Ancient college smokes out cannabis story

GRESHAM COLLEGE has been giving free lectures in central London for centuries and its professors have included Sir Christopher Wren.

Its lectures are always well-attended, yet few Londoners could locate its premises, hidden behind an alley in High Holborn, London WC1.

Now Gresham, which was founded in 1597 and says it is London’s oldest higher education institution, has become a worldwide internet hit as people around the world log on to recordings of its talks.

The lectures and seminars, which include musical performances, have won a big online following through a variety of channels, among them YouTube, where it attracted almost 600,000 hits over the last academic year. One of next week’s talks, “Cannabis Britannica: The rise and demise of a Victorian wonder-drug”, is bound to hook a large audience.

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Top, Gresham College reciters at a Museum of London lecture and, above, conductor Christopher Hogwood and musicians

The college’s academic registrar, Valerie Shrimplin, told Loving Dalston: “The UK and US account for the highest percentage of YouTube views.” But, she added, India, Germany and Brazil, provide “some of our largest international audiences”.

The biggest group of online Gresham fans, 33.8%, was aged 45 to 54. The second-smallest, 4.1%, was the over-65s.

The college website now has more than 1,400 lecture videos. The number rises with every lecture, of which there are 100 a year. For more Gresham events, press this link.

The City of London Corporation provides much of the funding of the college, which is a charity.

There is, of course, a Hackney-environs link to this story: venues for talks include Christ Church Spitalfields, the Museum of London and Gresham’s, headquarters, Barnard’s Inn Hall, which is not in the borough.

* “Cannabis Britannica, Museum of London, Mon 18 March 2013 at 1pm. Doors open 12.30. First come, first in. No munchies provided.

* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink. If a link does not work, it is probably because the sites has not been maintained.

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