Tidying up

A few last notes on QED.

I was doing talk-prep at the start of the morning Saturday so I missed most of a talk on the European werewolf, but I did make it to excellent talks by Steve Jones and David Aaronovitch. (I never met either of them, alas. This event was a big success, so there were a lot of people, so it was impossible to meet everyone.) In the afternoon Richard Saunders did a great talk about being a tv skeptic and how to fake the power balance bracelet demonstration. (It’s simple. First you exert pressure on the subject in a way guaranteed to tip her over, then when she’s put on the bracelet you exert pressure on her in a way guaranteed not to tip her over.)

In the evening there was a gala dinner. (I felt like Jet-setty Glam Social Party-going Globetrotter Person, I can tell you, reflecting on the fact that the previous Saturday I was sitting between Liz Cornwell and PZ Myers, with Dan Dennett two places away and Russell Blackford across the table, at a gala dinner, and here I was the following Saturday at another gala dinner. I’m not usually Glam Globetrotter Person, to put it mildly.) There was one of those posh desserts with three parts, one part being something in a shot glass. The something was Mento Vimto, which is a Manchester specialty, a raspberry cordial type of thing. It’s really good. Well done Manchester. There was a prize-giving. There was comedy: Robin Ince and a local fella called Alun Cochrane, who’s funny as hell. Well done Manchester again.

Edzard Ernst did a talk Sunday morning. He neither likes nor approves of Prince Chahls. (I never met him either. Another alas.) (No regrets though. The event was a success. That’s the important thing!)

Maryam talked a little bit about Julian in her talk: about apologetic backing-away atheism and Julian as an example of it. Author and I exchanged some knowing looks.

Deafening applause when she finished. Geoff went up onstage and said that was the longest applause of any talk at the event. Maryam was the star of the whole thing.



  1. says

    Maryam was indeed the star, but there were other stars too Ophelia, yourself not least amongst them! I’ve since spoken to a few QED delegates who have said that their eyes have well and truly been opened, some even admitted that they were moved to tears by her talk. To spare blushes I’ll omit their identity but here’s some delegate twitter feedback: “Still occasionally breaking into tears since Maryam’s talk on Sunday. I’ve never been more inspired by one person in my life!” And this “she’s the most amazing person I have EVER met thank you for organising an event that provided me the privilege of meeting her”. “After the fun, the serious – Mariam Namazie and Ophelia Benson on religion, violence and power. Inspiring and terrifying”. I particularly like and endorse this one: “paula kirby, maryam namazie, and ophelia benson – the new horsemen/women of atheism”. And as I’m not afraid of sparing Ophelia’s blushes (she’s far too modest) there’s this “My hero, Ophelia Benson, is even more impressive in person!” (I endorse but did not write that last tweet!)

    One minor Manchester detail, the desert was a ‘Vimto’ cheesecake and daquiri (mentos are mints!).

    Thanks again for coming Ophelia!

  2. says

    Vimto! I thought I probably had it wrong. That’s such a nice cryptic name. I remember feeling mildly puzzled by it when my tablemates explained it to me at dinner Saturday – it sounds like something you should inject rather than drink.

    Heh, yes, somebody suggested the three horsewomen idea during the panel, and I couldn’t imagine anything nicer.

    Thanks again for asking me, Geoff!

  3. Dr_Enzyme says

    Genuinely annoyed that I didn’t make it on Sunday due to illness: I really wanted to see Maryam’s talk. Oh, well. Maybe next year.

    The comedy really was very good, though. I’ve been wanting to swing a pint of beer around at the end of a chain all week.

  4. says


    Amazing what a “z” substitution can do. I love that spelling.

    And if there are to be four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse, Ophelia as the “Mother of Gnu Atheism” better be on the list!

  5. says

    Dr E – if it’s any comfort, they were all videoed, so I assume you’ll be able to see it eventually. Not the same as in person, I know, but better than not at all.

  6. Stewart says

    I suppose you’re right – the word also does conjure up all kinds of silly clothing, too, like a circus artiste. Granted the whole “Horsemen” concept was originally not something the four dreamed up for themselves, but more went along with, it didn’t hurt in creating an image of people at the forefront of a movement, so having “Horsewomen” could do something that might help cement the female presence more and eliminate any hint of tokenism.

  7. Clairepie says

    We loved all of it. Thank you Ophelia, your talk was (as we say in Liverpool) boss!

    I’d prefer to think of The HorseWoman as The Muses because they inspire, and you can have more than four inspirational women!

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