One day in Alzira…

It seems that November is shaping up as a bit of a European tour for me. Trips later in the months to Naples and Edinburgh have been on the cards for a while, but my friend and colleague Salvador Macip and I ended up popped to Alzira, Spain on November 8th for 24 hours. This unusual behaviour was prompted by our success in winning the European Prize for the Popularization of Science.

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This was the 19th year that the European Prize for the Popularization of Science has been awarded

The prize was awarded for our book, provisionally entitled ‘Playing God: the new dilemmas at the frontiers of medicine and science’, which looks at a range of current and forthcoming developments in biomedicine. As part of the prize, the book should be published in March 2014.

Having had a couple of runner-up slots during 2013 (for our video on comparative genomics and in the Bioscience Tutor of the Year competition) it was great to secure top prize this time around.

Setting out from Leicester at 04:30, we got the red-eye flight from East Midlands to Alicante, we were in Alzira, Valencia in time to check in and enjoy lunch outside in the sunshine.

Lunch at The Blue House

Lunch at The Blue House, our hotel

Our starte, a paella-like dish with pasta rather than rice

Our starter, a paella-like dish with pasta rather than rice

In the afternoon we went to the local museum for the official photo shoot (even though the award was not being made formally until the evening). This was the first time we’d had a chance to meet the other winners. As well as a photo shoot, there were also TV interviews.

The winners in a variety of categories, including poetry, children's literature, popularization of science (us), and novel

The winners in a variety of categories, including poetry, children’s literature, popularization of science (us), and novel

Our official winner's photo

Our official winner’s photo

The award ceremony was a much bigger deal than I had anticipated, with a meal for 750 people. The meal was preceded by a display of traditional human tower (“castle”) formation.

"Castle" building is a traditional display in Catalania and Valencia

“Castle” building is a traditional display in Catalania and Valencia

We were on a table with Andreu Martin, a well-known Catalan crime writer and winner of the evening’s big prize. Also with us were our agent Carlota, Andreu’s communication officer, and Eduard Castanyo (who works as a translator for the publishers Edicions Bromera as well as being, in a different incarnation, Sal’s high school English teacher) and his wife.

The city of Alzira literary awards have been held annually since 1989

The city of Alzira literary awards have been held annually since 1989

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(L to R): Eduard Castanyo, cjrw, Salvador Macip, Carlota Torrents, and Andreu Martin

The meal didn’t start until after 9 pm and it was always destined to run into the small hours. However recent political events in the region, particularly the closure of the Valencian/Catalan language TV station by the main government, led to some highly charged speeches.

The whole evening was exclusively conducted in Valencian/Catalan. I was therefore grateful to Sal and to Eduard for their translation of the highlights for me.

Finally, at 01:30 local time (more than 20 hours after I’d got up) it was our turn. I gave a short speech, translated by Sal, who proceeded to explain more about the book and to add his views on the TV closure.

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The audience had to put up briefly with the monoglot Englishman…

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… before Sal made sure normal order was restored

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It is a huge honour to win this award

After Andreu had collected the final award of the night, there was a further round of official photos and TV interviews (this time they declined my contribution!) then a few final snaps of our own, farewells and thank yous before returning to our hotel and 3.5 hours sleep before it was time to get up and head off to the airport for our flight home.

A last photo with star author Andreu Martin

A last photo with star author Andreu Martin

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A shot in front of the sponsors’ wall (at stupid o’clock)

And finally, was it the lack of sleep, or was this really a toilet for Daleks in the petrol station on the way home?

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Ladies, Gents… and Daleks?

If you’ve read this far you might be interested in the following links:

The University of Leicester website report on the award (with link to Press Release)

The Press Release from Edicion Bromera (in Catalan)

The report in El Pais and in La Veu del Pais Valencia

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4 Comments

  1. Yay Chris! Really chuffed for you, well done!!!

  2. […] second phase of my November tour has taken me to Naples, for the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics 9th World Conference on Bioethics, […]

  3. […] book is a slightly revised version of the work which won us the European Prize for the Popularization of Science in November […]

  4. […] original Catalan version Jugar a ser Déus also won a prize (see here for my reflections on going to collect that […]


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