Brian May visits AstroFest 2023


Brian May attended European AstroFest, Kensington Town Hall, London, on Saturday 4 February, firstly with 1 hour book-signing, from 1.20PM.

The event had been absent for a couple of years, due to the pandemic.

Later, in the afternoon session, at 3.10PM, Brian introduced a rough cut of a film in progress, about Sir Patrick Moore.  Brian was himself introduced by film producer, Robin Rees.

The session billed as:

Patrick Moore in the Sun
Conference goers will be the first to see exclusive footage from a forthcoming film that takes you inside Sir Patrick Moore’s Selsey home on the day of the transit of Venus. You’ll feel like you are there, at Farthings on 8 June 2004, as astronomers gather around the legendary presenter of The Sky at Night to witness this historic astronomical event. Sir Patrick’s friend, Sir Brian May, proposed the idea and Robin Rees, their publisher, was the driving force behind the film. Entitled Patrick Moore in the Sun, it is being released to mark the tenth anniversary of Sir Patrick Moore’s death. This special European AstroFest presentation will be introduced by Brian May and Robin Rees.

Brian May introduces Sir Patrick Moore film – Astrofest – 4 Feb 2023
[Courtesy Monique Brognon]

TRANSCRIPT – A ROUGH GUIDD: E&OE – Apologies – some inaudible


Thank you Robin.

Hello Astrofest folks.

Is it good to be back? Amazing. I can’t believe.  It seems  like it would never happen … until the lockdown stuff. It’s great. I love Astrofest, as you know. I’ve been to very many of them and a lot of the time I was right here with Patrick. Dear Sir Patrick – and I know some of you, a lot of you know Sir Patrick and remember how an amazing man he was, but I thought for those of you who weren’t so familiar with him perhaps the younger people here I could give a little kind of thumbnail sketch of what this man actually was.

First of all, can I just say, can we do a big thank you to Stephen Young who’s pulled this off once again. This amazing [APPLAUDS] very modest … always pulls it off, really brilliant and this was in the face of a lot of obstacles – so well done Stephen, amazing.

I always feel a bit humble actually coming and speaking out, a little nervous, because so many of you know so much more than I do about Astronomy, and this kind of imposter syndrome thing. Interestingly, I think Patrick had a similar kind of thing going on because he was always saying, “Well actually I’m not a professional Astronomer – I’m an amateur Astronomer”, and of course he was the most famous amateur astronomer, ever, and he’s the only amateur astronomer ever to be honoured by the people in FRS, which is an amazing achievement, particularly. So he was a great populariser of Astronomy, but also a very serious researcher. He’d spend thousands of hours just looking through his telescope, making notes, drawing pictures, and his very detailed map of the Moon before…. …properly, it was what was used by the first man to walk on the Moon. So Patrick really has a place in history, in Astronomical history.

He was an extraordinary man – very very unusual – incredibly generous, and I wrote to him as a kid. I used to beg to be to be allowed to stay up and watch “The Sky At Night”. “The Sky At Night” on TV was the longest-running show ever in the history of mankind with one presenter. He only missed one show because of a bad egg.

Apart from that, he was there for every single show and he was a legend. I think, if you talk to any Astronomer of our generation, and you asked them, “Why are you in Astronomy?”, they’ll say because Patrick Moore inspired us. He made us get excited about what was out there. He made us actually go out there and look at the night sky. And we were all clustered around our TV sets to be told what it all meant by Sir Patrick.

He’s the last of a breed. You’re going to see in this film you’ll him. I think it’s fair to say that there will never be another Patrick Moore because he knew Astronomy like no one else does he knew it in a personal way.

So if you asked him … … … … in his mind he knew the Planets like the back of his hand. These days you can’t do that because the volume of astribint was so vast but Patrick was one of the last people who you could ask him any question and he would give the answer not by going to a book, going to the internet – it didn’t exist. It was all in his mind. He was an extraordinary man and I just want to tell you he was such a generous man as well. If you wrote him you would always get an answer to any young kid aspiring … … would write in and ask him about something in the programme, he would always get a personal typewritten letter from Patrick tapped out in his unique way with all the mistakes on his lovely old non-electric typewriter and I was one of those people. I wrote to him as a kid -asked him what the introductory music to “The Sky At Night” was, and he wrote back personally and said, “Yes it’s ‘At The Castle Gate’ … .. by Sibelius. and I rushed out and bought the music and I think that was one of the first times that I linked Astronomy and music, because it gave me such opinion. It gave me that thing that I could see into the Cosmos, because of the music and because of Patrick.

So what is the film? Well we were lucky,  a few of us here were lucky enough to be friends with Patrick.  We became a kind of a kind of beneficial to us I think or a is it leader I think.  We were all kind of disciples and we would go down to his house in Selsey for various events like a meteor shower or because we were writing a book or something …  I was lucky enough to work with them and there’s a particular event that you’re going to see now was a Transit of Venus.

Now Transit of Venus  is not something spectacular.  It’s not something glorious that you can takewonderful photos of like a total eclipse of the Sun, or a fireball or whatever, you know. It’s a little black dot going across the Sun, as you know, but previous to this event which is 2004, the previous one I put it here 1819. It was more than 100 …, it says here 1882  – it was. so no one in the world  had actually seen a transition. So it was quite a nice thing to  gather together and experience even though we knew it wasn’t going to be spectacular. 

So we’re all gathered around in his garden with our various telescopes, not looking through them, of course,  because as Patrick was always the first to say, never never ever look through the telescope at the Sun  or any kind of optical. So we were projecting.

My other very few thoughts … and thing with the telescope that I made with my Dad and a wire coat hanger, holding up a piece of thin paper, as you’ll see, and we’re all thinking: “Who’s  going to see this adventure of the black dot onto the Sun first?”  It’s quite an exciting moment. You’ll see what happened on that afternoon.

But I think you get an extraordinary glimpse in this little clip of what it was actually like to be around Patrick, and how we all benefited, and how the world benefited from his approach to bringing Science to ordinary people, to make them understandable.  The rest of it is in the film.

I don’t think there’s anything else to say except to enjoy. 
It’s not a finished film.  It’s a rough cut, and it’s not actually really, but we hope one day we’ll go into the cinemas and and the whole world will see… but this is a sweet preview.
You guys are seeing this before anybody else has seen this footage…  So I’m going to say –  I’m going to say “Lucy, hit play.” 
Enjoy it folks .