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Blueprint at Blackstaff

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William Crawley | 10:32 UK time, Sunday, 20 April 2008

For the past couple of days, the Blueprint team has been meeting the public in a special event at BBC Blackstaff Studios. The Ulster Museum have partnered with the BBC in creating The Blueprint Experience, an exhibition exploring many of the themes we cover in the Blueprint series. They've constructed a dinosaur at the centre of the exhibition, with fossils and other artefacts on display. The Time Travel motif is everywhere to be seen, and the public are queueing up to have their picture taken beside Dr Who's famous police call box. The Blueprint production team have built a TV studio inside a TV studio and we're making our own show during the exhibition, entirely staffed by the public. Carole O'Kane is out in the scanner (the outside production van) with our future TV directors and vision-mixers; Natalie Maynes and Paul McGuigan are on the set briefing future TV presenters on how to interview guests; and Ophelia Byrne is turning the young and old(er) into weather presenters in front of our CGI blue screen. Actually, the weather man/woman job is proving very popular with the parents. We've fully-grown adults pushing forward to present an ice age weather report complete with computer-generated snow. Next to that job, I'd say operating our three studio cameras is the next most popular job of the day. Everyone taking part (about a dozen volunteers each show) will be sent a DVD of their moment on TV.

While that's going on, we also have a radio drama studio, where John Simpson, David Shepherd and their colleagues are have developed a Dr Who drama, complete with sound effects and theme music, with the public playing all the parts. It's only at the end of the recording, when the voices and effects are joined with the music, that participants actually work out what the drama is about. I popped in yesterday and recorded my own drama, playing all the parts -- which meant dashing from one microphone to the next throughout.

Darryl Grimason and his Off the Beaten Track series producer Louis Edmondson have joined forces with the Mountain Leader Training group from Tollymore to put together a terrific orienteering game which is proving very popular. Andrew Davison is working with Liquid TV to show off some of the CGI effects -- and they've managed to put a tetrapod on top of Broadcasting House.

The response so far from the public has been terrific -- and that's a real compliment to Geraldine McCourt and her team, who have brought together so many people to make this event a success.

You have a final opportunity to see the exhibition for yourself -- and make your own TV or radio programme -- this afternoon, from 2pm until 6pm.


  • Comment number 1.

    and not a YECist or IDiot in sight?

  • Comment number 2.

    "The time travel motif is everywhere to be seen, and the public are queueing up to have their picture taken beside Dr Who's famous police call box."

    How sad that the organizers feel they have to "sex up" the presentation of real scientific facts with science fiction to sufficiently arouse public attention. Have they underestimated the public's curiousity and interest in real science in the real world?...or overestimated it? IMO, it substantially cheapens the entire effort.

  • Comment number 3.

    Horses for courses, MarcusAurelius. A lot of top scientists get excited by science fiction as kids, and it was that that led them into the discipline. There is a common misconception amongst arty folks that scientists are unimaginative and uncreative - nothing could be further from the truth. Nearly all the very top flight scientists are hugely creative, and love to let their fantasies fly around. However, they know how to rein them back in, and convert them into testable hypotheses. Maybe it's easier for a scientist to become an artist than it is for an artist to become a scientist?

  • Comment number 4.

    What scientists do in their off time to amuse themselves is their business. What they present to the larger public is an entirely different matter. To a scientist, science fiction is IMO a form of mental masturbation, a stimulation of their imagination not based on what they know or what is unknown but might be true because it is within the realm of possibility but the antithesis of real science which places seemingly equal value on the possible and the impossible. This anti-intellectual approach may find favor with people who read sci-fi novels, watch sci-fi movies and TV programs and such but it does damage to science by legitimizing any and all ideas as being of equal value. This is exactly the kind of mentality the Intelligent Design Creationists thrive on to sell their drivel. Besides, real science is far more interesting (at least to me) than sci-fi and it's something you can actually do something with, not just passively escape into.

    Which is more exciting, being Patrick Stewart sitting in a building in Hollywood California on a TV studio set mouthing words a script writer hands him pretending to be piloting something which probably can't exist or being a ship's captain plying the oceans of the world, or the pilot of a plane flying the airways of the world, or being the pilot of a space shuttle actually going into orbit? Engineers and scientists use their imagainations too but the difference is that theirs are constrained by a lifetime committment to intellectual discipline while the fantacist is completely undisciplined, his flights of fancy unconstrained by any real knowledge. Becoming a scientist or engineer takes enormous mental effort and persistance, being an author of science fiction requires none at all. I think each has its place but a science exhibition in no place for fantacists. Apparantly though, this is what the organizers of this exhibition felt would be necessary to attract sufficient interest of the public at large...or maybe they just didn't understand the difference themselves. Either way it's lamentable as I see it, especially in the way it misleads children who are first learning about the world.

  • Comment number 5.

    I actually think people *are* more intelligent than that, and can tell the difference. Some obvious exceptions among the commenters on this blog and Lisburn City Council of course.
    I take your point, though.

  • Comment number 6.

    > Have they underestimated the public's curiousity and interest in real science in the real world?...or overestimated it? IMO, it substantially cheapens the entire effort.

    @MarcusAureliusII Well a Tardis certainly caught my eye and lifted my heart coming through the door ... and I'm definitely from the science side of the house! For families visiting with lots of different aged children, it did provide something for everyone.

    Loved the way one parent started ad libbing around the teleprompter script on the weather forecast on Saturday afternoon!

  • Comment number 7.

    Just a note from my young sons and me to say a big 'thank you' to the whole Blueprint Experience team for a great time this afternoon.
    The 6 and 4 year-old are still buzzing about it all, and they're not the least aware of, never mind interested in, the Doctor Who, sci-fi stuff.
    In fact, they have just recycled the clay from the neolithic pot-making to craft fossils and artefacts - tracing the history of this place and our evolution -to be displayed on our mantelpiece for all to see!

  • Comment number 8.

    alaninbelfast #7
    I hate to be the one to break it to you but just as there is no tooth fairy, no Santa Claus, no Easter bunny, there is no such thing as a "Tardis" except in the imaginations of some people who write fiction and their audience. All there was was an old policeman's telephone box. I'll bet when the producders of this low budget show that looks like it was filmed in someone's basement and backyard were looking around for an idea, a prop for a time machine, one of them spotted one sitting in a scrap yard waiting for the wrecking ball. As I recall from at least one of the few episodes I saw, it was supposed to be much bigger on the inside than it was on the outside. In fact it was supposed to have thousands of rooms. So was it? How disappointing, I guess it wasn't a real Tardis after all. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for a real one either, one is not coming along at least not in this universe.

    The screwball American scientist Michio Kaku was on C-Span 2 a few weeks ago (or was it PBS) talking about his upcoming BBC television series explaining how impossible things like time travel, traveling faster than the speed of light, teletransportation, invisibility cloaks could someday be possible. Well it is not utterly out of the question and who is to say if these things might happen fifty years from now, ten thousand, or never. He's skates on the very edge of the border between the possible and the impossible but I'm afraid the tardis has skated over it with nothing under it except a lot of hot air. Carl-"billions and billions"-Sagan was another American screwball scientist of his ilk. If scientists were really serious about science they'd have been talking a lot more about alternate energy sources to ward off the choice between a looming climatic disaster and an economic one instead of wasting their spare time with what amounts to nothing more than the high tech equivalent of comic books.

  • Comment number 9.

    There were two things happening at the Blueprint experience.
    The first was a chance to get up close and personal with the scientists/ historians and some of the artifacts featured in the Show, which was great fun.
    The second was an opportunity to see the behind the scenes technology of the BBC which was also great fun, the fossils and plant life were interesting and my mum enjoyed the Dr Who radio play
    Well done to William and the Team for hosting an enjoyable day with something for everyone

  • Comment number 10.

    I went along and enjoyed the experience, even though I don't agree with the interpretation placed on the evidence in blueprint. The public had a very enjoyable time and I had a chat with some of the programme team. It was an excellent event from an entertainment point of view. The anti-religious bias of the BBC was clear, but that didn't surprise me.

  • Comment number 11.


    The BBC produces hours of religious TV and radio each week but Blueprint was about science and evidence - religion can tell us nothing in that area.


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