R.I.P. Trevor Baylis (1937-2018)

I heard yesterday the sad news of the death of inventor Trevor Baylis, who was most famous for his wind-up radio device. This brought back memories of when we both appeared in a Tomorrow’s World Live event that took place 21 years ago. I didn’t get to know him very well, but seemed to me to be a nice man, and the very epitome of an old-school boffin complete with pipe and tweed jacket.

I was on the show to do an item on the Tomorrow’s World Live show – which was not broadcast but performed in front of an audience of a few hundred people in a temporary theatre. In fact there were four shows a day for the period of the event (19-23 March 1997). Each show was only about 30 minutes long, but it was quite hard work as there were many technical things to sort out in between performances.

My role was to do a little piece about the refurbished Hubble Space Telescope and then answer questions on astronomy and cosmology from the audience. I had no script for that bit, as it was impossible to know what would be asked. I answered with varying degrees of success.

Other items featured on the show, as well as Trevor’s clockwork radio, were an  electric sports car, and a device for scrambling an egg without breaking its shell. I couldn’t see the point of the last invention, as one would have to break the shell to eat the egg anyway.

The best bit about being involved in Tomorrow’s World Live was meeting so many of the presenters, all of them proper professionals (unlike me) who were very friendly and helpful although most of them seemed very nervous beforehand. I think they knew better than I did how many things might go wrong. Only two presenters were involved in each show,  and  each pair only did one or two shows, so over the five days I got to work with the whole set, including Craig Doyle, Philippa Forester, Howard Stableford, Vivienne Parry and Shahnaz Pakravan. I didn’t envy them as they had to work not only with amateurs like me, but also had to learn a detailed script and deal with the gadgets. I was relieved that I could basically just wing it.

My clearest memory of the whole event was the technical rehearsal early  in the morning before the very first show. Apart from the wind-up radio, nothing worked properly, and I was convinced that it was all going to be a complete disaster. Somehow, however, it all came together and there weren’t any major problems in any of the real shows.

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