Professor Tom Dening ~ Inaugural Lecture, 10 October 2013

The post below, written by Tom Dening, Professor of Dementia Research with the Institute of Mental Health,  has been invited to deliver an Inaugural Lecture for the University of Nottingham. The lecture will take place at the University’s A30 lecture theatre in the Arts Centre from 6pm on Thursday 10 October.

Inaugural Lecture

It is one of the expectations of a new Professor that he or she will deliver an inaugural lecture. The aim is to show off what you know but also to gather a broad audience and offer some entertainment too. This requires presumably some witty slides, the odd joke, and a clear narrative to set out your agenda for future research.

I think that’s where the auguries come in, i.e. as pointers to the future. I managed to lie low for a few months before eventually I was rounded up by the Vice Chancellor’s office and reminded of this serious obligation to scholarship and public education. Seized, as ever when faced with prospect of a speaking engagement, I managed to procrastinate for a while longer before bowing to the inevitable and agreeing to give it.

Several big issues immediately cropped up. One, the date. Two, the venue. Third, a snappy title is almost mandatory. Anyhow, the two problems were solved by the exhibition Art and the Asylum, which is currently running in the University’s Djanogly Art Gallery until early November, curated by my colleague Victoria Tischler. I warmly recommend this exhibition to anyone, by the way. We also worked out that the World Health Organisation’s Mental Health Day falls on 10th October and this year the theme is Older People. Voila, there we have a date and a venue all in one.

The title was more of a challenge, but I knew that I would be talking about dementia and I conceive of the thing as telling a story, some of it personal and some of it about research in dementia and where that is taking us at the moment. So the subtext would be A Journey in Dementia or something like that. The catchy bit was harder but, for various reasons, I have settled on Mrs Finch and the Fishbowl as being the limits of the journey. Mrs Finch I am keeping under wraps so to speak but the Fishbowl is an interactive website designed to showcase dementia research in Nottingham. It uses a particular methodology, featuring fish (who write blogs), experts (who comment on the blogs), and the public (who can comment on any part of it). We also plan to launch the Fishbowl at the inaugural lecture.

In the last few days, we have ben deciding which of the Asylum Art exhibits we wish to use for the posters, invites and programmes. I went for an abstract dinosaur image rather than a Louis Wain cat. I thought that if we added a cat to finches and fishbowls, the metaphors would become overwhelming. Anyway, personally, I don’t like cats much.

All (?) that remains is to write the lecture. I have already been in touch with a blogger in South Devon to use one her excellent photographs of seagulls, so you can see that the key ideas are fermenting in there somewhere. I think I know what I want to say but we’ll have to see how it turns out. You’re welcome to attend, just email if you need further information and you will need to register as numbers are limited.


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