What Went on at the 2022 Compendium of Reason

November 23rd 2022 at the Royal Albert Hall

And so the 2022 (Almost) Christmas of Compendium of Reason is over and done with.

Here’s what went on.

We open with a spectacular edition of Seb Lee-Delisle’s Laser Light City before our ever excellent hosts Robin Ince and Professor Brian Cox take to the stage to welcome everyone to this year’s spectacular show of secret guests from science, music and comedy.

First to take the stage, to kick things off with some Christmas cheer and dance floor murder, it’s Sophie Ellis-Bextor back for her third Compendium with us. It gets the night off to a flying start.

The first science talk of the evening is next and Professor Alice Roberts takes us on a bronze age tour of Britain. She’s followed by another former Royal Institution Christmas Lecturer, Professor Saiful Islam who tells the story of how regained his world record for the most powerful lemon powered battery.

Next up Bobby Seagull is here to trial a mathematical presentation about his dating life that he can give to his Mum at Christmas about why he’s single and then it’s time to dive into the classics, Medusa (and a side helping of Batman) with Natalie Haynes.

About two thirds of the way through Professor Ben Goldacre’s talk the VT team tell us that he’s averaging one slide every five seconds. He motors through his presentation at a velocity and intensity that was quite astonishing, even for Ben.

At various points Robin and Brian return to talk about library books and time distortion.

Then it’s time to close act one with an appearance from Orchestral Manoeuvres in Dark’s Andy McCluskey. After a couple of songs he says he’d refused to do the gig unless he could have a guest keyboard player…

Enola Gay was the very first single Brian had bought as a young boy in Oldham, and he joins them on keys for the song. We’ve never, ever seen him so happy.

And we’re off to interval.

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We return with a showing of the trailer for Rapid Motion Through Space on the big screen and then Jack Leibeck and Benjamin Roskams delight us with their violins.

Brian returns to talk about the Black Hole Information Paradox and then, as Robin joins him, he performs his poem from the Horizons tour. Then it’s time for a space panel. They are joined by the Sky at Night’s Professor Chris Lintott and our very special guest, Britain’s first ever astronaut, Dr Helen Sharman. They chat about Artemis and Mars and then, a true highlight of the night. When Brian asks Helen how astronauts will cope with the 9G expected on that mission, and whether humans could even withstand that Helen replies, ‘Meh, I did 8G in the centrifuge, it’s no big deal’.

Helen, Robin and Brian depart after the panel and Chris stays on to talk of JWST and it’s remarkable images. At the end of his talk he brings on 10cc’s Graham Gouldman, who has just been working with Brian May on a song about those very images. Chris leaves and Graham performs that very song, Floating in Heaven, before he’s joined by more of 10cc for I’m Not in Love.

Back down to Earth after that and Bec Hill arrives with flip chat to mishear some Christmas song lyrics before Robin does a reading for Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin.

Dr Julia Shaw is next along to tell us how how not to commit a crime, and why bad people do. On the day of the show, ESA announced it’s new batch of astronauts and out next guest is Professor Kevin Fong with their story of how they didn’t make the cut. Which is fine since Kevin is a remarkable NHS doctor on the air ambulance service so we’ll keep him doing that amazing work instead.

Our final speakers of the night are Professor Hannah Fry and Matt Parker with some statistics, and a very large conveyer belt prop wrapped in tinsel. Christmas presents litter the stage at the end.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor returns with a choir for an epic version of Like a Prayer. The audience is up and dancing and enjoy the big finale.

Except it’s not quite the finale. There’s one more surprise in store.

At Shambles we really do believe in a thing called love…

The choir remain and on come The Darkness to play that massive hit and then their Christmas song, Don’t Let the Bells End. The dance party is lead by Alice Roberts and Chris Lintott down the front of the stage.

And with that, Robin and Brian thank the cast and crew and crowd and we’re done.

Another year, another good haul for our incredible chosen charities like Doctors Without Borders, S.O.P.H.I.E. and Two Wheels for Life.

Pics by Natalie Shaw and Sarah Morris


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