Halloween science night at Centre for Life, Newcastle

PUBLISHED: 15:57 19 October 2011 | UPDATED: 20:10 20 February 2013

Noel Jackson. Pictures by Elin Roberts

Noel Jackson. Pictures by Elin Roberts

An unusual 'science through the medium of alcohol' event at the Centre for Life Newcastle takes place on the spookiest night of the year - Halloween

Modern day poisoners have adapted science and technology to administer modern fatal doses. But famous poisoners through the ages - Crippen, Agripina and the Borgias - all are known for poisoning their victims using drink as the preferred medium.


Noel Jackson, scientist, Head of Education at Newcastles Centre for Life, resident mixologist and a natural raconteur is taking the opportunity of delivering another cult science through the medium of alcohol evening on this very subject.


His forthcoming Whats Your Poison? event on Halloween on Monday October 31st has been triggered by the previous Midsummer Cocktail event held in June.


I wanted to mention poisons just because I wanted to pay tribute to Midsomer Murders, but decided that poison itself, often administered throughout history through drink, was a subject deep and interesting enough to have its own special eventand Halloween is surely the night of the year when mischief is out and about.

Noel is keen to stress that the event isnt about drinking actual poisons.
Each poison has its own particular taste and properties, so we are recreating the taste and nature of each individual or group of poison families. Poisoning owes its "success" in history on being a secretive activity.

This event is about experiencing what it might feel like if one is knowingly being poisoned - its a bit scary and spooky but fascinating and well all learn something about chemistry, biology, history, morals, ethics and our own nerves, all while having a fun time drinking great tasting cocktails. It perfectly fits in with the overall Halloween theme.

The evening menu will feature 5 unique specially designed and created Noel cocktails based around who he calls the great anti-heroes of the poison world and their chosen lethal concoctions - deadly nightshade, arsenic, hemlock, mushrooms and cyanide.

Traditional Halloween bonfire fare, very necessary fuel where cocktails are concerned, is provided by pumpkin soup, award winning sausages and heritage baked potatoes.

Its surprising how many poisons exist in the natural world for defence purposes i.e. from insect damage and protection of seeds, says Noel. Cyanide exists in the kernels of the stoned fruits like cherries and apricots. Ricin is found in Castor Oil beans. Cinnebar moths become poisonous after contact with ragwort and therefore use the plant for their own defence purposes.

All have their own characteristics but perhaps the most successful poison is arsenic. Most people dont know that there are two types. Metallic arsenic smells like garlic whereas arsenic III oxide is colourless, tasteless and fatal, hence its success.

Other poisons given air-time during the evening will be aconite, the opiates, Arrow-poison frogs and snake venom.

I create cocktails in my head and then start to experiment. To start the process in my minds eye for this event Ive begun to see a drink which has a hint of garlic - its thick and dark and purple and slightly vampirish.
All in the name of science eh?



Whats Your Poison? (age 18+) is on Monday 31st October 7.00pm to 11.30pm, at the Centre for Life, Times Square, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4EP . Price: 25 Booking essential 0191 243 8223.
Dress code: Gothic Glam.

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