Monday, 18 October 2010

TAM London 2010: A Critical Review

There were some absolutely fabulous talks at TAM London this year.

I’m not going to write a detailed run through of all the speakers as I did last year, but I did especially enjoy Susan Blackmore, Paula Kirby and Marcus Chown. Tim Minchin’s new material was obviously brilliant. The “Amateur Transplants” were an unexpected delight and of course I thoroughly enjoyed the interviews with Graham Linehan, Andy Nyman and Alan Moore (even though I was rather knackered by the time we got around to Alan).

However, if you will forgive me, I thought I’d focus on the far fewer number of less positive aspects.

The premiere of the animated movie of Tim Minchin Skeptical masterpiece “Storm” was wonderful. Having seen the trailer, I knew it would be. DC Turner has done an absolutely brilliant job. However, as much as I enjoyed the film and as happy as I was to applaud Dan and Tracy for their great work, there was only so much self congratulatory back-slapping and audience Q&A’s about a short film I could sit through. Incidentally I love Pulp Fiction too, but I could be arsed with the director’s commentary and all the other extras on the DVD.

I got the feeling I may not have been alone. As the Q&A’s dragged on there was a noticeable murmur amongst the polite audience that was clearly picked up on on stage, resulting in the audience being asked if they would like to continue the session or get Tim to sing a few more songs instead. A suggestion that despite being preferable by the majority was wholly unfair on an artist who had clearly not been forewarned of the possible need to prepare any additional material. This seemed like a good time to make sure I wouldn’t have to take the late train home.

On day two I completely failed to grasp the connection between Melinda Gebbie’s lovely ladies jazz comics and a Skeptic conference. She was a fine speaker and a great talent, but the only relevance I could see was that perhaps the subject might have just happened to have been a topic of interest to one of the organisers. Still, if I organised a Skeptical conference and was able to get Robert Plant to come along and talk about the recording of the 4th Zeppelin album, I’d probably indulge myself too.

Next in the firing line is Joise Long. Josie is a fine comedian who I always enjoy at Robin Ince’s "9 lessons and Carols for Godless People", so I was a little bemused as to why she didn’t do one of her great comedy turns on the Saturday night rather than throwing her out of her depth into an Alan Moore interview that the perfectly researched and amiable Neil Denny would have handled better without the interruptions.

So I came away wondering if it was the above picky and admittedly trivial points that made a great conference not quite as great as last years, or was it something else.

As much as I am delighted that a sceptical conference can now herd a thousand sceptical minds into one hotel, I just felt there was something missing.

Perhaps I am becoming more blasé, or perhaps the TAM London Mega Church by its very definition cannot recreate the intimacy of your local SitP Chapel.

Perhaps I just wasn’t making enough effort. I accept that I am somewhat socially inept and after a busy week and a long conference I may well have just been too tired and grumpy to make the effort to talk to enough new people. So despite a much appreciated shout-out from David Allen Green and the wonderful and genuine surprise of my very own Skeptic Trump card, I failed to leave on quite the high I had anticipated.

I’m Sorry I didn’t get the chance to chat with as many people as I would have liked to. I’m not sure if I just missed you in the large crowd, or if you just failed to venture too far from the green room, or if you were priced out of the conference entirely.


Oops I almost forgot. Delighted Rhys Morgan won the award for his brilliant work highlightening MMS. I voted for him, and I'm thrilled so many others did too.
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