Cambridge Science Festival 2013.

On Saturday, March 16, cognitive and behavioural psychologist Professor Nicky Clayton and independent fine artist and creative writer Clive Wilkins, will be exploring the nature of imagination, and how it forms the cornerstone of our identity, diversifying reality yet impeding and disorientating our memories. Imagination: the door to identity – 11am-12pm, Anatomy Lecture Theatre. University of Cambridge.

Speaker Spotlight…

Nicky and Clive

What happens when a scientist interested in how humans and animals think gets together with an artist interested in the nature of imagination and consciousness? Curious? Then read on…

Nicky Clayton is Professor of Comparative Cognition in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge University and Scientist in Residence at Rambert Dance Company. Clive Wilkins is an independent fine artist, creative writer, performer and teacher.


Cambridge Science Festival caught up with Nicky and Clive to chat about their unique partnership and to fill us in on the links between art and science, imagination and identity.

CSF: Firstly, how did you two meet? How did this collaboration come about?

NC & CW: A chance meeting at a party… and without knowing anything of each other’s background or provinance we clicked. We seemed to talk the same language right from the very beginning. It was quite surprising when we discovered that one of us was a scientist and the other one an artist. Every aspect of every thing we found interesting we shared… both differing disciplines threw up the same important questions about cognition and consciousness. We’ve had a field day since we discovered all this. It has allowed us to broaden our approach and explore ideas on so many fronts, individually and collectively.

CSF: On the surface, the coupling between art and science might seem a bit strange for some. Can you tell us a bit more about the links between these two disciplines?

NC: One might imagine that the two disciplines are poles apart, but in truth both use similar ideas for seeing and making sense of the world. The easy way of describing the similarities is to say they capitalise on the same patterns for thinking… but not completely. We’ve discovered that where there is disparity there is interest.

CSF: In relation to your event, how does imagination play a part in who we are?

CW: Imagination doesn’t play too big a part in who we are. It plays a much bigger part in who we are going to become next. The sand dunes are ever shifting. Time moves on… we move with it. The interesting thing is that as time does move on we have the uncanny ability to replay past times, and reinvent them. We are in fact a complex picture of ever-changing moments, ones that shimmer in the day light and twist in the night. We are the authors of our own dreams… we see within our mind’s eye.

CSF: What are you hoping to achieve in your work together?

NC: New ideas and new ways forward… new thinking in fact.  New ideas are at a premium at the best of times but we seem to have developed a collaboration that opens up a number of exciting possibilities. Further information can be obtained from our blog site The Captured Thought.

CSF: What new things have you discovered by working together? And what’s the funniest or most surprising element?

CW: The formalising of patterns shared by different disciplines and the possibility of thinking without words and even beyond words.

The funniest and most surprising element was being piloted from Denver to Laramie for a series of four lectures at the University of Wyoming in one of the smallest and oldest propeller-driven aeroplanes you can imagine. For both an artist and a scientist this was a real Indiana Jones moment.

CSF:  Which events interest you most at the Cambridge Science Festival?

NC & CW: It’s hard to choose… there are so many amazing things going on. No wonder the Cambridge Science Festival is always so popular!

CSF: Why do you think these kinds of science festivals are so important?

NC: Sharing information in a real space is crucial and provides an opportunity for people to experience current thinking on a number of important issues and hear about the latest research. The internet is marvellous but we are a social species. The festival provides a great time and place to make new friends and meet old friends, as well as discovering exciting new things.

CSF: And finally, I hear you share a passion for tango?

NC & CW: Indeed so. Often before we give a lecture we indulge in a quick tango twirl. One of the funniest moments was just before our Royal Institution Discourse, which was a black tie affair. We danced across the black and white tiles in the foyer much to the amusement of numerous dignitaries and invited guests, including the Duke of Kent.

On Saturday, March 16, cognitive and behavioural psychologist Professor Nicky Clayton and independent fine artist and creative writer Clive Wilkins, will be exploring the nature of imagination, and how it forms the cornerstone of our identity, diversifying reality yet impeding and disorientating our memories. Imagination: the door to identity – 11am-12pm, Anatomy Lecture Theatre. University of Cambridge. 

for more information visit

About clivewilkins

Artist & Writer
This entry was posted in Clive Wilkins, Prof. Nicky Clayton, Published articles, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s