News Article

Brian Cox and Robin Ince bring 'The Infinite Monkey Cage' to GCHQ

Last Updated: 10 Aug 2018
We have opened our doors to a science comedy series for the first time in our history!

News article - 10 August 2018

'The Infinite Monkey Cage' radio show, hosted by physicist Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince, travelled to our Headquarters in Cheltenham to record a special episode of the factual science series. 

As well as Brian and Robin, the panel also included comedian Katy Brand, GCHQ's historian Tony Comer, and the Deputy Director for Counter Terrorism, Ian.

The 30-minute Radio 4 show, which is also released as an extended length podcast, poses tricky science-based questions to its panel, with surprising and sometimes irreverent results. The show recently celebrated its 100th episode, and GCHQ is about to enter its 100th year, with 2019 marking our centenary

Recorded in the evening, before an audience of our staff, it gave the panel the chance to have a light-hearted, yet informed, debate on topics as diverse as code-breaking, cyber-security, and the ingenuity required to work for an Intelligence Agency. Asked  to name their favourite codes, GCHQ historian Tony named the Magdeburg Code Book captured from a German cruiser during WWI, while Deputy Director Ian plumped for the genetic code.

Ian, who has worked at the heart of GCHQ's counter-terrorism mission for many years, also talked about what it's like to work here at GCHQ, and leading our teams committed to trying to keep the country safe.

Ian said: "Being able to imagine the impossible is still as fundamental to GCHQ today as it was to those working at Bletchley Park in WWII. It takes more than individual genius to solve the complex challenges we face; we need diverse individuals collaborating in teams to bring their collective talent and different perspectives together."

GCHQ's historian Tony said of GCHQ hosting the recording: "Recording a radio show deep inside the headquarters of an intelligence agency was definitely a security challenge, but it was worth it because being part of the audience was a fantastic experience for our staff. Many of them work long hours, countering real-world threats from nation states, criminals and terrorists. For one evening, this was definitely a break from the day job."

Some of the ingenuity that we are renowned for came through during the recording - some staff members in the audience were unable to stop themselves shouting out answers to puzzles being set for the show's listeners!

The full Infinite Monkey Cage episode will air on Radio 4 on 13 August 2018, and will be available to download as a podcast and from the BBC website.