Questival 2010

Last Friday I headed up to Yorkshire for the Questival camping weekend. It was aimed at skeptics / agnostics / atheists / freethinkers / whatever rationality-based label people wish to apply, and I was one of the organisers.

NomI hadn’t been camping for years, which is no kind of excuse for forgetting my sleeping bag. The one damn thing I had to remember for our tent, and it didn’t even cross my mind until late evening, when I was able to sheepishly borrow one. I began to doubt my competence at this point, a concern not helped by then only getting an hour’s sleep on the first night. I’m fairly practised at not sleeping, and knew I’d be fine for a day, if not at my sharpest. Which was slightly annoying, as there was lots to do.

Round-table discussions on atheism, humanism and skepticism (I missed these due to buying food, so will skilfully and imperceptibly gloss over them) were followed by rounders, which our team won by approx. a billion to six, because we a) rocked b) changed the rules halfway through. Then came my skeptical quiz, which went over pretty well despite being a bit too formal. It was only 90mins, but felt long – in hindsight I should have made it much more relaxed, and probably had it in the bar. Still, it’s got to be one of the few times in history Immanuel Kant has been mentioned in the same context as a giant penis painted on a roof, so that’s something for the CV. People seemed to enjoy it, happily – I’ll put it online soon.

Iszi LawrenceOur guest speakers were Skepchick founder Rebecca Watson and comedian Iszi Lawrence, and I was asked to introduce Rebecca. I’m generally comfortable speaking in front of people, and had already run the aforementioned quiz, but Ms Watson is a skeptical hero of mine and I got weirdly nervous – I was actually shaking a little and had to read my intro (I usually memorise these things). Anyway, she and Iszi Lawrence were hilarious and easily had the room of 20 people enthralled – at one point during their joint Q&A they and we completely lost it over something to do with whale shit. You had to be there. I didn’t even think to take a photo of said moment, which is a rare state for me.

Unlike the wet and cold Friday night, Saturday was clear for Perseid-gazing, and a few people stayed up until 3ish, apparently getting quite a decent display. I skipped this in favour of a blessedly solid night’s sleep. Next morning we headed out to climb and picnic at Malham Cove, one of those places where you wish you knew a bit more about geology – the cracked limestone ‘pavement’ at the top is pretty bizarre – before realising you don’t have to as there are signs which explain it all. We left just as the approaching storm began to make itself known, and on the way back drove past the Morecock Inn, then later the Ye Olde Naked Man Cafe, situated upsettingly close to the Singing Kettle Restaurant. We didn’t laugh at any of these, though, because we are adults.

I had a good time, and feedback has been positive. Everybody got on, and the whole thing was nicely relaxed. Overall, really pleasant – we’re planning to do it again next year.