Last of Umi’s Science Cafe

Tribute to 11 years of Science Cafe at the Cut

Beginnings – when our history accelerates as Penelope Lively once said – are particularly interesting to recall as we round the circle, and celebrate the 11 year of Umi’s pioneering Science Cafe at the Cut.

Do you remember those black sofas at the Cut? A small group of people sat on those to have a brain storming session, including Umi, Professors Laura & Richard Bowater, Rebecca & Paul Osborne, Miranda Kendall & Caroline Reekie. It was a mix including both artists and scientists, all sharing thoughts on how to bring cutting edge research within the reach of normal conversational level understanding within a social welcoming environment. This was the start of this 11-year journey.

The seeds were sown when Umi, a former research scientist, now a director at the Cut and Richard a lecturer at UEA joined together to give students the experience of presenting their research findings & developing their communication skills at the Cut.

It was as a Director of the Cut that Umi saw the vision of Science Cafe as an an addition to the portfolio of arts programmes. She bought in science, and registered the Cut Science Cafe as one of the 70 that exist around the UK.

Wove the warp and weft of SCIENCE and ART creatively

2014 Food for Thought was the first event to be planned far enough in advance to be published within the quarterly printed Cut Programme. Described as
‘How science ethics and art come together to feed the world’.

2015 Soil and Light
The first of a full day exhibition when 8 different scientific bodies and various Art makers coming to the Cut to Exhibit, including The Institute of Food Research, now the Quadram, The John Innes Centre, UEA & the Organic Crop Research Centre.
John Taylor talked about Solar energy, Bill Jackson talked about his photography, Debra Hyatt showed a film capturing both soil and light beautifully & Richard Bowater admirably chaired the theatre talks.

Sex Art and Genes
Professor Phil Gilmartin UEA gave a fascinating talk about the PRIMULA VULGARIS – Common Primrose, and PRIMULA VERIS (Common Cowslip), which have two different and distinct styles of reproduction.

Science & Religion
Professor Peter Belton – UEA – Quaker and scientist (chemist) described the
universal conflict between science and religion, Galileo and the Pope. Chris Higgins gave the secular scientific perspective and Michael Imison the Humanist view.


2015 Cancer Cure and Care
Professor Dylan Edwards I remember this well. Everyone in the audience was in some way effected by cancer, we knew someone who had it, we had it ourselves, and the questions and audience participation in the discussion afterwards was profound, and I felt enormously grateful to have had this opportunity to listen and ask

Professor Chris Higgins Took us on a whistle stop tour of human evolution, including Mitochondrial Eve. Humans and cabbage share about 40-50% common DNA, while 98% of your DNA is common with a chimpanzee. How Homosapiens migrated to Europe as Hunter gatherers. How all were black and black became white.


2015 AI and Virtual reality – with headsets to try on.

2015 the Effect of social media on young people.

2016 was the year of the Bean and Pulse. The Cut Science Cafe embraced this with
another set of exhibits and excellent speakers.
Professor Clare Domoney, the doyenne of Legumes, John Innes Centre who specialised in understanding genes and processes involved in determining seed quality traits in peas and Mike Ambrose who worked there for 39 years on the seed bank.
Nick Saltmarsh & Josiah Meldrum, founded local enterprise Hodmedods in 2012, now an enormously successful range of pulses. Delicious food was prepared by Imogen Tempest using Hodmedods, ingredients, including Chocolate cake made with Fava beans.

How did Umi find SPEAKERS?

Umi engaged the speakers in a variety of ways:

While she was on the trolly about to go in for her hip operation, she was so
impressed by the anaesthetist Dan Broad explaining the process, she asked him to
come and speak. He championed the NHS with a passion. Entitled ‘It’s a knock out’,

Umi, finding herself at a “Baby shower” for the very first time, fortunately chanced upon Holly Buckley from CEFAS and persuaded her to give a talk on the Marine work she is engaged in at Cefas.

Other people helped:
Professor Richard Bowater put us in touch with several excellent speakers such as Professors Dylan Edwards- re Cancer, Chris Atkins, re Aviation & Dr Stefano Landini re Electric Cars

  • Michael Imison met Professor Michael Moor, whilst on holiday, spoke to him about our Science Café and persuaded him to visit, he spoke to us on SOS signals Ocean to earth – he came all the way from Plymouth
  • From Holland Aafke’ s good friend Dr Helen Goorissen who spoke on proteins and bioplastics made from algae
  • Speakers recommended other speakers, for example Professor Clare Domoney – recommended Dr Sanu Arora, who spoke at our 10th anniversary event.
  • Dr Jordi Asher recommended Professor Paul Hibbard who spoke to us last month about vision and illusion.
  • Supporters suggested speakers, Alan Palmer, did this re Professor Michael Rowan-Robinson.
  • Supporters became speakers such as Sara Ussher on Equine Education and Chris Ussher on Nature conservation in Nepal.


When COVID came, Umi sent an email to the Science Cafe Supporters with links to sites which gave evidence-based information on COVID, which definitely helped me understand more about COVID and how the vaccination worked. This included what we did not know.

Umi organised Zooms, with the technical input by Jo Leverett which were skilfully chaired by Trish Dent and Jack Rosenthal.

Professors Richard Bowater, Edward Draper, Ben Norrington Stuart Rogers and Claire Domoney all participated, people from further afield were able to join in and we are all grateful to all who made this possible, during very dark times.

10 YEARS 2021

Celebrating 10 years at the Cut, The Future of Farming, was inspired by Umi attending a film produced by William Kendall called The Future of Food.

Simon Tooth a former chairman at the Cut together with Umi invited an excellent panel of participants including William Kendall of Maple Farm, Kelsale
Patrick Barker from Westthorpe LEAF demonstration farm
Edward Vipond who was the Farmer AND the Farm Manager of the Year from Bury St Edmunds
Dr Sanu Arora a pea specialist from John Innes
Dr Belinda Clark from Agri Tech, connecting farmers with researchers
The event was Chaired by Johann Tasker – who wanted to learn from us how to create such a successful forum!

We celebrated Laura Bowater becoming a professor and with her came her new
book ‘The Microbes Fight Back’.

INFLUENCING and effecting

Science Cafe has without doubt influenced many of us who have had the privilege of attending here at the Cut in rural Halesworth – the way we live and eat

Science Cafe – Fast and Slow thinking – March
Dr Michael Grey a neuroscientist of the school of Medicine and Health Sciences at
UEA. who worked particularly with acquired brain injury, including both
stroke and concussion.
You CAN teach an old dog new tricks. The damaged part does not repair but
another part compensates.

Alison talked of brain food: Sudoku and another word game – keep expanding
80% dark chocolate and drinking green tea.

Gut Health
We are as much bacteria as human. We learned how to nurture our microbes.
Dr Rachel Wells and her all female research team wowed us with Brassica facts in the BRAVO project. We went away and ate brassicas.

Year of Pulses 2016
Pea flour extremely useful alternative to wheat. Better nutritional values.
Difference between Fresh Peas and Dry Peas – Fresh are sugar pops, low in protein,
but ok in vitamins. The dry mature seed, as between 25-40% protein. Good vitamins
Several people changed their diet after this – one person in this audience


Science Cafe, inspired by French Cafe Philosophie. The first Café Scientifique in the UK was organised by Duncan Dallas in Leeds in 1998 and today takes place in cities and large university towns. The Cut Science Cafe in Halesworth is unusual being set in a small rural town. All our attendance rates far exceed the average number which is 15. Look at tonight.


This is in large part due to the vision, dedication and professional approach of Umi and her band of loyal supporters. We all have our roles. I am usually put in charge of the speakers to make they get their food and take the evocative photos! There’s the front desk, the bar, the flowers

  • Dahlia’s from Umi’s garden. Daffodils from Saras And wonderful Floral arrangements by Camilla Prior and Sara Ussher
    Penny Hunt, Gill wells and J.B, John Ball on the Welcome desk
    Malcolm Ballantine roving mic
    Catherine Hoy, Café and Roving Mic
    Colin Andrews, Angie Power, Anne Gray, Louisa Marcq Café
    Pam Butt, Box office, David Harrison, Camilla Prior & Trish the Q & A desk
    Miles and Nathan Berry – Miles who set out the chairs and room in the café, Nathen who took photos , Mik Horn Light and sound. Melissa Seppings, Peta Jenkins, Sara Ussher, Camilla Prior – all decorating the Cut.
    The Shanty singers and the Kitchen Band, including Marion Gaze, Jenny Nutbeem & Anthony Abbott.
    Trish Dent, Jan Athis, Georgina Sayer, Caroline Reekie, Richard Symes, people already mentioned and others, all of whom have chaired so ably and none more so than Rob Raven who so very graciously came to the rescue this evening!!!

Also, as Stephen Rogers will on 24 October 2023 on Fracking!

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