The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas
I’m taking part again this year at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas (CODI) which is believed to be the oldest and most successful academic public engagement forum in the world. There is nothing else quite like it. Now in its tenth year, academics from The University of Edinburgh, Heriot Watt University, Queen Margaret University Edinburgh and Edinburgh Napier University perform on stage, in stand-up mode, no notes, no prompts and no powerpoint, and talk to members of the public about their research and then take audience questions.
My show is called My Neighbour Hacked My Toothbrush where I talk about the dangers of internet connected devices in the home. Here’s the brochure blurb.
Every day schools, hospitals, and businesses are under attack. But as we connect our devices to the internet, criminals have moved the dark web into our homes. Who are the cybercriminals, and what do they want? Is your fridge spying on you? What is your kettle up to? Are those wireless headphones listening to your thoughts? Find out how and why you, your home and your gadgets are under attack. Cyber security expert Garry Scobie (The University of Edinburgh) reveals the scale of the online battle for your house and how to fight back!
There is a whole range of fascinating subjects and all the details of the shows can be found here
It is taking place in the The Stand Comedy Club in Edinburgh. I always wanted to try such a venue, without the safety net of slides and CODI provided me with the opportunity. It’s scary. The audience are up close and all I have to stand on is a tiny, only slightly raised stage. There is no doubt there is a tremendous buzz when you come off stage, with the feeling you want to go straight back out and do it again. The nerves in the green room backstage are challenging. I remember last year there were great discussions about who had appeared on this stage over the years, and many of my favourite comedians have done so. Not that CODI is about telling jokes. It’s serious research, presented in a fun and accessible way for members of the public to go along and hear about. There is a comedian on-hand to compere and warm-up the audience and it is a weird feeling hearing your name called out, the producer opening the stage door and placing a hand on your back to usher you out, while the audience is cheering and clapping before you have even spoken a word. Initially the room appears dark due to the lights shining in your eyes and all you can think of is taking that small step on to the stage and grabbing the microphone without falling over, and wondering that the hell my first line is. I’m so used to using slides for my presentations and the pandemic saw me doing a large number of sessions remotely. This allowed me to have all my notes and prompts around my laptop and desk and made it easy to talk. There is not the same pressure when you have your notes to hand. It was great getting back out in front of a live audience again, and last year, August 2021 was my first live session since March 2020 and to do it in stand-up mode was a big thing for me. I’m really looking forward to it, but writing this I can feel the nerves kicking in again. I hear from everyone else this is normal and we all get nervous and I just need to keep working on my coping mechanisms and routines.
This year is particularly special as I can go on stage as a published author. I know that’s not a big deal as I work in an environment where every other person is published, but I am a published fiction author and for me, after many rejections over many years, that is special and something I am proud of achieving.