Scholars and delegates from around the world came to King’s at the weekend to explore religion through the lens of Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
Devised, designed and organised by Professor Joan Taylor, Theology & Religious Studies, the event ran over the weekend of 20-22 June 2014. Attendees heard three days of papers from leading scholars in the fields of Jesus research and the history of Roman Judaea, modern art, Bible and film, the blasphemy laws and Life of Brian’s initial reception.
The conference also included the appearance of two special guests, Pythons Terry Jones and John Cleese, who spoke about the film in conversation with the Dean of King’s College London, The Reverend Canon Professor Richard Burridge, on Friday evening.
In using the Life of Brian as a tool for study, aspects that have not always been considered were drawn out and reexamined. The speakers were all engaged in the project and provided an exciting range of studies.
Pictured from left-to-right: Terry Jones; Professor Joan Taylor, conference lead and organiser; Professor Richard Burridge; and John Cleese.
Professor Taylor said: ‘The creativity and intelligence of the papers were exemplary. These speakers were chosen as being among the most esteemed and creative in their fields, and they rose to the challenge.'
She added: ‘John Cleese’s enthusiasm for the conference was palpable, joking that probably the best thing the Pythons had done was that they had been responsible for this conference. He was clearly astounded and pleased that the Pythons’ work could have resulted in this gathering of eminent scholars 35 years after the film’s initial appearance and appreciated the vindication in the light of the film’s initial reception. The audience were treated to the memories and reflections of Terry Jones and John Cleese, and all manner of other related things both thoughtful and funny, as the Pythons proved themselves to be just as subversive as ever.
‘John Cleese gave a brilliant and hilarious speech at the conference dinner, which was held in the beautiful hall of Inner Temple on Saturday evening, an event hosted by the Master of Temple Church, Robin Griffith-Jones. In inviting the audience to question him from the floor, he courageously laid himself open and elicited some excellent queries (as well as some questions that could have been at times good fuel for a Python sketch).
‘I’d like to thank everyone who made this event so memorable: the wonderful Terry Jones and John Cleese for their extreme generosity in giving their time to the conference at a very busy period of their lives, with intense O2 rehearsals taking place. Thank you also to Julian Doyle, Life of Brian’s editor, and to all the remarkable speakers.’