Jam Yesterday

On a grey day back in October I made my way along Albemarle Street to the Royal Institution for the filming of DemoJam, a lively and light-hearted program of science produced by Jonathan Sanderson and the rest of the gang at StoryCog for the new RI channel.

After a heavy morning at Imperial, it was a blessed relief to walk into the organised chaos in the Conversation Room on the ground floor of the RI and know that none of it was my responsibility. The room was festooned with lights and cameras, and buzzed with people pinging back and forth between different groups trying to sort things out, all under Jonathan’s distracted but watchful eye. I guess I should have known but I was surprised to see just how many people it takes to make twenty minutes of video.

DemoJam 2

A small sample of the people who worked on the video

My only task — very light duties indeed — was to work through my material with Matt Parker, DemoJam’s affable host, to see how we could shoe-horn our conversation on the X-ray crystallography of viruses into three or four minutes. Piece of cake. No, really. Cake. Like a jam sponge.

And then suddenly it was lights, camera, action, inaction, action, inaction, action, inaction and so on — all in front of a live audience and steered with genial humour by Matt. Suzy Sheehy showed off a particle acceleration made with a salad bowl, Ben Craven proved that your eyes are lying to you pretty much the whole time and then it was my turn to spin a tale in conversation with Matt of viruses, crystals and the maths of heat travel along a hot poker. I’m pleased to say we managed it in a single take.

To round off proceedings, Jonny Berliner gave us a song he had written during the afternoon’s rehearsals that was a witty fusion of our three quanta of science. Take my word for it — the song alone makes the video worth watching.

OK, don’t take my word for it — see for yourself.


The video was released earlier this week as part of the launch of the new RI Channel. The idea is to show off “the very best science videos from the RI and around the web.”

And it does. The site is slick, clean, well-organised and already stocked with some gems from the past — David Attenborough’s 1973 Christmas Lectures for one — as well as more current offerings. Flying Gravity 2 (presented by Ben Craven), is particularly sweet.

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12 Responses to Jam Yesterday

  1. ricardipus says:

    That is brilliant! And it features the ever-photogenic Dr. Curry himself. 🙂

  2. cromercrox says:

    I prefer Battenberg to Jam Sponge. I think it’s the marzipan that does it for me.

  3. Jonathan says:

    ‘Distracted’? Me?

    Uh… yeah, that’s about right. DemoJam was the largest production I’ve mounted since I left broadcast, but even then we had a tiny crew for what we were trying to do, really. The patience of our contributors – and their ability to perform when cued, first time – was absolutely key.

    Mighty fine job, Stephen. Very glad we roped you in (and not just because of your heroic post-publication pimping of the show).

  4. Gillian Warrior says:

    Crystallized viruses, very Christmassy, good topic loved it

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