General Information

We have a great line up for 2022/23!  All welcome.  Events are free to attend, however we request a donation of approximately £5 on the night to cover expenses.  This is a not-for-profit group, all donations are spent on speakers and other expenses for running the group.

All events take place at:
The Woolpack,
Mildmay Road,

Talks start at 8pm, however we recommend arriving by 7:30pm to ensure you get a seat and to allow for time to grab a drink/food.  The woolpack has an impressive selection of beers and tasty grub!

Please note that speakers are kind enough to give up their time to visit us, however sometimes there are circumstances where events are cancelled at late notice.  Please contact the pub or check Facebook before you travel. 

Thank you

Thank you

Events for the 2023 / 2024 Season

An evening with

Anika Abedin


Munkhbayar Elkins

Wed 13th Sep 2023

In a time of misinformation, purchasable blue ticks, and spurious claims to be ‘following the science’, how do we ask the right questions of information we find from social media, companies, and politicians?

61% of people think it’s important the government shows the public all the evidence used to make policy decisions. And yet, the sources of data used in policy making become more complex, modelling and big data being two key examples. But you don’t need to be an expert to ask the right questions. This talk will cover how to ask about the data behind the issues that matter to you, be that climate change or local healthcare policies. With examples of how people asking for evidence have made a real difference, we’ll show you how you can too.  

Munkhbayar Elkins

Munkhbayar is senior research and policy officer at Sense about Science, with a BA in International Relations and a MSc in Security Studies. He works closely with decision-makers, world-leading researchers and community groups to raise the standard of evidence in public life. He wants to promote transparency of evidence standard across government to ensure accountability and to equip society with the right skills to scrutinise 21st century decision-making.

Anika Abedin

As a Projects and Events Officer, Anika leads on organising the Voice of Young Science workshops to train early career researchers in public, media and policy engagement as well as supporting on Evidence week and the Risk Know-How initiative. Intrigued to get involved in science and evidence communication between policymakers, the public and media, Anika joined Sense about Science in January 2022. Anika is a graduate from Brunel University London where she studied BASc Global Challenges: Planetary Health. She has previously worked for the United Nations Development Programme in Zambia and Eastside Youth.

An evening with

Dr. Brian Sharpless

Wed 4th Oct 2023

What’s better than watching a scary movie around Halloween? Well, hearing a lecture on the
real-life psychological disorders behind movie monsters in a nice pub, of course.

Clinical psychology actually has a lot to teach us about horror – and horror movies can reveal much more
than we realize about psychological distress as well as some of the fundamental fears that go
along with being human. Some of this material will be surprising. Though film fans may be well
acquainted with vampires, werewolves, zombies, and the human replacements from Invasion of
the Body Snatchers, even many medical professions may not know about the corresponding
conditions of Renfield’s syndrome, clinical lycanthropy, Cotard’s syndrome, and the many
misidentification delusions. The “real” folklore behind some of these scary creatures may be
surprising as well.
This talk will discuss what clinical psychology and psychiatry have to say about a sampling of
movie monsters from the Golden Age of cinema, more modern monsters, and even some
“monstrous” behaviors (e.g., cannibalism). Attendees will not only learn state-of-the-art
psychological science but also gain a better understanding of history, folklore, and how
Hollywood often—but not always—gets it wrong when tackling these complex topics.
Dr. Brian A. Sharpless is a licensed psychologist and author. He received his PhD in clinical
psychology and MA in philosophy from Pennsylvania State University and completed post-
doctoral fellowships at the University of Pennsylvania. He has authored more than fifty
professional publications including three books for Oxford University Press. His latest book,
Monsters of the Couch: The Real Psychological Disorders Behind Your Favorite Horror Movies
(Chicago Review Press), will be released on October 3 rd . His research interests include common
and unusual psychological disorders, psychotherapy, professional issues, and the history of
mental illness. He lives in the Washington, DC, area.

An evening with

Svenja O’Donnell

Wed 8th Nov 2023

(Re-scheduled event)

Svenja O’Donnell’s beautiful, aloof grandmother Inge never spoke about the past.

Until now…

All her family knew was that she had grown up in a city that no longer exists on any map: Koenigsberg in East Prussia, a footnote in history, a place that almost no one has heard of today. But when Svenja impulsively visits this windswept Baltic city, something unlocks in Inge and, finally, she begins to tell her story.

It begins in the secret jazz bars of Hitler’s Berlin. It is a story of passionate first love, betrayal, terror, flight, starvation and violence. As Svenja teases out the threads of her grandmother’s life, retracing her steps all over Europe, she realises that there is suffering here on a scale that she had never dreamt of. And finally, she uncovers a desperately tragic secret that her grandmother has been keeping for sixty years.

Inge’s War listens to the voices that are often missing from our historical narrative – those of women caught up on the wrong side of history. It is a book about memory and heritage that interrogates the legacy passed down by those who survive. It also poses the questions: who do we allow to tell their story? What do we mean by family? And what will we do in order to survive? 

An evening with
Dr. Michael Brooks

Wed 13th Dec 2023

1, 2, 3 … ? The untrained brain isn’t wired for maths; beyond the number 3, it just sees ‘more’. So why bother learning it at all?

The mathematics of triangles enabled explorers to travel far across the seas and astronomers to map the heavens. Calculus won the Allies the Second World War and halted the HIV epidemic. And imaginary numbers, it turns out, are essential to the realities of twenty-first-century life. You might remember studying geometry, calculus, and algebra at school, but you probably didn’t realise — or weren’t taught — that these are the roots of art, architecture, government, and almost every other aspect of our civilisation. From ancient Egyptian priests to the Apollo astronauts, and Babylonian tax collectors to juggling robots, join Michael Brooks and his extraordinarily eccentric cast of characters in discovering how maths shaped the world around you.

Michael Brooks is a science writer with a PhD in quantum physics and the author of several books, including ’13 Things that Don’t Make Sense’ and ‘The Quantum Astrologer’s Handbook’ a Daily Telegraph Book of the Year. His latest book is ‘The Art of More: How Mathematics Created Civilisation’.

An evening with
Prof. Richard Ellis

Wed 10th Jan 2024

The first billion years after the Big Bang represent the final frontier in assembling a complete picture of cosmic history. During this period early galaxies formed and the universe first became bathed in light. 


How and when did all this occur? Recent progress with the James Webb Space Telescope suggests we may soon witness this dramatic period when the universe emerged from darkness. The motivation 

is fundamental: the origin of starlight began the chemical evolution which ultimately led to our own existence in this remarkable universe.


Richard Ellis is Professor of Astrophysics at University College London. A Welshman by birth he has held professorial positions at Durham, Cambridge and Oxford universities and spent 16 years 

at the California Institute of Technology where he was Director of the Palomar Observatory. Richard is a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Australian Academy of Sciences, and was awarded 

the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society and the Royal Medal of the Royal Society for his research achievements in cosmology and galaxy evolution. One of the most highly-cited 

astronomers, he has recently published a semi-autobiographical account of the progress over his career in studying distant galaxies in “When Galaxies Were Born: The Quest for Cosmic Dawn” (Princeton 2022).

An evening with

Wed 14th Feb 2024

An evening with

Dr. Alice Howarth

Wed 13th Mar 2024

An evening with


Wed 10th Apr 2024

“The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is reason.” Thomas Paine

An illustrated talk, based on Polyp’s recent graphic novel biography, outlining the ideas and almost hilariously dramatic life of this great advocate of free speech, rationality, science and democracy. His writings quite literally sparked the American war of independence, and yet he’s been almost whitewashed from popular history… because, Polyp will argue, he was one of the first working class public figures to apply a blowtorch of plainly spoken logic to religious fundamentalism, in his infamous best selling book ‘The Age of Reason.

Plus: he was once a pirate! HARRRRR!

‘Polyp’ is a professional cartoonist, graphic novelist and science educator. He has a degree from Leeds University in English, comparative religion, and the history of science. His recent works include PETERLOO, about the infamous Manchester massacre of 1819, and ‘thINK’ a collection of his skepticism cartoons. He’s talked to a range of skeptic groups around the country, and organized live debates about a whole range of conspiracy theories, some light hearted, some tense, political and alarmingly confrontational… copies of his books will be available to buy on the night.

An evening with

Speaker Needed

Wed 8th May 2024

Previous Events for the 2022 / 2023 Season

An evening with

Caroline Rance

Wed 8th Mar 2023

The 19th and early 20th centuries saw a proliferation of advertised medicines and health devices – some harmless, some strange and some downright fraudulent.

From arsenic wafers to electric corsets, and from morphine-laced teething syrups to life-enhancing ‘Z-Rays’, Caroline Rance explores how patent medicine vendors attracted customers, and how medical campaigners of the day attempted to put a stop to their lucrative activities.

Caroline Rance is the author of The Quack Doctor: Historical remedies for all your ills and The History of Medicine in 100 Facts. Her website,, investigates the commercial remedies, devices and therapies on offer to our ancestors, encompassing everything from popular household brands to dangerous charlatans.

An evening with

Kevin Precious

Wed 12th Apr 2023

Kevin Precious used to be a teacher. He enjoyed the teaching part. He just didn’t enjoy all of the other stuff that went with it.

So he decided to leave and get his life back. Join him as he explores the foibles of his former profession including the odd pedagogical swipe (phew!) in the process. ‘Instantly recognisable stage presence and boundless wit’ – Leicester Mercury ‘Kevin’s stage charisma and poise set him head and shoulders above the previous acts’

An evening with

Michael Marshall

Wed 10th May 2023

When 2020 brought with it a new strain of coronavirus, the world was plunged into confusion and uncertainty.

While most people accepted the realities of the virus, little white stickers began to appear in public around the world claiming it was all a hoax. The graffiti was part of a co-ordinated grassroots campaign, urging members of the public to join their encrypted messaging channels…

So that’s what Michael Marshall, full-time skeptical investigator and activist, did.

Find out what months undercover in the messaging app Telegram showed Michael, and how the Covid crisis radicalised vaccine hesitant members of the public.

Previous Events 2016-2020

Please expand to view the fantastic speakers that have visited Essex Skeptics in the Pub since it’s launch in 2016.

Previous Events from 2016-2020


Talk Yourself BetterWhen?
Wed 8th January 2020

Ariane Shirane

What’s the talk about?

Comedy writer and journalist Ariane Sherine created and organised the Atheist Bus Campaign, persuading Richard Dawkins and the British Humanist Association (Humanists UK) to support her – and buses with variations on the slogan “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” ran in 13 countries across the globe.

As a result, Ariane received an Inbox full of hate mail from Christians and other religious fanatics, which eventually led to a major nervous breakdown and suicidal ideation. She ended her journalistic career, and didn’t write again for over three years.

In this talk, she will tell the full story of how therapy and medication saved her life, prompting her to write her new book, Talk Yourself Better: A Confused Person’s Guide to Therapy, Counselling and Self-Help.

Ariane will also be signing copies of Talk Yourself Better after the talk.

What people have said about Talk Yourself Better:

“Brilliant – makes the baffling comprehensible.” JEREMY VINE

“What an excellent, long-overdue idea! A super-accessible guide, through the bewildering marketplace of modern therapy, to ease our noble search for help.” DERREN BROWN

“How do we cope with this brutal world? In this witty, revealing book Ariane Sherine runs through the ways. An excellent, funny and thought-provoking read for all who seek answers.” ARTHUR SMITH

“What makes Ariane Sherine’s Talk Yourself Better stand out from the crowd is its accessibility and humour; to be able to discuss difficult things with a lightness of touch and a comedy that does not trivialise is a rare skill indeed. This, combined with the honest – and often deeply moving – stories of clients and practitioners alike, makes this the ideal introduction to for anyone considering therapy for the first time.” BRIAN BILSTON

Ariane Sherine is the comedy writer and journalist who created the Atheist Bus Campaign, as well as the bestselling celebrity book The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas. She has written for BBC1’s My Family, Channel 4’s Countdown and BBC2’s Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, as well as for The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Independent, The Independent on Sunday, The Observer, The Daily Telegraph, The Mail on Sunday, New Statesman, New Humanist and The Spectator. She lives in London with her seven-year-old daughter, Lily.


Circular Reasoning – Rise of the Flat Earth Belief

Wed 12th February 2020

Michael Marshall

What’s the talk about?

In 2013, when Michael Marshall first interviewed the Vice President of the Flat Earth society for his show Be Reasonable, people could scarcely believe that anyone could genuinely think the Earth was flat. Five years later, Flat Earth belief has gone mainstream, spawning thousands of hours of YouTube videos, gaining widespread international media coverage, and attracting countless followers. How did we get here?

In this talk, Marshall will talk through his experiences of the Flat Earth movement, take a look at the leaders and some of their reasoning, and report back from the weekend he spent at the UK’s first ever Flat Earth convention.

Speaker:  Michael Marshall is the Project Director of the Good Thinking Society and the Vice President of the Merseyside Skeptics Society. He regularly speaks with proponents of pseudoscience for the Be Reasonable podcast.

His work has seen him organising international homeopathy protests, going undercover to expose psychics and quack medics, and co-founding the popular QED conference. He has written for the Guardian, The Times and New Statesman.


Why Diets don’t Work & Other Food Myths


For those that still want their skeptics fix, perhaps come along for some drinks & chat at 7:30, followed by a trip to the cinema.

There is a showing of Dark Waters at the cinema at 20:45 if anyone fancies a Skeptics at the Flix evening.  This will not be organised, if you are interested, please come along to the pub BY 20:00 and everyone can walk up from there.  If you wish, book a seat in advance. Tickets are £15.10. Link below.

DARK WATERS: A corporate defense attorney takes on an environmental lawsuit against a chemical company that exposes a lengthy history of pollution.

Wed 11th March 2020

Pixie Turner

What’s the talk about?

Despite a wealth of information at our fingertips there are still so many things we get wrong about our health, and with a new diet book out every other day it’s no wonder people are confused. What should we be eating? When? How often? Just how important is food when it comes to our overall health?

Humans have always been a bit weird around food. We’re told eating certain foods are the key to living longer, some foods are ‘sinful’ or ‘bad’, that ‘you are what you eat’, and that we must seek to obtain health at all costs. All this means we follow crazy diets that make things worse rather than better and have a population where most of us dislike our bodies.

Pixie Turner will unpack why diet and nutrition misinformation is so problematic, on social media, in mass media, and on a public health level, and why we could all benefit from taking a moment to assess our personal relationship with food. Expect some myth-busting, diet rants, and lots of fully-referenced evidence-based science.

Pixie Turner is a nutritionist (ANutr), food blogger, and science communicator. She graduated with a First Class degree in Biochemistry, and went on to complete a Masters in Nutrition with Distinction. She has been featured as a nutrition expert on BBC and Channel 5, and in publications such as Red magazine, Evening Standard, Grazia, the Telegraph and more.

Her second book, ‘The No Need to Diet Book’ was published in 2019 and will be available to buy at the talk.


5G or Not 5G: Is my Mobile Phone Killing Me?

Wed 8th April 2020

Sean Slater

What’s the talk about?

5th generation mobile networks are coming in for increasing criticism by otherwise reputable sources and commentators. Its been demonised as mind-control, as using ‘untested, weapons-grade, ultra-high frequency technology’ and to cause severe harm to the population just by existing. Is it a back-door for governments to manage their population through technology? Are we simply leaving ourselves open to overseas countries to infiltrate our national infrastructure? Are there real dangers to this new technology? Sean Slater will try and address these fears head on and create some clarity around what 5G is and what it is not.

Sean Slater is the Vice-Chair of Edinburgh Skeptics Society and has worked in the mobile phone industry for nearly 25 years; seeing it grow from an expensive businessman’s toy to the ubiquitous consumer necessity it is now.


Hacking the Code of Life: How gene editing will rewrite our futures

Wed 13th May 2020

Nessa Carey

What’s the talk about?

In 2018 the world woke up to gene editing with a storm of controversy over twin girls born in China with genetic changes deliberately introduced by scientists – changes they will pass on to their own offspring. Although genetic modification (GM) has been with us for 45 years now, the new system known as CRISPR or gene editing can manipulate the genes of almost any organism with a degree of precision, ease and speed that we could only dream of ten years ago. Applications range from increasing yields of food crops to wiping out invasive species.  But is it ethical to change the genetic material of organisms in a way that might be passed on to future generations? If a person is suffering from a lethal genetic disease, is it unethical to deny them this option? Who controls the application of this technology, when it makes ‘biohacking’ – perhaps of one’s own genome – a real possibility?

Speaker: Nessa will guide us through this cutting-edge technology that will radically alter our futures and the way we prevent disease.

Nessa Carey is a British biologist working in the field of molecular biology and biotechnology. She is International Director of the technology transfer organisation PraxisUnico and a Visiting Professor at Imperial College London.

She is the author of “The Epigenetics Revolution”, “Junk DNA: A Journey Through the Dark Matter of the Genome” and “Hacking the Code of Life: How gene editing will rewrite our futures”.


How to be a Psychic Conman

When? Wed 10th June 2020

Who? Ash Pryce

Learn to bend metal with your mind, read your friends thoughts, perform psychic surgery and move an object with your brain!

… or maybe it’s all just a trick? Come along and find out!

A magic show that will involve demonstrations and explanations of how you can appear to perform telekinesis, metal bending, psychic surgery and remote viewing as well as looking at government funded research into psychic phenomena and where it went wrong. And if that wasn’t enough, throughout the show will be performances of stage mind reading and mentalism to add an extra layer of entertainment to the proceedings.

Stagetime Promotions Magician of the Year 2017, and Edinburgh Horror Festival Sell out performer 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Warning to those on the front row… there will be blood!

“Educating his audience while making them laugh” – Leeds Skeptics

“Intelligent, funny, and totally entertaining!” – Cardiff Skeptics

“Has the entire audience laughing” – Bath Skeptics // Twitter: @ashpryce // Facebook: @ashprycemindreader // Instagram: @ashpryce

JULY – Wed 8th July 2020 Social Night

AUGUST – Summer Break


Denial, Denialism and Post Denialism. Why is speaking the truth so difficult?

Wed 9th September 2020

Keith Kahn-Harris

What’s the talk about?

The truth hurts. We cannot always acknowledge our desires – even to ourselves. So we deny them. And sometimes we go further: The term ‘denialism’ describes a cluster of ‘alternative’ forms of knowledge, including Holocaust denial, global warming denial, anti-vaxxers, 911 conspiracism, creationism and more. Denialism has been part of the political landscape for decades, but now some (like Donald Trump) are going further, transitioning to ‘post-denialism’ in which almost anything goes.

Why do we deny? How does denialism work and why is post-denialism replacing it? And how can they be combatted? In this talk, Keith Kahn-Harris, author of Denial: The Unspeakable Truth, argues that a solution will only be possible when we come to terms with the truth of our darker desires.


When the Uncertainty Principle Goes to 11*

*How to Explain Quantum Physics with Heavy Metal

Wednesday May 8th 2019, at 7:30pm (talk starts at 8pm)

The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

Professor Philip Moriaty

What’s the talk about?

“When The Uncertainty Principle Goes To 11 (or How To Explain Quantum Physics with Heavy Metal)”

 There are deep and fundamental links between quantum physics and heavy metal.

I know that a Skeptics In The Pub audience will be deeply sceptical about that claim, but there are. Really.

 Far from being music for Neanderthals, as it’s too often construed, metal can be harmonically and rhythmically complex. That complexity is the source of many connections to quantum physics. You’ll discover how the uncertainty principle can be found in chugging guitar riffs, what the double slit experiment has to do with Iron Maiden, and why metalheads in mosh pits behave just like molecules in a gas.

Philip Moriarty is a professor of physics at the University of Nottingham, a heavy metal fan, and a keen air-drummer. His research focuses on prodding, pushing, and poking single atoms and molecules; in this nanoscopic world, quantum physics is all. Moriarty has taught physics for almost twenty years and has always been struck by the number of students in his classes who profess a love of metal music, and by the deep connections between heavy metal, mathematics, and quantum mechanics. He’s a father of three — Niamh, Saoirse, and Fiachra – who have patiently endured his off-key attempts to sing along with metal classics for many years. Unlike his infamous namesake, Moriarty has never been particularly enamoured of the binomial theorem. He blogs at  and the book on which this talk is based was published by Ben Bella last year:

Time to tell: A look at how we tick

Ronald Green

Wednesday 12th June 2019, at 7:30pm (talk starts at 8pm)

The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

Ronald Green

What’s the talk about?

Time seems to flash by when we’re enjoying ourselves, and slows to a crawl when we’re bored. Why? Does time exist, or is it an illusion? How real are our memories? When is now? These are just some of the questions that we will ponder in our foray into what time is for us, and how we live and relate to it in our daily lives.

Rattling the comfort of instant satisfaction, of reality shows, celebrity worship and the self-glorification of the I-generation, we will go on a journey that goes to the core of what it means to be human – a journey replete with twists and turns and “aha!” moments. Challenging what is naturally taken for granted (“the willingness to be puzzled by things that look obvious,” as Chomsky put it), we will forge a link between philosophy and science, blowing away the cobwebs that obscure both.

How Things Really Are. Can we even refer to that? That is the question.

Ronald Green is the author of “Time To Tell: a look at how we tick” (iff Books, 2018) and “Nothing Matters: a book about nothing” (iff Books, 2011). Philosopher, linguist, university lecturer and ESL teacher, with 13 ESL books published, Ronald has lectured and given workshops in Europe, North and South America and the Middle East on linguistics, ESL and the use of the Internet in education. His short stories have been published in Nuvein magazine, Tryst, Aesthetica, the Sink and Unholy Biscuit. He has completed a philosophical novel and co-authored a psychological thriller with strong philosophical underpinnings. After thinking about nothing for five years, he spent the following five years thinking about everything, i.e. time, culminating in his recently-published book and his theory of time.

should alternative medicine have a monopoly on quackery?

Professor Tom Marshall

Wednesday April 10th 2019, at 7:30pm (talk starts at 8pm)

The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

Professor Tom Marshall

What’s the talk about?

Complementary and alternative medicine is caricatured as unscientific and contrasted with the scientific rigor of mainstream medicine. But this is misleading. Ineffective treatments and procedures abound in mainstream medicine. There are treatments in widespread use that we know to be ineffective. There are effective treatments given to the wrong patients. There are treatments where harms and costs clearly outweigh any benefit. There are treatments where we really don’t know if they are effective or not. This talk will show the clues to overtreatment provided by looking at variations in clinical practice and will provide a number examples. It will also illustrate why the problem is so intractable.

Tom Marshall is a Professor of Public Health and Primary Care. His main medical speciality is in Public Health Medicine but he also has trained in General Practice and has studied Health Economics. Tom has contributed to local, national and international media in relation to his research, particularly in relation to prevention of cardiovascular disease.

How to be your child’s first science teacher

Who? Alom Shaha

When? Wednesday 13th March 2019, at 7:30pm (Talk starts at 8pm)

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

What’s the talk about? 

Doing hands-on activities with children is the best way to get them exploring the world around them and thinking like future scientists and engineers. However, many parents lack confidence in doing science with their children, compared with reading, writing or drawing – even sometimes when they are scientists or engineers themselves! Teacher and author of Mr Shaha’s Recipes for Wonder, Alom Shaha, will talk about his own introduction to science and show how any parent can help their children to really learn from their curiosity about the world – so they can take the step from “wow!” to “how?”.

Alom Shaha is a science teacher and dad who has spent most of his professional life trying to share his passion for science and education with the public. Alom was born in Bangladesh but grew up in London. He has produced, directed, and appeared in a number of television programmes for broadcasters such as the BBC, and has held fellowships from the National Endowment for Science, Technology, and the Arts (NESTA) and the Nuffield Foundation. Alom has represented his community as an elected politician, and has volunteered at a range of charitable organisations. He teaches at a comprehensive school and writes for a number of print and online publications. As well as Mr Shaha’s Recipes for Wonder, Alom is the author of The Young Atheist’s Handbook.

A Skeptics Guide to Spotting Bullsh!t

Who? Carmen D’Cruz

When? Wednesday 13th Feb 2019, at 7:30pm (Talk starts at 8pm)

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

What’s the talk about? 

Do you have a blind spot?  You’re probably sure that other people have.  When Carmen started looking into the subject she found that sometimes, just when it’s important, our capacity for critical thinking goes out of the window and we make poor decisions.

In this talk Carmen will take us through:

  • An introduction to the many different shades of bullshit
  • How to spot it live in action
  • How to counteract it
  • How to not be a dick about it

Come and get riled up about why this is so important at what feels like a golden opportunity to bring some much needed critical thinking skills into the world right now.

Speaker? Carmen D’Cruz has been the part of the London Skeptics in the Pub team since 2009 and has worked with critical thinking groups around the world to promote the rational application of evidence in as many areas as possible.

to be Reasonable: By Someone Who Tried Everything Else

Who? Rebecca Fox

When? Wednesday 9th Jan 2019, at 7:30pm (Talk starts at 8pm)

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

What’s the talk about? 

Most of us weren’t born reasonable. We were born into a superstitious culture with only our ramshackle primate brains to try and figure out what’s going on. Reason, an appreciation for evidence and critical thinking skills are virtues that most of us had to fight for and that we have to work hard to keep up in difficult situations.

Rebecca is no exception, she grew up believing many strange things and has had to train herself to think critically. Instead of being embarrassed by our former beliefs Rebecca thinks it is important to have compassion for and interest in what we used to believe and why we believed it. Instead of feeling shame for having been wrong, we should be proud that we had the courage to overturn beliefs that proved to be wrong.

In this talk Rebecca will discuss who she was before, and after she ‘became reasonable’ and overturn the myth that there is such a thing as ‘perfectly reasonable’ we are all, after all, a work in progress.


Rebecca is passionate about skeptical education because she has found the tools of skepticism to be profoundly empowering. Learning to think clearly has made her safer, more confident and happier. Drawing on her experience as a skeptical educator and comic book artist she will present some ideas that will help you improve your critical thinking skills and the way you think about how you think.

Social Night

When? 12th Dec 2018, 7:30pm

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

The Skeptical Bobby

Who? Stevyn Colgan 

When? 10th Oct 2018, 7:30pm (Talk starts at 8pm)

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

What’s the talk about? 

Skepticism and critical thinking isn’t just about UFOs, bad pharma and Creationism. It’s about the everyday things too.
During his 30 years in the Metropolitan Police Service Stevyn Colgan found himself frequently challenging the traditional or ‘accepted’ ways of doing things; critical thinking and his own natural skepticism led him to explore different way of doing things, often innovative and unusual. These included using wizards to tackle street gambling, lollipops to stop anti-social behaviour and dog shows to prevent homicides. Ultimately, he was asked by Scotland Yard and the Home Office to be part of an experimental unit to explore some of these new ideas, many of which have now found their way into everyday policing across the UK.
The Skeptical Bobby is all about grass-roots skepticism and why we should be critical thinkers in every aspect of our lives.
Speaker: Stevyn Colgan is an author, artist, songwriter, speaker and oddly-spelled Cornishman. He is one of the ‘Elves’ that supply the questions for the popular BBC TV series QI and co-writes its sister show, The Museum of Curiosity, for BBC Radio 4. He has, among other things, been a chef, a potato picker, a milkman and a police officer. He has written briefing notes for two Prime Ministers and TV scripts for Gerry Anderson and Doctor Who. He’s helped build dinosaur skeletons for the Natural History Museum, movie monsters for Bruce Willis to shoot at, and was the official artist for the 2006 National Children’s Book Fair. He has been set on fire twice, been shot at once, and has given hundreds of talks across the UK and USA on a variety of subjects from problem solving to Cornish mythology to why he believes that he wasn’t even vaguely intelligently designed.
‘Superb talk at QEDCon by Stevyn Colgan. Intelligent and humane’ – Prof Richard Dawkins
NOTE: Books available to buy on the night – CASH ONLY!
Follow him on Twitter: @stevyncolgan

QED: Question, Explore, Discover – 2 Day Skeptics Convention in Manchester

QED is a two-day science and skepticism convention taking place at the Mercure Piccadilly Hotel in Manchester from the 13th–14th October 2018. 

For more info visit our Facebook page or the QED website

Organised by North West Skeptical Events Ltd, a volunteer-owned, non-profit organisation. Each year we aim for QED to break even, spending all funds raised by ticket sales on creating the best event possible. Any surplus is reinvested in future events or donated to good causes.

Fantastic speakers from the worlds of science and entertainment will be joining us for a weekend celebration of science, reason and critical thinking.

The Moral Case for Abortion

Who? Ann Furedi

When? 14th Nov 2018, at 7:30pm (Talk starts at 8pm)

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

What’s the talk about? 

It’s 50 years since Britain’s Abortion Act & following recent women’s marches against Trump, Furedi sets out the ethical arguments for a woman’s right to choose. To prevent a woman from making her own choice is to undermine the essence of her humanity. The right to an abortion is a fundamental liberty, without which women are not seen as equal human beings, argues Furedi.

Speaker: Ann Marie Furedi is the chief executive of BPAS, the UK‘s largest independent abortion provider.

Furedi has worked in pro-choice organizations for more than 20 years, mainly in policy and communications. She ran the press office of the UK Family Planning Association before leading Birth Control Trust, a charity that advocated the need for research and development in methods of contraception and abortion. Before joining BPAS, as its chief executive in June 2003, Furedi was Director of Policy and Communications for the UK regulator of infertility treatment and embryo research, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). She is regarded as a leading pro-choice advocate and spokesperson, often appearing in the media representing this perspective.

Prior to her career in pro-choice organizations, Furedi was a journalist, specialising in healthcare features for women’s magazines, including Cosmopolitan and Company.  In the early 1980s, she worked for the National Council for Civil Liberties as its Gay Rights Officer, using the name of Ann Marie Bradley.[2]

The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories

Who? Karen Douglas 

When? 12th Sep 2018, 7:30pm (Talk starts at 8pm)

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

What’s the talk about? 

Was 9/11 an inside job? Is climate change a hoax? Was Princess Diana murdered? Millions of people appear to think so, disbelieving official explanations for significant events in favour of alternative accounts that are often called ‘conspiracy theories’. In recent years, psychologists have begun to investigate what makes conspiracy theories appealing to so many people. In this talk, I will broadly overview what psychologists have found out so far, and will discuss some of my own findings on the causes and consequences of conspiracy theory belief.

Speaker:  Karen Douglas is a Professor in Social Psychology at the University of Kent. In addition to conducting work on the psychology of conspiracy theories, she is involved in projects examining sexism in language, the influence of sexist ideology on attitudes toward pregnant women, and the psychology of internet behaviour.

Education Myths

Who? James Williams 

When? 13th Jun 2018, 7:30pm (Talk starts at 8pm)

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

What’s the talk about?

One of the most persistent edumyths is learning styles – the idea that there are a number of styles of learning, such as visual, aural or kinaesthetic – and that certain children respond better if teaching is directed towards their preferred learning style. Another used to be ‘brain gym’ – the idea that rubbing key parts of your body could wake your brain up or drinking water gives you energy.
Lots of other edumyths abound – but why do people believe them? Why have we rejected Father Christmas but cling on to the idea that we only use 10% of our brains? In this talk we begin to explore what we believe, why we believe and how sometimes even direct evidence isn’t enough.
Speaker:  James Williams graduated in Geology and trained as a science teacher at the University of London. He then taught science in London and Surrey. He is now a lecturer in education at the University of Sussex.
In 2006 he filmed a six-part TV history/reality series for Channel 4 called ‘That’ll teach ’em’, taking the role of the deputy head and housemaster in the fictional Charles Darwin school teaching 30 teenagers 1950s style.
His research interests currently revolve around teachers and their knowledge and understanding of the nature of science’ and the scientific method. This leads to work on a better understanding of the ‘Working Scientifically’ approach in the new National Curriculum and public examinations. He also researches the teaching of evolution and the issues surrounding creationism in schools.

There’s a ME in Memory – A walk through the vagaries of human memory

Who? Dr. Krissy Wilson

When? 9th May 2018, at 7:30pm (Talk starts at 8pm)

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

What’s the talk about? 

Few of us realize how often our cognitive faculties let us down. We see things we have not seen, hear things we have not heard and even recall events that never even took place. This presentation will demonstrate the unreliable nature of human processing  and how all of us are susceptible to misinformation, suggestion and false memories.

Speaker: Dr. Krissy has had rather an eclectic career starting out as a professional actress. She then joined British Airways and worked as cabin crew for six years. Whilst working for BA she studied for a BSc in Psychology and went on to complete a Masters in Research Methods at Reading University and a PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London. In 2007 she left the UK to take up a lectureship in Australia where she worked for eight years. She has recently returned to the UK and began her new role at University of Suffolk in January 2016. Her doctoral thesis was on the topic of memory for anomalous events; exploring the vulnerable nature of memory for both normal and ostensibly paranormal events. Her main research area is in the field of the psychology of belief including cognitive, biological and environmental factors that impact on beliefs in extraordinary phenomena. She has published her work in peer reviewed journals and book chapters and given talks and presentations both nationally and internationally and regularly appears on national radio and television to discuss a variety of belief related topics.

Twins – A Window into the Development of Sexual Orientation

Who? Dr Tuesday Watts 

When? 11th April 2018, 7:30pm (Talk starts at 8pm)

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

What’s the talk about?

Dr. Watts investigates how identical twins with different or discordant sexual orientations differ in traits related to their sexual orientation in order to understand how non-genetic factors affect their distinct development. Importantly, across her studies she uses methods that do not rely on the twins’ self-reports, in order to examine their differences on an objective level. Dr Watts will present work that examined how genetically identical twins with discordant sexual orientations differ in their observable masculinity and femininity and also present further work conducted with the twins, which assessed the degree to which self-assessments of sexual orientation reflected observable differences in sexual arousal within pairs. Finally, she look at the extent to which differences in the twins’ sexual orientation related to differences in their finger length ratios, a putative biomarker of exposure to hormones during early development.

Speaker: Dr Watts is a Psychology Lecturer at the University of Essex. Her research focuses on the co-development of sexual orientation and traits that are associated with sexual orientation. Genetic contributions to this co-development may be moderate. Hence, factors other than genetics, including social factors or hormonal factors could be influential. Any non-genetic influences should become more apparent if genetics are kept constant. For this purpose she study pairs of identical twins with discordant sexual orientations; that is, straight twins with identical but non-straight co-twins.

Z List Dead List

Who? Iszi Lawrence 

When? 7th Mar 2018, 7:30pm (Talk starts at 8pm) NOTE – this is the 1st Wednesday to accommodate a potential clash at our venue.

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

What’s the talk about? 

Skeptic, comedian and voice of the Skeptics Guide To The Universe, Iszi Lawrence visits Essex Skeptics in the Pub with her show The Z List Dead List.

The Z List Dead List is a live comedy show about obscure people from History.  As a skeptic, Iszi has found a few that will pique your interest.

Expect woo, violence, sex and death. And a competition. The show is also a podcast with guest interviews including Jon Ronson, Griff Rhys Jones, Natalie Haynes, Neil Denny and Richard Herring.

You can find the podcast on iTunes or go to the Z List Dead List website.


Speaker: Iszi Lawrence is a well known comedian, writer and interviewer that takes on the silly to the serious, finding a story lurking in every subject. She works regularly with Making History on Radio 4, as well as writing, hosting, and co-producing The British Museum Membercast and Z List Dead List Podcasts, which all cover a broad range of unfamiliar topics that have turned listeners into superfans.

With over 12 years experience on the live comedy circuit doing shows across Europe including The Gielgud Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, The British Museum, Mirth Control, Jongleurs, The Stand, Kill for A Seat as well performing warm up sets for Stewart Lee, Sarah Millican, Omid Djalili and Alan Davis, we are in for a Tip Top Night!  Don’t miss this one!

Comedy Night: Ask an Archaeologist

Who? Paul Duncan McGarrity 

When? 21st Feb 2018, 7:30pm (Talk starts at 8pm) NOTE – this is the 3rd Wednesday to avoid the Valentine’s Day Romantic Stampede.

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

What’s the talk about? 

An archaeologist and comedian (same person, Paul Duncan McGarrity) sits in a room and answers your questions on any subject as honestly as possible. Could be rude, probably crude. Be prepared to talk candidly with the protection of context.

‘Like a very tall, funny, excited child’ (Scotsman)

God is asleep – Myths and Legends of Transylvania

Who? Will Hunter

When? 10th Jan 2018, 7:30pm (Talk starts at 8pm)

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

What’s the talk about? 

Transylvania is a byword for vampires and gypsy magic – but there is so much more strangeness that makes Dracula look pretty tame.

Lore is passed on through fireside tales of demons, underworlds and wicked spirits that exist alongside humans, of a creator God who has long abandoned his world.

Transylvania has long been a place of conflict, of cultural clashes and invasion. Within this unique European pressure cooker of faith and war, supernatural beliefs took hold in everyday life. The magical practices of actual Transylvanians from the beginning of the last century up to the present day were about giving reason to a violent world, a way of gaining some agency in the chaos.

William Hunter talks about why magic is needed, on what basis it is done, and some of the techniques he has seen performed.

He was raised in the Carpathian mountains of Transylvania and spent most of his childhood with monks, fortune tellers and very tall trees. SInce then he has travelled throughout Europe exploring surviving or reimagined native beliefs, partaking in Fire festivals and fertility rites from Scotland to Albania.

Social Night (speaker cancellation due to bloomin’ rotten snow!)

Who? Skeptics of Essex

When? 13th Dec 2017 from 7:30pm

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

The Truth about Alcohol and Other Drugs

Professor David Nutt speaks at the Science Media Centre, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday November 04, 2009. The government's drug advisory body is "fatally flawed" and should be rebuilt from scratch along the lines of the Bank of England, according to the Professor. The scientist at the centre of the drug advice row added that he was taking seriously an anonymous supporter's offer to fund an alternative expert group that would operate without any interference from ministers. See PA story SCIENCE Nutt. Photo credit should read: Ian Nicholson/PA Wire

Who? Prof. David Nutt

When? 8th Nov 2017, at 7:30pm (Talk starts at 8pm)

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

What’s the talk about? 

The regulation of drugs – including alcohol and tobacco – is an issue of pressing importance due to the increasing health carecosts associated with their use and the new sorts of synthetic agents being developed and sold over the internet. Also the impact of the law to impede research and treatment innovation is of growing concern.

My talk will reflect on these issues in the light of my ten years experience on the governments Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs from which I was sacked some years ago. I shall present new analyses that compare the harms of drugs and alcohol using more sophisticated methodology and challenge many of the current misconceptions about drugs – their harms – and how to deal with them.

Finally I will call for the drug laws to be changed to the benefit of patients and researchers

Speaker: Prof. Nutt is currently the Edmond J. Safra Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology and director of the Neuropsychopharmacology Unit in the Division of Brain Sciences.

David  broadcasts widely to the general public both on radio and television including BBC science and public affairs programmes on therapeutic as well as illicit drugs, their harms and their classification. He also lecturers widely to the public as well as to the scientific and medical communities; for instance has presented three time at the Cheltenham Science Festival and several times for Café Scientifiques but it was during his chairmanship of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) and his refusal to fudge the issue of perceived drug harm that brought him into the public spotlight.

In 2010 The Times Eureka science magazine included him in the 100 most important figures in British Science, and the only psychiatrist.

Prison – what’s it like and does it work?

Who? Lindsey Whitehouse

When? 11th Oct 2017, at 7:30pm (Talk starts at 8pm)

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

What’s the talk about? 

The UK sends more people to prison per capita than any other Western country except the USA. The cost of crime and imprisonment is huge.  If the average cost of a year in a UK prison is £30,000 and we have about 85,000 prisoners that suggests an annual cost of about £2.5 Billion.  This does not take into account the cost of Probation and Rehabilitation services or the cost of providing a court service or Policing.

It is cheaper to send a young man to Eton than it is to send the same young men to a Young Offenders Institute. Should that worry us?

Did you know that a young black British man is more likely to go to Prison than University? What does that say about our country?

So what is it really like in prison?

What do we get for our money? What does it do for society?

Does it work?

Speaker.  Lindsay Whitehouse, who is a resident of Chelmsford. Lindsay is almost uniquely experienced within the criminal justice system. He has worked for the Probation Service in Cumbria, served as a Prison Governor at a number of different prisons, before taking up post as the first Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex where he served in that post from 2013 until 2016.

The Wow and Woo of Quantum Physics

Who? Prof. Philip Moriaty

When? 20th Sep 2017, at 7:30pm (Talk starts at 8pm) NOTE: THIS IS THE 3RD WEDNESDAY

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

What’s the talk about? 

There is no doubt that quantum physics embodies mind-blowing concepts that force us the question the very nature of reality.  And if there’s a contender for our current best “theory of everything” then quantum mechanics wins hands down.

But, far too often, the word “quantum” signals the worst type of vacuous pseudoscientific gobbledegook. It’s exploited by those who are entirely clueless about the underlying physics — or, worse, should know better — to evoke a misplaced mysticism about the ‘holistic’ nature of the universe. Moreover, when consciousness and quantum collide, the nonsense factor goes through the roof…

Philip Moriarty will aim to tease out the science from the mysticism and show that while quantum physics certainly has its weird and wacky aspects, it’s at heart a theory of waves. That means we can very often easily interpret what’s happening at the quantum level in terms of the everyday world around us – he’ll take a look at what coffee cups, drums, and a SlinkyTM can tell us about the broader nature of the universe (and Deepak Chopra’s place in it).

Speaker: Philip Moriarty is a professor of physics at the University of Nottingham. He tweets at @Moriarty2112 and blogs at

Effective Altruism: Giving with Reason

Who? Richard Clarke

When? 14 June 2017 at 7:30pm (Talk starts at 8pm)

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

What’s the talk about? 

Effective Altruism is the idea behind a growing movement of philosophy, science and evidence minded individuals with a passion to doing as much good as they possible can. Effective Altruism involves using a combination of the head (reason, logic and evidence) and the heart (empathy/compassion) to systematically fight towards making the world a better place for all that live in it. As skeptics we apply critical thinking to a wide range of topics in our everyday lives however our charity and altruistic behaviours often gets a free pass. In this talk we will explore why this is the case and how a few small choices in your life can have life changing positive impact on someone else’s.

Speaker: Richard Clarke is health psychologist and skeptic currently conducting a PhD in the area of information seeking and vaccine hesitancy with the Vaccine Confidence Project ( based at The London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine.  Due to the reasoning behind Effective Altruism in 2014 Richard has decided to pledge 10% of his income over the course of his life time to charities that are likely to have the most impact in the world.

Basic info on Effective Altruism:

Deeper dive in to Effective Altruism (Will MacAskill in conversation with Sam Harris):

Cults and Skepticism: How one ex Jehovah’s Witness fell into the ‘trap of independent thinking’

Who? Lydia Finch

When? 10th May 2017

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

What’s the talk about?

Historically the purview of atheist, secular, and humanist organisations, Ms. Finch wants to expose the workings of these cults to the scientific and skeptical communities and show why although, Jehovah’s Witnesses are considered a small fringe religion, their policies should concern the wider community.

Lydia Finch was born and raised a Jehovah’s Witness (JW), but left the organisation at age 18 over twenty years ago. Recently, she has directed her attention to the harmful practices of JWs and other cults, such as shunning, child abuse, and the forbidding of blood transfusions.

A Former RE Teacher’s guide to non-belief

Kevin Precious

Who? Kevin Precious 

When? Wednesday 12th April 2017

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

What’s the talk about?

In between the various comedic activites, Kevin attends his local humanist group – he’s an agnostic, folks – where he loves a good old debate about the big questions in life.  Expect jokes and stories then, about his time as an RE teacher, being a humanist, the God-Shaped Hole, and the philosophy of religion… and you can ask him a few questions of your own afterwards, if you wish.

Speaker: Kevin Precious is a former RE teacher turned stand-up comedian and promoter.  Besides having played many of the top clubs in the land, he also promotes shows in arts centres and theatres under the Barnstormers Comedy banner. He has previously toured the country with a stand-up show entitled ‘Not Appropriate’, dedicated to the business of teaching.

Drawing the Line


When? Wednesday 8th March 2017 at 7.30pm

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

What’s the talk about? 

An illustrated exploration of controversial cartoons, and their link to human rights, free speech and censorship, by long time Manchester pen scratcher ‘Polyp’.

From Roman times through to the Charlie Hebdo revenge attack, cartoonists have always been the focus of outrage and anger. What is it about this often trivialized art form that evokes such powerful reactions?

We’ll be including a look at the story of the medium’s conflict with religion and socially accepted moral consensus, and in the discussion afterwards we’ll pull at the complex knot of what it means to be offensive. Is there a simple way to untie it?

Polyp is a full time professional cartoonist and active member of the skeptics movement. His latest project is ‘thINK’- a kickstarter funded collection of cartoons ridiculing superstition, irrationality and pseudoscience.

Take a look and consider funding his ‘take no prisoners’ project… it’s already been over 60% funded before half time.

Smashing Physics: News from the Energy Frontier

screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-13-29-58Who? Prof. Jon Butterworth

When? Wednesday 15th February 2017 at 7.30pm (Note: this month will take place on the 3rd Wednesday of the month)

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

What’s the talk about? 

The Large Hadron Colldier at CERN, Geneva, continues to explore the structure of matter at the smallest distances and highest energies. Jon will describe what we have learned from it so far – including the discovery of the Higgs boson – how we did it, and why it matters.  He will also talk about what might happen next…

Speaker: Professor Jon Butterworth (UCL), a leading member of the ATLAS experiment at CERN, will talk about all this and more.  The professor has a book out, entitled ‘Smashing Physics – Inside the World’s Biggest Experiment’, an inside account of the CERN experiments and why they are important to us.

Weird Science: An introduction to Anomalistic Psychology

Who? Prof. Chris Frenchscreen-shot-2016-09-20-at-13-06-46

When? Wednesday 11th January 2017 at 7.30pm

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

What’s the talk about? Paranormal Phenomena

Ever since records began, in every known society, a substantial proportion of the population has reported unusual experiences many of which we would today label as “paranormal”. Opinion polls show that the majority of the general public accepts that paranormal phenomena do occur. Such widespread experience of and belief in the paranormal can only mean one of two things. Either the paranormal is real, in which case this should be accepted by the wider scientific community which currently rejects such claims; or else belief in and experience of ostensibly paranormal phenomena can be fully explained in terms of psychological factors. This presentation will provide an introduction to the sub-discipline of anomalistic psychology, which may be defined as the study of extraordinary phenomena of behaviour and experience, in an attempt to provide non-paranormal explanations in terms of known psychological and physical factors. This approach will be illustrated with examples relating to a range of ostensibly paranormal phenomena.

Biography: Professor Chris French is the Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit in the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, as well as being a Patron of the British Humanist Association and a member of the Scientific and Professional Advisory Board of the British False Memory Society. He has published over 130 articles and chapters covering a wide range of topics within psychology. His main area of research is the psychology of paranormal beliefs and anomalous experiences. He frequently appears on radio and television casting a sceptical eye over paranormal claims, as well as writing for the Guardian and The Skeptic magazine which, for more than a decade, he also edited. His most recent books are Why Statues Weep, co-edited with Wendy Grossman, Anomalistic Psychology, co-authored with Nicola Holt, Christine Simmonds-Moore, and David Luke, and Anomalistic Psychology: Exploring Paranormal Belief and Experience co-authored with Anna Stone. 

Follow him on Twitter: @chriscfrench

Herding Hemingway’s Cats – how do our genes work? katarney

Who? Dr Kat Arney

When? Wednesday 9th November 2016 at 7.30pm

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

What’s the talk about?

The language of genes has become common in the media. We know they make your eyes blue, your hair curly or your nose straight. We’re told that genes control the risk of cancer, heart disease, alcoholism or Alzheimer’s. The cost of DNA sequencing has plummeted from billions of pounds to a few hundred, and gene-based advances in medicine hold huge promise.

There are 2.2 metres of DNA inside every one of your cells, encoding roughly 20,000 genes. These are the ‘recipes’ that tell our cells how to make the building blocks of life, along with all the control switches ensuring they’re turned on and off at the right time and in the right place. But rather than a static string of genetic code, this is a dynamic, writhing biological library. With the help of cats with thumbs, fish with hips and wobbly worms, Kat will unpack some of the mysteries in our DNA and explain the latest thinking about how our genes work.

Speaker: Dr Kat Arney is a science communicator and award-winning blogger for Cancer Research UK, as well as a freelance science writer and broadcaster whose work has featured on BBC Radio 4, the Naked Scientists and more. She is about to publish her first book, Herding Hemingway’s Cats, about how our genes work. You can pre-order it here:

DO NO HARM. Evaluating the costs and benefits of psychology and its link to medicine

Who? Professor Jane Ogden Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 11.16.52

When? Wednesday 12th October 2016 at 7.30pm

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

What’s the talk about?

‘Do no harm underpins medical practice yet much has been written about medical iatrogenesis.   Health psychology explores the links between psychology and physical health.   This talk analyses research exploring medication adherence, help seeking, screening and behaviour change to argue that all interventions have the potential for both benefit and harm.  Accordingly, health psychology may have inadvertently contributed to psychological harms (eg lead times, anxiety, risk compensation, rebound effects), medical harms (eg. Medication side effects, unnecessary procedures) and social harms (eg. financial costs, increased consultations rates).   Such harms may result from medicalization or pharmaceuticalisation. They may also reflect the ways in which we manage probabilities and an optimistic bias that emphasises benefit over cost.  Or they may reflect a change in the way we understand mortality and a belief that even death can be controlled, or even avoided, by the individual.

Speaker: After completing her PhD at the Institute of Psychiatry Jane Ogden lectured first at Middlesex University then Kings College London.  She joined the University of Surrey as Professor in Health Psychology in 2005.  She teaches psychology, medical, vet, nutrition and dietician students to think more psychologically about physical health.  Her research focuses on eating behaviour and obesity management, aspects of women’s health and communication.  She has published 6 books and over 170 papers.  She is also a regular contributor to the media and writes a regular column for The Conversation.


The Good Parenting Food Guide (2014)
Health Psychology: a textbook (5th edition, 2012)
The psychology of eating (2nd edition, 2009)
Essential readings in Health Psychology (2007)
Health and the construction of the individual (2002)
Fat Chance: The Myth of dieting explained (1992)
Chasing the Cuba Libre – my novel! Download it for free.

Lifting the Lid: Ongoing adventures in the world of pseudoscience

Michael MarshallWhen? Wednesday 14th September 2016 at 7.30pm

Where? The Woolpack, Mildmay Rd, Chelmsford CM2 0DN

Who? Michael Marshall

What’s the talk about?

It’s easy to think of pseudoscience existing in a glass case at a museum – something to be examined and critiqued from a safe distance, but not something to touch and to play with. Using examples taken from his own personal experiences in skepticism, Michael Marshall will show what happens when you begin to crack the surface of the pseudosciences that surround us – revealing the surprising, sometimes-shocking and often-comic adventures that lie beneath.

Speaker: Michael Marshall is the Project Director of the Good Thinking Society and the Vice President of the Merseyside Skeptics Society. He regularly speaks with proponents of pseudoscience for the Be Reasonable podcast. His work has seen him organising international homeopathy protests and co-founding the popular QED conference. He has written for the Guardian, The Times and New Statesman.

I’d like to be immortal but…

When? Wednesday 8th June 2016

Where? The Ale House, 24-26 Viaduct Rd, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1TS

Who? Professor Richard Aspinall

What’s the talk about? 

I would like to be immortal BUT….

Immortality has held us fascinated throughout history and there are many examples of individuals searching for the elixir of life or the fountain of youth because they wished to live forever. There are even reports that some like the Comte de St Germain have succeeded. 

More recently the goals have been modified or even shifted slightly with reports that rather than being immortal we will soon be able to live to be 1000 years old, that’s if we start treating the body like a machine and replacing those bits that wear out with time. 

All of this seems to some to be plausible and the problems seem to be associated with how do we cope with overcrowding or how do we pay for the treatments. This skips over the first problem which is how we identify age related changes in the body and deal with them, or else we may end up like Tithonus. He was the lover of Eos, Goddess of the Dawn who asked Zeus to make Tithonus immortal, but forgot to ask for eternal youth. As a result, he aged, withered and begged for death. 

As a sceptic the I would propose that we give up all hope for immortality and eternal youth and accept out fate and our allotted span, but making the best of what we have been given. 

Speaker: Richard is a recognised expert in the area of age associated immune deficiencies and issues concerning vaccination in older people.

He is a member of the British Society for Immunology, the British Transplantation Society and the British Society for Research on Ageing. He has been a Member of MRC College of Experts, a member of the Board of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Postgraduate Medical School, Chairman of the British Society for Research on Ageing and a consultant for several major pharmaceutical companies.

He was appointed a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2007, a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (Edin) in 2012 and a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathology in 2014. In 2015 he was awarded the Lord Cohen medal for his contribution to research on ageing. His current research has two overarching goals; the first is to understand basic mechanisms of the ageing process in particular those which lead to a decline in the immune system and which may be manipulated to improve health. The second is to develop technological answers to many of the issues associated with monitoring the health status of older individuals in an ageing population.

Inaugural Speaker: John O’Learyjohn-oleary_234x234

When? Wednesday 11th May 2016 at 7:00P

Where? The Ale House, 24-26 Viaduct Rd, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1TS

What’s the talk about?

The ban on drug taking in sport is confused, illogical and questionably motivated. As a result all competitors should be able to take whichever drugs they choose.

Not a month goes by without a sensationalist news report about drug-taking in sport. We are told that these cheats devalue sport, undermine competition and are bad role-models for aspiring young sports people. How much of this rhetoric is logically defensible however? Do drugs really make the difference between success and failure? Are drug cheats any worse than other cheats? Are they really behaving in a way worthy of our opprobrium? I would answer no to all three. Anti-doping is the product of sports empire-building, its demonization the product of hegemonic collusion between politicians, the courts and sport autocrats who idealize sporting success but then apply convoluted restrictions on how such success might be achieved. The result is a system riven with contradiction and hypocrisy. There is only one conclusion that could be drawn by the healthy skeptic; that all sports competitors should be able to take whichever drugs they choose.

Speaker: John O’Leary has over 20 years’ experience in teaching at university level on both undergraduate and postgraduate courses. He is Course Leader for our LLB (Hons) in Chelmsford where he lectures currently in tort, trusts and employment law. His main area of research is sport law where he has advised Parliament and the EU Commission and enjoys an international reputation.

Selected recent publications

O’Leary, J., 2013. USADA v Montgomery. Book chapter in: Anderson, J. (Ed.). Leading Cases in Sports Law. The Hague: Springer.

O’Leary, J. and Khoo, T., 2013. Changing the World: Sport, Racism and Law in South Africa and Malaysia. International Sports Law Journal.

O’Leary, J. (join author), 2012. Sports Law. London: Cavendish.

O’Leary, J., 2001. Drugs and Doping in Sport. London: Cavendish.

Recent presentations and conferences

Sports Law and Notions of Justice: Why There is No Such Thing as Justice in Sport. Paper given to Sporting Justice conference, 2014, Nottingham Trent University.

A Kantian Perspective on Sports Law, SLSA Conference, 2014.