Mahdlo's night of inspiration with Oldham-born Prof Brian Cox

Date published: 23 January 2024

Professor Brian Cox enthralled an audience of 900 school pupils and college students when he took to the stage at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in Oldham for a night of inspiration organised by Mahdlo Youth Zone.

The Oldham-born professor of particle physics warmed up for his European-wide ‘Horizons: A 21st Century Space Odyssey’ tour by delivering an engaging presentation about space, the universe and beyond, telling the audience that in his opinion, many of them would venture into space themselves as space tourism became cheaper and therefore more commonplace in decades to come.

He also pointed out that it would be scientists from their generation that would be the first to analyse soil samples sent back from NASA’s Perseverance Rover when they arrive on earth in 10 to 15 years’ time.

And before taking to the stage where he was later made an Honorary Patron of Mahdlo, Prof Cox explained why he supports the youth zone.

He said: “I come from Oldham, and I was lucky in that I had opportunities.

“So, I'm a very strong believer that every young person should have the opportunity to do what they want to do as we send them out into the world, and that’s the philosophy behind Mahdlo.

“But it shouldn't have to be through luck, everyone should have access to opportunity.”

Just 24 hours after his Mahdlo appearance, Prof Cox took to the stage at the Richmond Theatre in south west London for the first of five sold out nights that launched his 49-date UK tour, followed by dates in Europe in April and the Republic of Ireland in May.

Mahdlo’s Chief Executive, Lucy Lees, said: “We wanted to do something special for the town’s young people to start the new year feeling inspired and positive about their futures.

“It was an absolute privilege to announce Professor Cox as an Honorary Patron of Mahdlo.

"When we asked him to come back to his home town to provide a night of inspiration we were absolutely delighted when he said yes.

"We cannot thank him enough for taking the time out of his busy schedule to give young people of Oldham this incredible opportunity.”

The evening was made possible thanks to the support of following sponsors:

· The Ogden Trust, which aims to increase the uptake of physics post-16 by supporting physics education and engagement for all young people.

· The Stoller Charitable Trust, which includes education among its numerous charitable aims.

· Summit Up – Mahdlo’s neighbour and a climbing centre for climbers and families of all abilities.

· Eton Star Alliance, the Berkshire college’s partnership with Star Academies with the intent of opening three selective sixth form colleges in the state sector in the next five years.

Sean Costello, Head of Educational Opportunities at Eton College, said: "We are proud to sponsor this prestigious education event in Oldham and collaborate on initiatives that contribute to the educational enrichment of this fantastic community.

“It is crucial that young people in Oldham have access to influential figures such as Professor Brian Cox.

"Seeing so many students from our partnership network of schools in attendance underscores the shared commitment to providing valuable opportunities for young people."

Grasping difficult concepts at any age

With the young people in the audience aged between 10 and 19, Prof Cox was asked if that presented him with a challenge?

“It's interesting, because you might think that it will create a big challenge because a 10-year-old doesn’t want to hear the same stuff as an 18-year-old,” said Prof Cox.

“But actually, the 10-year-olds I meet tend to be interested in black holes, the origin of the universe, and the origins of life.

"They ask the same questions, sometimes better questions, actually.

"So as long as I don't start writing equations, I think they are fully capable and interested in difficult concepts and ideas.”

‘Study what you enjoy the most’

Why is it important to get young people interested in science?

Prof Cox said: “I could give you a lot of answers about the economy requiring people trained in science and engineering and so on, but for me, it's about enjoying what you do, so the reason I think science and astronomy are important is because they're enjoyable.”

What advice do you have for young people interested in science and astronomy?

Prof Cox answered: “I always give the same advice, which is choose the things that you are interested in.

"So, if you're really interested in astronomy, then that is something that you can do.

"And certainly, you could end up doing physics and astrophysics, which is essentially astronomy, at university as I did.

"But it could be history, it could be music, it could be literature, drama, anything as long as you enjoy doing it.”

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