The Garner Lectures – Exploring Science and Culture


Alan Garner c Gary Calton


At Jodrell Bank, the boundary between Science and Culture barely exists. In fact, it’s hard to find someone who works here who recognises the two as separate areas.

Since the Lovell Telescope carried out its first scientific act – tracking the carrier rocket of Sputnik 1 in October 1957 – the site has been in the public eye. Its founder, Sir Bernard Lovell was a scientist, musician, author and broadcaster – and he established the ‘spirit of place’ that imbues all of our work here right down until the present day.

Against a backdrop of discussion about Two Cultures , Lovell wrote about his scientific work, what science means to humanity, how our understanding of the Universe impacts upon our understanding of ourselves and speculated on many of the ‘Big Questions’ that people carry with them to Jodrell Bank today. He delivered the BBC’s flagship series of Reith Lectures in 1958 and was someone who shaped cultural discourse for many decades.

Since then, Jodrell Bank and its work has inhabited the psyche of many artists, musicians, film-makers and writers.

It pervades the broadcast media and surfaces in news, drama and documentary across all platforms.

This has given us a unique view of the place of science in culture – something that we now wish to explore with our many visitors and the people who are connected to our site.

We think that one way to do this is to build upon the success of our Lovell Lectures – a series of Lectures that are given by Astrophysics academics which focus on their recent research – and run a parallel series which will examine the place of science in culture.

Just over the train tracks from Jodrell Bank live some of our neighbours, the author Alan Garner and his wife Griselda. Like many of the people in our area, they have known Jodrell Bank longer than many of its current staff.

They tell us stories of its emergence and rise to public awareness – stories about ‘The Fairground’, as local people used to call the mass of aerials and experiments that emerged on the South Side of the site from the 1950s onwards; – and stories about ‘Lovell’s Contraption’ – the strange and beautiful structure that grew up from the ground between 1952 and 1957 – and is now called The Lovell Telescope.

They also help us set Jodrell Bank and its work in context.

Alan’s own writing is threaded with awareness of the site and its work. From Red Shift, a 1973 novel that explores time and space from a sense of place to the more recent Boneland, which is set around Jodrell Bank itself, we find a reflection of our science and the ideas that underpin it – and the ‘Big Questions’ that we all seek to answer.

We are honoured that Alan has agreed to lend his name to our Lecture Series exploring science and  culture – and also that he will deliver the first lecture in the series – ‘Powsels and Thrums : The Loom of Creation’.

He has also told us that it will be his last public lecture. A point in time that we wish to mark.

‘Powsels and Thrums’ will be the first public event held in the Wolfson Auditorium of our new Star Pavilion. We are grateful to the Wolfson Foundation for their generous funding of the auditorium.

Booking details can be found here.

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Dr Teresa Anderson is Director of the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre