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UCL Public Engagement Blog



Bright Club: Bringing academic comedy to east London

By Lizzy Baddeley, on 21 March 2018

Bright Club is the thinking person’s comedy night, where UCL researchers become stand up comedians. Run by the UCL Public Engagement Unit. In February 2018, we took Bright Club to a new venue in East London, Stratford Circus, for the first time as part of our UCL East engagement strategy. This post was written by Sharon Brooks, who ran the events.

Bright Club – our innovative public engagement model – was taken to Stratford Circus in East London for the first time to entertain a new local audience, outside the confines of the traditional UCL student pubs.

The academics were given a task to discuss their research piece in an entertaining, conversational manner with an element of humour – comedy for nerds.

Year of the Mind was our first themed show in February, and we then culminated our Bright Club series with a celebration of the UCL Public Engagement Unit’s 10 year anniversary. Bright Club was one of the earliest initiative of the PEU, so it felt only right to celebrate with a special show featuring some of the performers from the past. The aim is to encourage learning and enhance performers’ skills – giving the participating staff and students a positive experience that encourages them to then work with public engagement support staff.

The researchers at the 10th anniversary show, who had been involved in Bright Club before, highlighted to the audience what can happen a few years after a Bright Club experience. It pushes researchers out of their comfort zone, and forces them to get complex concepts across quickly and in an entertaining manner, helping them develop skills in communication and engagement.

Group of people around tables reading and smiling

The glamorous life of learning to be a comedian

With the help of our trainers; Iszi Lawrence a stand-up comedian and Steve Cross, the founder of Bright Club; a neurogastroenterology academic was able to make light of abdominal MRI investigation and how different foods and stress affect gastrointestinal function.  A medical doctor, whose research piece focuses on computational neuroscience and applying AI to mental health had the audience roaring with laughter – the academics kept the audience engaged all night with their witty, tongue in cheek performances.

Bright Club East had a phenomenal response – both shows sold out two weeks before the event. We had media interest; a write up in the Guardian and a segment on London live to name a few. The Bright Club brand continues to spark intrigue from inquisitive minds.

group of 11 people, women and men, some stood, some sat, smiling and looking at the camera

The performers from the 22nd February event

Women with a microphone on stage shrugging

Josie Mills performing.
Photos taken by Kirsten Holst

Women on stage with banner behind her saying 'UCL Culture'

Yolanda Ohene performing.
Photos taken by Kirsten Holst.


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