University College London
Bright Club provides an enjoyable first-step into public engagement for students and staff, bringing together a cross-disciplinary group of researchers and giving them a space to share their research with each other and an informal, interested audience. It is the thinking person's comedy night, where researchers become stand up comedians. Started in London by the UCL Public Engagement Unit, but now running across the UK and abroad, Bright Club aims to engage comedy fans aged 20-40 who are not existing relationship to academia. Researchers get training and help in turning their research into an 8 minute comedy set, and are in turn able to practice engaging with an audience they wouldn't normally talk to. Bright Club started in April 2009 and has been running monthly in London ever since. During that time we have helped to set up 12 regular and semi-regular Bright Club events in other cities around the UK including Bristol, Cambridge, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Guildford, Leicester, Loughborough, Manchester, Oxford, St Andrews, and Wales. We are in the process of helping set up others, and there have been events as far afield as Melbourne, Australia.
Bright Club was designed to be a ‘way in’ to engagement for our researchers, and to engage an audience less familiar with Higher Education, research and its role in society. Feedback from participating researchers consistently mentions an increase in skills and confidence:
“The impact is on my skill development, my confidence when talking. An example … is I was at a conference in May, this year, and there was a technical fault – and there were no slides. I just went on and talked without slides or anything, something which I may not have done previously”.
For our audience, we have been able to bring a group unconnected to academia into contact with researchers around three-quarters of audiences report no connection to higher education. Our monitoring elicits comments suggesting that audience members have gained understanding from events:
“Well, you come to a comedy night and you expect to be entertained and amused, but you don’t expect to learn anything!”.
As the project team, we have learnt a great deal from running a sustained public engagement project. Bright Club has taught us how to target and market to specific audience groups. We use Bright Club to get researchers interested and involved in public engagement, and a number of researchers have gone on to run their own public engagement projects with our support.
Bright Club was a runner up in the Established Projects category in the NCCPE Engage Competition 2014.