In early 2017 I attended ‘MWUG’, or Manchester WordPress users group to give it it’s full name. I met a bunch of lovely people including Mike Little, one of the core developers of WordPress. I was surprised. I thought anyone involved the creation of WordPress must live in some kind of sun drenched villa on a mountain side in Silicon Valley. How wrong I was.
Mike was the really welcoming chair of the group, and they were on the lookout for people to give talks at their meet ups. Despite just arriving I offered. I’d been using WordPress since 2010. Despite a terrible memory I know that because WordPress helpfully releases a new theme design named after the year, every year, and I started with ‘TwentyTen’. Also being a comedian I’ll take any chance to get in front of a new audience.
I was prepping 15 minutes on how I’d used WordPress to publish a podcast when I realised what I had was quite funny but not very technically hardcore. Was my knowledge of WordPress enough for a tech savy audience? Was I glossing over the cracks in my knowledge with gags? Of course it didn’t have to be funny, I was probably over analysing, and on the day it was fine.
I went back a few months later and a half hour talk on my experience of building WordPress websites commercially. Again is wasn’t intend to be funny, but I couldn’t help it. That’s when I thought there might be a show in it. Sharing my feelings on the culture of constant updates, and making it funny. I’ve created bucket loads of websites using WordPress for all different manner of clients, but it never occurred to me to attempt to combine that with my comedy storytelling. So in a nutshell that’s the new show – Confessions of a WordPress fanatic! at the Greater Manchester fringe. Not a duffel coat in sight.
The Festival has been running for 8 years and brings researchers into local pubs all over the UK to get people interested in science, in this case machine thinking, extreme engineering and big data. Now I’m no scientist and a comedian as opposed to presenter -the nearest I get to science is Doctor Who or reading Douglas Adams novel. However my geek credentials and curiosity served me well, even if the audience preferred hard research over warm up jokes, I was just the messenger.
Social media was big and #pintofscience trended on Twitter during the live events (there were 21 in Manchester alone!) When organiser Becky took a photo of myself and the other professors, we all put our drinks down out of shot – until she reminded us that it was the pint of Science Festival and drinks in hand were preferred!
Highlights for me were Professor Steve Furber’s Spinnaker Project. He had worked on the BBC Micro and Archimedes computers which filled my with nostalgia. Dr Mostafa Nabawy and his bio-inspired micro robots. Making tiny spiders that jump and flies that fly sounded like a Sci-fi disaster movie waiting to happen. Dr Katie Druce’s talk on ‘what people mean when they say they don’t sleep’ and how it can be monitored was as clever as it was easy to understand, using fitbits to monitor activity at night in the bedroom (SLEEPING!). Also I particularly enjoyed ProfessorDavid Berezan’s Sounds of the sea, which uses real time data from sea buoys to create a dynamic soundscape. The combination of data, process and improvisation to create a hypnotic nautical composition pressed all of my buttons, and it was no surprise when we chatted that we are both fans of Delia Derbyshire and the BBC radiophonic workshop.
Big thanks to Becky Dodd and all the organisers at the University of Manchester for letting me share the stage, and for keeping me watered with some very good cider courtesy of the Beer Nouveau venue.
John Cooper, Comedian & Improviser. Public speaking workshops and training for UK businesses. Dealing with public speaking nerves and providing confident focus through unique and entertaining workshops