Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A cracking venue

I love giving talks, whatever the setting. I am happy in a school classroom or a 1,000 seater auditorium.  (Okay, I love the buzz of a big audience, but sometimes the intimate little gatherings are the most rewarding.) But just occasionally you get a chance to speak somewhere that really feels special.

That's what I call a ceiling
Perhaps the most striking example I've had of this feeling of awe is the Royal Institution. It's hard not to be a little daunted and delighted in equal measures by the string of big name scientists from Davy and Faraday onwards who have lectured there. But a close second has to be the venue for my talk based on Dice World last Thursday, the John Rylands Library in Manchester.

I had heard about the library a lot as youth, when going to school in Manchester, and I passed it on the bus hundreds of times, briefly noting the way it stands out from its surroundings rather like that cathedral in New York. Certainly the outside is striking. In fact you could well call the library a cathedral of learning. But it's only when you get into its historical reading room that you discover this example of high Victorian gothic at its most truly wonderful. (Full marks also, by the way, for the way the modern extension is integrated with it.)

So next time you are in Manchester (and, as my old history teacher used to say, 'If you haven't been to Manchester, you haven't lived!') take the time to deviate from your busy schedule and make a trip to Deansgate. Once the city's posh shopping street, and still with some fancy brand names, you will find nestling anong the office blocks, restaurants and boutiques, this architectural treasure. Pop inside and feast your eyes. Best seen, I think, in the dusk, when the extravagant lighting really sets the place off.

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