Aired: 22 October 2012, BBC Radio 4
Curator: Humphrey Ker
Steering Committee: Andy Nyman, Dr Alice Roberts and Frank Cottrell Boyce
Andy’s donation to the museum was Friday the 13th Part 3 (3-D). ‘I’m slightly obsessed with 3-D cinema and what a ridiculous joyous thing it is,’ he explains. ‘It’s been around since cinema was born in the 1800s. But what I love about it is that it only ever gets wheeled out whenever the movie industry feels like it’s under threat. When TV arrived in the 1950s, so did 3-D. Then it kind of died away and lay dormant until VHS came along in the early 1980s. That was my era. And now, with the Internet, the industry thinks it’s in crisis again and out comes this cheesy, awful gimmick yet again. we’re in yet another 3-D phase. So I’d like Friday the 13th Part 3 (3D) in the Museum because I love horror and I love circus in the widest sense and the film delivered both.’
Actor & Magician
Andy Nyman is an English actor and magician who first came to note with his performance as a hard-nosed director in Musical! and then as Keith Whitehead in the film of the Martin Amis novel, Dead Babies. He played lead roles in Jon Avnet’s Emmy award-winning film Uprising (starring John Voight) as a Polish freedom fighter and in Coney Island Baby as a gay French gun dealer. He won the award for best actor at the 2006 Cherbourg-Octeville Festival of Irish and British Film for his role as Colin Frampton in Shut Up and Shoot Me. He will soon be seen playing ‘the Tumor’ in Kick Ass 2.
On TV he featured in one episode of The League of Gentlemen and was violently slaughtered in Charlie Brooker’s Big Brother/Zombie film satire, Dead Set. In 2008 he appeared in the BBC’s supernatural drama series Crooked House and in 2011 he took the lead role in the sitcom Campus. He has just ended a run in the West End revival of the classic 1970s play Abigail’s Party.
As a sideline Andy is a magician and the co-creator and co-writer of the Derren Brown TV shows Derren Brown: Mind Control and Trick of the Mind. He and Brown wrote Russian Roulette, Séance, and Messiah, as well as three series of Trick of the Mind. He also co-wrote and co-directed four of Brown’s stage shows, all of which have toured and played the West End. For Something Wicked This Way Comes they were awarded the 2006 Olivier Award for Best Entertainment. He also co-wrote (with Jeremy Dyson), directed and starred in the horror play Ghost Stories which has been a huge success in several cities around the world.
Success is being happy. That is the biggest secret. I’d turn down a big, expensive magic gig any day of the week to do a lower-budget acting job that I really want to do. You’ve only got one life. There isn’t a Plan B.
Alice Roberts is an anatomist, author, broadcaster and professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham. After studying medicine and anatomy at Cardiff University, she worked as a junior doctor in South Wales before becoming a lecturer in anatomy at Bristol University. She developed a research interest in biological or physical anthropology, looking at what ancient skeletons can tell us about human evolution, and the diversity of the human species. She has a PhD in palaeopathology – the study of disease in ancient human remains.
Alice’s television debut was as a specialist in human bone on Channel 4’s Time Team in 2001. She went on to become a science presenter for various projects on BBC2, focusing on her expertise and passion for science, medicine and anthropology. As well as being part of the original presenting team on BBC2’s Coast, she has fronted several series and programmes, including Don’t Die Young, The Incredible Human Journey, Wild Swimming, Digging for Britain, Horizon: Are we still evolving?, Origins of Us and Prehistoric Autopsy. She is an organiser of the Cheltenham Science Festival and school outreach programmes within the University of Bristol’s Medical Sciences Division.
Alice has written several popular science books. She enjoys art, and produced illustrations for Don’t Die Young and The Incredible Human Journey, and advised on the anatomy artwork for the Complete Human Body. She lives near Bristol with her daughter and husband, whom she met in Cardiff in 1997 when she was a medical student and he was an archaeology student. She is a vegetarian and not religious. She owns an old lime-green Volkswagen van which has appeared in some episodes of Coast, and which she bought second-hand from Mick Aston, professor of landscape archaeology at the University of Bristol and lead archaeologist of the Time Team TV series.
For her donation, Alice suggested the love child of a modern human and a Neanderthal. ‘I’d just really like to see what it looks like and how it grows up,’ she explains. ‘We’re in a really interesting place at the moment – there’s a huge debate about whether we displaced the Neanderthals or whether the two populations mixed. I’m sure it was genetically possible.’
A 2011 study of the human genome appeared to give evidence that humans and Neanderthals mated. A German team concluded that between 1 per cent and 4 per cent of the genome of non-Africans today is derived from Neanderthals. But 2012 study has suggested that the Neanderthal genes in our DNA could just as easily come from a common ancestor as from hybridisation. ‘The debate is going to rage on for a while,’ says Alice. ‘Whatever the answer turns out to be, it will be fascinating.’
Far from being unintelligent ‘ape-men’, the Neanderthals used tools, had a creative culture, wore body ornaments, had religious rites, buried their dead and could probably talk. The oldest-known musical instrument – a flute made from the femur of a bear – was crafted by a Neanderthal and Europe’s most ancient cave paintings are thought to be Neanderthal in origin. Nor were they excessively hairy; they are likely to have had the whole range of hair colour we see today in European populations from dark, to blonde to red. Plus, computer models have shown that excess hair on Neanderthals would have caused over-production of sweat which, when frozen, could potentially lead to illness and death.
‘Educated guesswork’ is what science is. You form hypotheses, test them against the evidence, and if they fit the evidence, you can assume you’ve got close to the truth.3D Cinema
For his donation Frank suggested St Columba’s Psalter. ‘I’ve always been fascinated by saints’, says Frank, ‘And I’ve always loved this story; it’s a story about copyright infringement and how a small event can spiral into something huge and catastrophic. St Columba loved books so much that he would just copy them down all the time and hand them out to his monks. His former master, Finnian, went to Rome and brought back a copy of St Jerome’s Psalter (a book of psalms) to Ireland and guarded it jealously. When Columba "borrowed" the book and made a copy, a huge row erupted and the question of ownership was put before King Diarmaid, overlord of Ireland who ruled: 'To every cow her calf and to every book its son-book. Therefore the copy you made belongs to Finnian.'
Columba never forgave Diarmaid and, following a series of events, a battle took place in which more than 3,000 of Diarmaid’s men were killed. The story is fascinating to me because it happened at the changeover between the old world and the new; Columba was in our world and believed that the psalms belonged to everyone whereas Finnian believed that the psalter was merely property that he owned.’
Interestingly, the earliest report of a monster associated with the vicinity of Loch Ness appears in a biography of St Columba written in the seventh century (200 years after his death). As one of his followers was chased across the Loch by the monster, Columba made the sign of the Cross and said, ‘Go no further. Do not touch the man. Go back at once.’ Sure enough the monster fled – which is presumably why we’ve not seen Nessie since.
Frank Cottrell Boyce is a screenwriter, novelist and occasional actor, known for his children’s fiction and for his collaborations with film director Michael Winterbottom and Danny Boyle, with whom he wrote scripts for the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony, including the extraordinary sequence that saw the Queen leap from a helicopter accompanied by James Bond. In June 2012 he assumed the position of professor of reading (the first such professorship) at Liverpool Hope University.
He has written for Coronation Street and Brookside, as well as its spin-off Damon and Debbie. He worked with Michael Winterbottom on films including Butterfly Kiss, Welcome to Sarajevo, 24 Hour Party People and A Cock and Bull Story.
Frank has also adapted novels for the screen and written children’s fiction. His first novel Millions won the annual Carnegie Medal in Literature and was based on his own screenplay for the film of the same name directed by Danny Boyle. His next novel, Framed, made the shortlist for both the Carnegie and the Whitbread Children’s Book Award. He adapted it as a screenplay for a 2009 BBC television film. He made the Carnegie shortlist again for Cosmic (2008). In 2011, he was commissioned by Ian Fleming’s family to write a series of sequels to the children’s book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The first, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again was published in 2011.
I know I’m versatile but I’m not sure that versatility is a great quality in a screenwriter – it’s a bit like gymnastic ability in a waiter. It would be nice to see it for a few minutes but basically you want him to shut up and give you the food.