The Chancellor’s Distinguished Lecture Series, is a run of lectures by high-profile speakers, which started on Thursday with Sir David Attenborough giving a talk on the Beauty in Nature. The Attenboroughs are strongly linked with Leicester- our tallest building is named after them and Sir David came on Thursday to also open a new art gallery named after his late brother.
It was supposed to be in the Peter Williams Lecture theatre but 22,000 people tried to book tickets which was a tad more than could fit into the hall. The tickets sold out in 1 minute 30 seconds which was faster than I could order one. For comparison the fastest Glastonbury has sold out is 26 minutes. Because of record demand the lecture was moved to De Montfort Hall (DMH) which is a Theatre with much bigger capacity than any of the Leicester’s Lecture Halls. It’s interesting because Sir David knows the place well. The Attenborough’s lived in the grounds of the University and David’s Dad, Fredrick was the principle of the (then university collage) Leicester. Sir David grew up at the Uni from age 5 and he said in an interview how much time he spent in De Montfort Hall, selling tickets with his scout troop, which is apparently where he developed his love for music.
I’d only been once to the DMH to see some magicians and (hopefully!) I’ll be going again in a couple of years to graduate as that’s where the ceremony is held. It’s a really nice venue and it’s a very big theatre but even that sold out in the second round of ticket sales and I had no luck still.
Somehow though, my housemate Jack bagged a pair of tickets and invited me to go with him!
As I said, David Attenborough was mainly here to open an art gallery and his lecture, called the Beauty in Nature was very cleverly linked to the arts. It was based around whether or not animals perceive art and beauty. I’m not going to bore you with the details of the lecture as you can watch much of it below, but he gave a lots of examples of his experiences of animals where the males are very beautiful. Some of the animals could also sing or dance and some even make art out of gathered sticks, berries and feathers to show off to the females. He showed clips of the animals on a projector and they were incredible. In my own view, although the animals were clearly perceiving what we see as beauty in order to choose a mate, I’m not sure that is really the same perceiving beauty in an ordinary sense. They don’t necessarily appreciate beauty because it’s beautiful, rather because it improves the genes in their offspring…
That’s all a bit deep though, the main thing I got out of the lecture was that although David Attenborough is very old, and at times clearly found difficult to stand, charismatic enthusiasm when telling his stories is as strong as ever.
It was amazing hearing his captivating voice in real life, I was expecting it to be interesting and entertaining, and he didn’t disappoint but in person he also had great wit and humility and he really came across a truly inspirational man. We are very lucky that he clearly cherishes his roots and that University still means alot to him.
Below are the lecture highlights, I hope you have a chance to watch it. I’m not sure how the rest of the ‘Chancellors Distinguished Lecture Series’ is going to live up to the first one but I’m certainly going to be keeping an eye out for the next!