Between the 5th and 14th of October 2011 I embarked on a tour of the UK and Ireland, to meet with skeptics, atheists and humanists to share my experiences of being a skeptic in Uganda.
The speaking tour was coordinated by Dr. Adam Corner of Cardiff University, who I met here in Kampala while he was carrying out research on public attitudes about climate change in Uganda. Having had some experience interacting with some UK-based skeptic groups before coming to Uganda, he told me he was of the view that some of these groups he knew might be interested in hearing about what Freethought Kampala was doing in Uganda. He then asked me if I’d consider travelling to the UK to give some talks on the subject. I told him I would, if anybody was interested. I was skeptical that anyone would be, to be honest.
Dr. Corner proceeded to contact the British Humanist Association, as well as Skeptics in the Pub groups from Lewes, Dublin, Belfast, Cardiff, and Edinburgh – all of whom expressed an interest in getting involved with the speaking tour. When he informed me that everything was set, I was indeed shocked and amazed. I arranged to get some time off from work during the period that I’d be travelling, and applied for the respective visas.
I also began preparing my presentation, which I called:
And that’s how it happened.
The travel and accommodation expenses for myself and Dr. Corner (effectively my tour manager – there to ensure that I found my way around the country) were graciously met through contributions from each of the 6 groups we were to visit.
I set off from Uganda on the afternoon of Tuesday, 4th October, 2011.
I arrived at Heathrow Airport on the morning of the 5th of October. Dr. Corner was waiting for me there. We boarded a bus and embarked on a 5 hour trip to Cardiff, Wales – for the first talk.
I found Cardiff to be a the most “homely” city I visited. Homely in the sense that compared to the other cities I visited, it struck me as being the most laid back, and slow paced. I guess I was fortunate that this was my first stop, having just arrived in the UK that morning.
It is also a very beautiful city.
During the 2 days that I was in Cardiff, I stayed in the home of Dr. Corner, a few minutes walk from Cardiff University.
It was on the eve of my second day in Cardiff that I delivered my first talk to members of Cardiff Skeptics in the Pub at The Promised Land on Thursday, October 6th. I was introduced to the audience by Dean Burnett (coordinator of Cardiff Skeptics in the Pub), who is also a stand-up comedian!
On Saturday we took a train from Cardiff to the coastal town of Holyhead, from which we boarded a ferry to Dublin. We arrived in the early evening of the same day.
Conor Pendergrast and Alana Farrell of Dublin Skeptics were our hosts, and I spent the whole day with them, and their friends Patrick and James, being shown around the beautiful city of Dublin.
I delivered the my talk to members of Dublin Skeptics in the Pub at The Exchange on Sunday, October 9th.
The next morning we travelled by train across the country to Belfast.
Patrick, whom we’d met in Dublin earlier also happened to be the coordinator for the Belfast Skeptics. During our one-night stay in Belfast, he graciously hosted us in his home.
The Belfast talk took place in a really cool pub called The Parlour on Monday, 10th October.
The audio for the Belfast talk can be downloaded from here. Thanks to David Powell of Belfast Skeptics who recorded it all on his i-Phone!
The following morning we travelled by ferry to the beautiful little Scottish coastal town of Stranraer, and then travelled by train through Glasgow to Edinburgh.
The talk took place at Edinburgh University on Tuesday, October 11th – courtesy of the University of Edinburgh Humanist Society in conjunction with Glasgow Skeptics.
This was my first time to ever speak to an audience in a university lecture hall, so it was a really exciting experience for me. It was all really hi-tech for me in there – with lapel microphones, large double screen projection, remote controlled computers, and the like. It was hard not to feel intimidated by it all at first. Eventually I got the hang of things, and everything went smoothly.
Ian Scott of the University of Edinburgh Humanist Society had booked us a hotel room for the night, so we spent the night there, and set off for London early next morning by train.
The train ride back to London proved to be quite delightful, as I had the pleasure of experiencing the beautiful countryside from one end of the country to the other.
The London talk was organised by the British Humanist Society, and took place on Wednesday, 12th October.
Earlier in the day, I was interviewed by Alex Strangwayes-booth, Senior Broadcast Journalist (Religion and Ethics) at the BBC, for her national radio programme. I described to her the nature of the talks I had been giving around the UK, and how the situation was back home in Uganda with regards to the religion-influenced irrational beliefs that were affecting society.
My talk took place later that evening at the Camden Head, a stylish pub in downtown London. Here is a recording of the entire talk, courtesy of The Pod Delusion EXTRA.
After the talk, I was interviewed for Episode 106 of The Pod Delusion. The podcast can be downloaded from here.
Unbelievably, my London talk was reviewed in The Guardian: “Atheist Ugandan works his magic on British Humanists”.
Lewes, East Sussex, was where I gave my last talk courtesy of Lewes Skeptics in the Pub on Thursday, October 13th. The talk took place at the Lewes Constitutional Club, which I thought was a very cool venue. I felt like a stand up comedian doing his routine – I mean, just look at the picture below… the stage.. the lights… action!
Speaking at the Lewes Constitutional Club
I really had a good time. I also got to meet lots of cool skeptics, including Chie san, a lady with whom I got to converse in Japanese! Many thanks to Matt Holland, Eugene Gill, and everyone at Lewes for putting this event together.
Once we finished the talk (somewhere after 10.00pm) we rushed back to the train station to catch the last train for the night headed back to London.
Friday 14th October was my last day in the UK.
Me and Dr. Adam Corner at Buckingham Palace hours before my flight back to Uganda
I arrived back in Uganda on the afternoon of Saturday, 15th October.
In conclusion, I want to say thank you to everyone who was involved in making this tour happen, and everyone I met along the way – it was truly a mind-blowing experience for me to meet you, talk with you, and exchange ideas. I hope I was able to paint for you a useful picture of how things are in my country; and how we in Freethought Kampala are trying, in whichever way we can, to promote reason in Uganda.
Finally, thank you, Adam – for coming up with this outrageous idea!