt bearing the following statement.
Between us, it was pretty clear what we were about. So there we were, in our science t-shirts, bespectacled and clutching note-pads, as we set off on The Nerdiest Pub Crawl of ALL TIME!
So here is a run down of the places we visited, and our findings.
1: Terra Nova
The Terra Nova is a rather pleasant pub right on the waterfront in Cardiff Bay. It's named after and shaped like Captain Scott's boat. The name is Latin for 'New Land' I think, and isn't that appropriate? SITP would like to create a new land of logic and reason here in Wales.
On the other hand, Terra Nova was the vehicle for an endeavour which failed in its objective and in which everyone involved died. Luckily, we don't believe in superstition, we're sceptical, don't you know.
The Pub itself is nice, has a perfectly big upstairs room with projector and screen set-up, but laid out in a rather baffling manner and with nothing but curtains separating it from the surrounding bar areas which can get quite busy. Or not, as I found out when I went back there that night. From personal experience, the staff there are nice but disorganised (e.g. leaving one person serving when the queue at the bat gets particularly long, the rest going off to collect plates or look at the till in a surprisingly confused manner). Also, enquiries about how to hire the venue resulted in me being given an email address, which I used to contact them. An emailed reply directed me to their website, which informed me I should enquire within.
I can't help but be uninspired by this level of misdirection, so decided to leave it. Alice (the Astrologer) agreed that the venue was nice but difficult to work with, so we moved on.
2. The Promised Land
A name with many unfortunate religious and political connotations, but the Promised Land is the most promising venue. Small enough to be intimate, big enough to be accommodating, it's a good all rounder. Apparently the upstairs room had just been repaired after a 21st Birthday party got a little out of hand. We assured the staff member talking to us that a gathering of skeptics is probably the least likely thing to get rowdy that you can think of. I didn't tell them of my plans to engage in wholesale destruction of woo-based literature.
Myself and Alice (the Astronaut) also disagree on how we should handle any psuedoscience supporters who show up. Alice would prefer to engage them in rational but possibly heated debate, whereas I'm more of the view that we should test their commitment to their alternative medicine views by hurling them from the nearest window and seeing if they demand an ambulance or homeopath. I guess it depends on the situation.
Before we left, Alice (the Acrobat) perused the menu, accurately pointing out that people maybe coming from afar for SITP and will want to eat beforehand. I would offer to bring sandwiches, but I think I'll have done enough when this thing does go ahead.
3. Owain Glyndwr
Owain Glyndwr Outside">
Quite a non-starter this one. Oddly shaped pub, the upstairs is massive but laid out as if they received plans from the architect but accidentally followed the doodles drawn on the back. Also, Alice (the Astroturf) pointed out that it stinks in there. It does too. And there were TVs everywhere showing football. I'd assume this isn't the case during non-world cup periods, but there's always sport happening somewhere. It strikes me as the sort of place that would show live coverage of the regional tiddlywinks heats on full blast on every screen if there was nothing else on. Although admittedly, that probably would drive more people to drink, which is somewhat the objective of a drinking establishment.
Also, the place is round. Very round, to the point that walking across it to get to the toilet induces sensations of centrifugal force, forcing you to sit down and have a drink to settle your nerves. This probably explains why the place has a higher-than-average number of 'broken' people scattered about it.
I was hoping to be patriotic and find a venue with a Welsh name, but I'm not that patriotic.
4. O'Neills Irish Pub
The first of 2 Irish pubs we visited. Not exactly Welsh themed, but beggars, choosers and that? I do gigs here quite often, so know the venue rather well. The upstairs room is nice and reasonably well laid out, but can get quite stuffy. However, if the windows are open then it lets in all the noise from outside, so it's a balancing act. I can just imagine a group of disgruntled homeopaths turning up and protesting outside, ruining everything. Although by their own logic, a homeopathic protest would surely follow their own rules for effectiveness? i.e. It would consist of one sceptic muttering supportive comments 50 miles away. So that shouldn't be too bad
The barman who served us was very intrigued by our t-shirts, in a sort of 'What the hell is that about?' kind of way. I assumed he was Irish, but probably wasn't because his accent was utterly different.
Myself and Alice (the gastropub) decided to stay and chill for a bit, as it was too hot outside. I'm not an astronomer myself, but I think we both agree that stars should maintain a respectful distance of at least 4 light years away at all times, not an 'arrogant in-your-face' mere 93 million miles. How does anyone get anything done? (Judging by Alice's response, they eat an ice cream, and she's an expert so it must be true).
5. 10ft Tall
Not part of the planned investigation, but we were passing and I remembered that many people do shows and events there, so thought it warranted investigation.
It's quite a 'trendy' place, if such a vague definition can be applied to anything. It also lies. It is significantly higher than 10 fit, it's 3 stories tall at least and that doesn't include any roof based fixtures.
The man at the bar was a bit wary of us (fair enough) but he himself was a bald, bearded man in his early 30s at most, wearing glasses and slicing lemons very delicately, so the feeling of apprehension was entirely mutual. Eventually, the manager appeared and took us to the function room we could hire. It's weird, it has the seating area of an enlarged living room, the performance area of an Indie club and the lighting scheme of a brothel. It's quite confined so can get very hot, but we're told it has 3 separate air conditioners to keep it cool. Considerate, but although this is probably not a problem for a pounding music performance, I can't imagine the constant triple-rumbling would do much good for a detailed talk about rational subjects and science.
Alice (the Gastropod) also noticed that it smelled bad in there too, probably the dried sweat of a thousand enthusiastic moshers mixed in with the souls of the damned. Creepy.
Another Irish pub, we use this a lot for comedy events and the like, and it has played host to several of my science-themed events in the past, so seemed like a logical option.
It's a bit crap though. They don't serve food there for start, something Alice (the metronome) is quite particular about, and rightly so. Although the downstairs area is quite rustic and olde-worldey as many an Irish pub can be, the upstairs room crosses the line into 'scruffy', 'run down' and simply 'crap'. Also, storing several bins and bags of rubbish by the stairs wasn't an encouraging sign.
Although well equipped, the upstairs area is a bit cavernous and sterile. Sterility is definitely a good thing when performing many types of science, but not when talking about it. Also, the manager of the place was up there, watching the football on the projector screen while sorting through paperwork. It made it look like he had a massive office, or that he was an elf in a normal size one.
A usable venue in a pinch, but not one we'd be actively returning too unless we had to. Plus it's directly opposite the castle, so the pseudoscientists could feasibly keep a garrison in there to lay siege to the event if it was at Dempseys.
7. Nos Da
Another Welsh named place, on the River Taf directly opposite the Millennium Stadium. It is apparently a 5 star hostel. I didn't know such a thing existed, I've not stayed in a hostel before but I thought they were meant to be very basic by definition. A 5 start hostel is like saying luxury gruel, surely?
I've gigged here before, and it's always nice to have your gigs and talks filled out a bit by bewildered Dutch backpackers with nothing better to do.
Alice (the artichoke) did point out that the food menu was limited again, but this paled in comparison to the fact that the basement venue (which has also opted for the 'brothel' look, which is a worrying trend in Cardiff venues, and makes me wonder exactly what sort of 'events' people are renting out their function rooms for) has massive pillar in the way of many of the seating areas.
It was quite nice overall, and they did seem very keen to have us in there on a Monday. But parking and transport links to this place are rather crap. You wouldn't think a 5 start hostel would be so hard to get to would you? But maybe it's a marketing ploy; it's so difficult to get here, you'd rather stay the night than make the return journey?
So that's what we found out. Cast your votes now people!
e-mail: humourology (at) live.co.uk