Welcome to The Cosmic Shambles Network's Blog Network

by Trent Burton


How are you? Well, I hope. This isn’t how you start a blog is it? This feels more like I’m writing a letter to my aunt. I don’t even have an aunt. Well I did. She died when I was about 12 so writing to her would be largely pointless. Unless it was some sort of therapy exercise. But we weren’t really close, so even that would appear fruitless.  Besides, she wasn’t even really my aunt. She was my great aunt. As in she was my grandmother’s sister. She was an alright aunt at best. She did have an excellent budgerigar though.

I digress. The point of this first post is to welcome you all to the new blog network, as part of The Cosmic Shambles Network. Some of you may be visiting the site for the very first time to follow the writings of some of your favourite former Guardian bloggers. Some of you may have just popped in to check out what all the fuss is about. And some of you may be long time Shambles fans. So either welcome, or welcome back. I thought it might be useful to offer a little intro to what we do here at the CSN for those who’ve only just found out about us as well as impart some information about how you can get involved with the blog network and beyond.

Who are we?

Basically, The Cosmic Shambles Network was formed a few years ago, founded by Robin Ince, comedian, writer, broadcaster, and Rose D’Or winning co-host of The Infinite Monkey Cage and me, who you can read about in the byline below if you’re interested but I am co-director of a company called Trunkman Productions. CSN grew out of the old Comedy Central podcast Utter Shambles hosted by Robin and Josie Long and the app The Incomplete Map of the Cosmic Genome. We wanted there to be a place that curated podcasts, live events, documentaries and such things for people with curious minds. Something for people who were just ‘into interesting things’. As Robin says, ‘People are interested if you show them interesting things’. And so out of that came a great number of curiously interesting things. Today the network is produced by Robin, myself and Melinda Burton.

Some of the Cosmic Shambles live gang before we headed off for our tour of Australia and New Zealand. Pic by Tim Ginn.

Online there’s the popular podcast Book Shambles hosted by Robin and Josie Long where we chat books with special guests like Bryan Cranston and Charlotte Church. There’s a raft of short films and documentaries including a three part series filmed at CERN with Professor Lucie Green and a documentary on the life and legacy of Richard Feynman. There’s podcasts and video diaries behind the scenes of Professor Brian Cox’s record breaking world tour. There’s the ground breaking family puppet web series The Quest for Wonder starring Robin and Brian. And loads more too, not least the blog network.

In the live arena we host the legendary variety nights Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless/Curious People each Christmas. We’ve packed out the Royal Albert Hall with science, music and comedy for the Space Shambles show with the likes of Chris Hadfield and Rusty Schweickart. We’re regulars at all manner of festivals from Edinburgh to Latitude. We hosted the Cosmic Superheroes photography exhibition, celebrating women in arts and science. And there’s lots more major events on the horizon too.

Public Service Broadcasting at the Royal Albert Hall as part of Space Shambles. Pic by Andy Paradise.

Essentially, as Melinda always says, we’re entertainingly curious and curiously entertaining.

The New Blog Network

We were already working on a blog platform, with Dr Helen Czerski’s Arctic reports the first cab off the rank when news came in that The Guardian’s science blog network was to close. Over the years they had featured some of our favourite science writers and people who were already part of the Cosmic Shambles family in some way or other too. Given everything CSN is about we just couldn’t have these hugely popular and successful voices being lost. So the blog network’s launch accelerated and expanded and we’re delighted to be able to welcome many of them to the fold today.

From Dean Burnett to Jon Butterworth to Suzi Gage to Pete Etchells and beyond, plus a few more still yet to be announced, it will be business as usual for the UK’s top science writers, just at a new URL and, in some cases, with a slightly new blog title.

But we’re not stopping there. Cosmic Shambles has always been about science and art and so Robin will be continuing his musings and comedian Michael Legge of Vitriola Music will be joining us with monthly musical musings. And there’s a few other writers from the Guardian that will be joining the fray too. More on that soon.

And we’ll be welcoming lots of guest contributors too from our CSN family. We’re kicking off with an exclusive blog from none other than former commander of the International Space Station himself, Chris Hadfield.

Pitching to Us

And that’s where you, dear reader, can get involved; following the launch,  we’ll regularly be commissioning a new writer from outside the current Cosmic Shambles gang for one off pieces. We want to hear from new, exciting, passionate and diverse voices. These pieces will be published each month as part of a dedicated ‘new voices’ blog. We want to read interesting things from interesting people. So it might be a scientific piece about your area of research or expertise. It might be an oral history of a film or an amazing band. We’re open to anything. Except an ad disguised as a blog. You can plug your book or EP or talk at the end of your post but that shouldn’t be the key aim of the piece.

If you’d like to pitch an original piece to us, download the form from here. Unfortunately we won’t be able to commission everything we receive, or respond to everyone, but rest assured someone from the team will read everything that is submitted and consider it for publication. All commissions, unless otherwise agreed, are paid. And, if you let us know about a piece you’ve already written and posted elsewhere and we think our audience would like it, we’d be delighted to give it a plug when possible.

Also, if you have an existing blog, or a pitch for a blog series, that you think would be a good fit for CSN, feel free to chat to us about that as well.

There will be a comments section available with each post, as always, beneath each article. You’ll need a basic WordPress account to comment. Comments will be moderated so please be civil. Debate and argue points all you like, but please be civil. We have a zero tolerance policy on derogatory speech, abuse and bullying.

Supporting Cosmic Shambles

At The Cosmic Shambles Network we currently receive NO funding other than through ticket sales to our live events, a tiny amount of merchandise sales (but we’re working on expanding this, watch this space!) and pledges to our Patreon page. ALL the funds go back into the network; paying people and making more content for you to enjoy. So if you like what you see, please do consider pledging. The minimum is just a $1 a month. And there’s lots of great tiered rewards as well. Without your support none of this is would be possible in the first place, let alone going forward.

The other way you can support us is simply by spreading the word. If you like the new blogs, shout about them and share them on your Facebooks and Twitters and Instagrams and Reddits and Tumblrs and Snapchats and LinkedIns and all the other ones. Tell your family. Tell your friends. Tell strangers. This will really help the whole platform continue to grow and keep it free of nasty things like paywalls.

And so here we are. Good to go. We hope you enjoy the writings that will populate these pages and that you come back to read more, watch more or come to some of our live events. Now off you pop to read about the future of space travel. Or how emojis are going to save us. Or why DNA tests are flawed. Or why you’re scared of bats…

Trent Burton is the award winning founder of, and a director of, Trunkman Productions. Despite starting his university life studying evolutionary biology, he eventually moved on to a career telling people about science rather than doing it himself. He is lead producer for The Cosmic Shambles Network as well as producing live events, television productions and online content for a large number of top science communicators and comedians.


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