‘Can you stomach it?’ ‘Do you have the guts?’ This month there’s a fire in our bellies as we take on the topic of guts in the latest Dragon Hall Debate.

Guts and digestion crop up in our colloquial phrases in all sorts of ways. In recent years the importance of gut flora for health, and even the possibility that the gut might be a ‘second brain’ have all become part of our public discourse around health. So what can the experts tell us about the gut? Here, our three speakers – poet Tiffany Atkinson, scientist Lindsay Hall and journalist Tim Hayward – share their work in this area, taking on everything from our social history, the microbiome, and how the gut has been represented in our culture.

Book your free tickets for Dragon Hall Debates: Guts on Monday 21 October 2019 here>>


How poetry can help us articulate the body – even the embarrassing bits

Tiffany Atkinson is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. She is the editor of a theoretical textbook, The Body: A Reader (2003), and has strong research interests in the medical humanities, especially the history of anatomy and representations of the body.  ‘Dolorimeter’, a poetic sequence exploring representations of pain, illness and recovery, won the 2014 Medicine Unboxed Prize, and her fourth collection of poems, Lumen, will be published by Bloodaxe Books in 2020. She is currently working on a series of critical essays about ‘the poetics of embarrassment’.

Watch a lecture by Tiffany on the topic of embarrassment>>

Listen to Tiffany’s reading of her award-winning poetry sequence, ‘Dolorimeter’.

You can find out more about Tiffany’s books here>>, and read some of her poems online here >>

How microbiota could help us develop new therapies

Dr Lindsay Hall is interested in the interactions between the host and its microbiota in early life. Her research group at the Quadram Institute seeks to understand the role that the early life microbiota plays in regulating immune responses – during health and in diseases such as IBD – to help in the design of new therapies.

You can find out about Lindsay’s work and about the power of gut microbiota via Lindsay’s lab website and the Guardians of the Gut project >>

There’s also this interview with local charity The Big C, which explores some of Lindsay’s groundbreaking research into how the gut could hold the key to new cancer therapies.

How social history has shaped the language we use to talk about our guts

Tim Hayward is a writer, columnist and broadcaster. He has published several books including Food DIY (2012) and the bestselling Knife: The Cult, Craft and Culture of the Cook’s Knife (2016) which has now been translated into eight languages. He’s a regular panellist on BBC Radio 4’s The Kitchen Cabinet and has also written and presented several radio documentaries, most recently the highly successful, five part Gut Instinct (2018).

Tim’s series for Radio 4, Gut Instinct, takes in the social history of the gut as well as the language we use to talk about it.

You can find out more about Tim’s writing and career at his website.

Further recommended reading and listening

Gut: the inside story of our body’s most under-rated organ by Giulia Enders

Eat Up by Ruby Tandoh

Beneath the Skin

BBC Radio 3 – Beneath the Skin: Writers on the body

BBC Sounds – Gut Feelings

How gut microbiome is affected by circadian rhythm and sleep deprivation | Matthew Walker