The lovely people behind Weird 11 kindly contacted me and asked if I would be interested in being one of their guest speakers. How could I possibly refuse?
Although I wasn’t able to attend for the whole weekend, I did arrive first thing Sunday morning at the venue, the lovely M.E.C.A. building in Swindon. This art deco-styled building was originally built as the Regent Theatre in 1929 and later it was transformed into the Odeon cinema in the 1960s and 70s before being abandoned. If you ever find yourself in Swindon I recommend, if it’s possible, going inside and taking a look at the main hall’s decorated ceiling, it’s great. The venue itself can hold a large body of people so as you can imagine a hall with row upon row of seats in front of a large stage, which was set out with a large projection screen and a lectern.
The venue itself was easy to find but, as the organisers kindly pointed out, car parking wasn’t available at the venue itself but there were plenty of NCPs close by. NCPs for any visitor isn’t cheap but it’s a problem many UK cities have.
However, one thing I must say about the Weird team is that they were very approachable, very friendly and helpful and they took good care of me. A really big thank you to Chris, Andrea and Chris’s brother for sorting practically everything out. The team worked their socks off just to make sure the conference visitor had a great time – about 100 remained at the end of Sunday. After a quick chat with Chris, I headed to the bar and treated myself to a much-needed coffee and a bacon butty, which was yummy and cheap.
Our MC for the day was veteran researcher Malcolm Robinson and I managed to have a quick chat with him before bumping into a couple of friends (hello Steve from London).
Marcus Allen was the first speaker and his presentation began with a commercial promotion of Nexus magazine, which he publishes and distributes throughout the UK. His talk focused on the pyramids of Egypt and how these amazing architectural buildings were constructed. Marcus spoke clearly, however, I felt somewhat disappointed with this talk, not because of the amazing photographs he showed but by his argument that ancient Egyptians could not have built these magnificent works using copper alloy and diorite tools. That the precision required to make the granite blocks used to build the pyramids would have required a more superior technology. He also slammed the hard work done by countless numbers of professional Egyptologists. What was clearly lacking was a bit of hardcore information about why Egyptologists think that copper alloy chisels and diorite hammers were used in the first place. Instead, he called for hard evidence to show how such incredible works were made with such basic tools.
I’m sorry Mr. Allen but you yourself should have provided the evidence to show why countless academics are incorrect in their conclusions. Of course, no mention was ever given to the application of sand as an abrasive that can be used to shape basalt and diorite is hard enough to break the rock. Unfortunately, tools and time alone cannot make items of wonder, it’s down to the artisan’s own skill and knowledge, much of which is known about. Let us not devalue the craftmanship and knowledge our ancient ancestors had.
The second speaker was the infamous Robert Bauval. He had caught a cold and his presentation was unfortunately affected by this. Mr. Bauval’s talk explored talismans, their power and how they continue to affect us in the modern world. What was interesting was the section on Freemason symbology. I’ve been aware of this material for some time but his latest work called Black Genesis (written with Thomas Brophy) caused me to sit up. This new publication advances the idea that before the mighty dynasty of pharoahs there was a mighty civilisation of black Africans, otherwise called ‘star people’ by the authors, who brought into the Nile valley a knowledge the later civilisations would benefit from. Apparently, the text is supported by a new body of scientific evidence. Bauval incorporates a very Afrocentric view and I do have a major problem with the term ‘black African’ in relation to describing any early civilisation. It’s not a very accurate term nor is it apt for talking about a cultural identity.
Next up the Programme Initiative. This was a band that played ‘soundscapes’ to film footage that told a story. Conference visitors were treated to a mini-gig. They very much reminded me of a local Devon band called Red Paper Dragon, who are tragically no longer with us.
Following them was speaker Andy Thomas, a conspiracy theorist. I really liked his confident delivery because he also conveys a charm that made it easy and fun for the visitor to listen to. His Powerpoint slides were dazzling and he was quite a showman. I don’t agree with his views but he was certainly entertaining.
I was on next with my research into shamanism and the UFO Close Encounter experience. Personally, I prefer to present my work, like everyone else, off the cuff and without notes but because I’m trying to offer a fresh and detailed perspective on a complex subject I presented the subject with the help of a written paper. I was also very fortunate at the end to get to speak to one of the visitors who kindly informed me about his own ASC experience (Alternate State of Consciousness). I’m sure I’ll be hearing from him again.
Finally, Malcolm Robinson (Weird 11 hero) filled in for Dennis Price who was unfortunately unwell. Malcolm is a very lively speaker and he doesn’t disappoint, he is fun and worth listening to. A rare open-minded fellow who will gladly acknowledge when he’s in the wrong. His presentation was, as he himself described, a mish-mash of subject matter with interesting new case material, lots of photos and special graphics provided by illustrator Dave Sankey. Mr. Robinson also provided new interpretation for the famous 1979 Livingston case. A researcher has put forward the idea that Robert Taylor‘s experience was caused by the accidental ingestion of Atropa belladona fruit with the possible absorption of cultural imagery from a Doctor Who story (The City of Death) that appeared on TV at the time of the experience. I personally don’t think that this a good theory at all, little of it made sense. Taylor was a professional forester who would have a fairly decent knowledge about the plant life around him, I doubt he would have made this naive mistake. Anyway, Mr. Robinson went through this theory bit by bit and himself came to his own conclusion that the theory doesn’t stand well.
It was an unfortunate thing that on Sunday there wasn’t much in the way of a public debate for any of the topics being discussed. I don’t think the public was there to offer their perspectives, but to listen and then buy the speaker’s books as religious consumers. This is in no way a criticism of the Weird team just how conferences in general are done. [22 Sept update – to be fair, speakers have a full hour each and most chose to use the full slot to speak and the break times for questions among visitors by their stalls. Chris has told me that Weird, like their 2010 event, will include a speakers’ Q&A panel next year.]
I think the Weird team worked very hard to pull off the difficult feat of a weekend conference and I’d like to offer them my sincerest congratulations for a job well done. I’m looking forward to their next event.