Duncan Dallas, the founder of Café Scientifique, sadly died earlier this week.
Duncan, who had been a former YTV producer, set up the first Café Scientifique in Chapel Allerton, Leeds in 1998; inspired by the Café Philosophique started some years earlier in France. The aim of the Café Scientifique, as he told Culture Vulture in 2010, “is to bring science back into culture by opening up scientific issues to a public audience”; preferably in an informal setting over a “cup of coffee or glass of wine”. And their growth and popularity is testament to Duncan’s vision. There are now over 100 Café Scientifiques in the UK, including three in Leeds, and many more world-wide, attracting large and diverse audiences.
However, in Leeds, its contribution to public debating culture extends beyond the Café Scientifique itself. Leeds is a real city of debate, with over a dozen well-established, well-attended public groups discussing science, politics and culture every month. In part, I’d argue, this is due to the early influence of Café Scientifique: which has not only inspired others to set up similar groups – many taking the “café” name – but has also helped build a ready audience for public debate in general that many groups, including Leeds Salon, have benefited from.
I met Duncan several times over the last five years at Café Scientifique, and other events around Leeds, and always enjoyed chatting with him about all sorts of issues and ideas, mainly around the development and importance of public debate. He was a really nice bloke, who’s made a great contribution to public debate throughout the UK, many other parts of the world and, above all, in Leeds.
Thank you Duncan.
Paul Thomas, Leeds Salon