Stevyn Colgan

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Stevyn Colgan
Stevyn Colgan at a promotional pub quiz, Phoenix Theatre, London August 2008
Born Stephen Mark Colgan
(1961-08-11) 11 August 1961 (age 52)
London, England
Occupation Writer and Artist
Genres Humorous Non-Fiction, Trivia, Illustration

Stevyn Colgan (born 11 August 1961) is a British writer, artist and speaker. Colgan's first book Joined-Up Thinking was published on 3 October 2008. He has written two further books, Henhwedhlow and Constable Colgan's Connectoscope. He is a contributor to the BBC TV series QI and the regular QI Annuals, and a researcher for BBC Radio 4's The Museum of Curiosity..


Colgan was born on 11 August 1961. His late father was a homicide detective and writer. His mother lives in Cornwall. He has two younger brothers.

Early life[edit]

Colgan was born in London while his father was an officer with the Metropolitan Police Force. The family returned to Cornwall in 1963. Stevyn was educated at Blackwater Infants School near Truro, St Marys School Penzance, St Pauls County Primary School, Penzance, and Helston Comprehensive School, Helston. Although accepted for an arts degree course at Cornwall Polytechnic, he chose to join the Metropolitan Police Force in 1980. In an interview, he stated that this was as the result of a bet with his father.[1]



Colgan served in Hillingdon, Westminster and Ealing Borough stations as well as with Clubs and Vice, IT Training and the force's Examinations Unit. In his later career he became a training designer and a problem solving advisor where he was involved in getting the police, the community and other statutory agencies (such as local authorities, Fire Service etc.) to work together to solve long-term community disorder and crime issues.

He was awarded the Police Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 1993 and the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal in 2003. He saw active service during many of the public disorders of the 1980s including the Miners' Strike, the riots in Brixton, Southall and Broadwater Farm. He was also present at many large scale public events including Live Aid, the Notting Hill Carnival, the visit of Pope John Paul II and the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. He was one of the first officers on scene at the Provisional IRA bomb attack on RAF Uxbridge in 1981 for which he received a commendation for professionalism.He retired from the police service in February 2010 after completing 30 years' service.

Colgan was a member of the award-winning Met Police Problem Solving Unit that used business techniques and creative thinking to tackle issues that did not respond to traditional policing/enforcement methods. He sat on several Home Office working groups and is an expert on problem-oriented policing and worked closely with the UK Home Office and the UCL Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science. He has lectured and taught extensively throughout the UK and US and now lectures in a private capacity.

In May 2012 he appeared on an episode of the Do the Right Thing podcast in the 'Ask the Expert' round.

Throughout 2012 and 2013 he embarked on an extensive tour of the UK with a talk called The Skeptical Bobby in which he talked about his police career, the need for grass-roots skepticism, and the importance of challenging old and predictable working practices that may now be redundant or inapplicable.


Colgan's first published illustration work was for the book I Remember: Reflections on Fishing and Childhood (Summersdale 1995) by Joe Cowley, Frederick Forsyth, Roger Daltrey, Bernard Cribbins, George Melly and others. The book raised money for the NSPCC.

In 2006 he was the official artist for the Autumn National Children's Book Fair organised by Scholastic Books Ltd.

In November 2008, he illustrated several features for the QI 'F' Annual 2009.

In June 2009 he was asked to create a new mascot for the 30th anniversary of Plain English Campaign. The character is called Ted the Shred and is headlining a global campaign to see an end to official use of gobbledegook.

He designed the 'Swandage' logo for the annual Alt Wycombe Fashion Show for photographer Mark Page (Photos With Attitude). The logo has appeared in Bizarre magazine.

In November 2009 he provided four pages of illustrations for the 'Glossoplegia' section of the 2010 QI 'G' Annual.

He was commissioned to create four new artworks for the 'Humans' episode of QI Series H, first shown on 9 October 2010 in the extended QIXL episode.

The QI 'H' Annual 2011 features eight pages of Colgan's artwork on features co-written by himself, Justin Pollard and John Lloyd. Among these was a two-page spread called HENJ, in which IKEA-style instructions for building Stonehenge are seen. These pages became so popular that they can be found on hundreds of websites and have spawned/inspired many other similar illustrations.

In 2010/11 Faber and Faber released a compilation volume of the 'E', 'F' and 'G' Annuals in November 2010 with a brand new cover by Colgan.

In 2011 he was invited to participate in the annual Royal College of Art Secret Auction alongside such notables as Yoko Ono, Tracey Emin and Grayson Perry.

In 2012 Colgan gave up commercial art to concentrate on writing. He still paints and exhibits his work.


Colgan's first break into writing came with his 1997 pantomime Beeping Slooty, which was performed by many amateur dramatics groups and schools throughout the UK. He directed the very first performances by the Totteridge Arts and Drama Society in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

In 1998 Colgan, James Murphy, Sarwat Chadda, Dan Schaffer, Jeremy Elford and Kelvin Cox attempted to launch a new independent British comics imprint called Bigger Betty. Its purpose was to provide a platform for new British artists and writers. Despite good sales and excellent reviews, funding problems caused the imprint to fold after just one issue.

In 2001, he was a runner-up in the prestigious BBC Travel Writing Awards organised by BBC Wildlife Magazine.

Also in 2001, he was a successful entrant to the Ottakar's Bookshops Local History Writers' competition and had his essay, Arch Rivals, published in the Ottakar's Local History: High Wycombe Book.

In October 2008, his first major work, Joined-Up Thinking, was published by Pan Macmillan Books. It carried cover endorsements from Stephen Fry and from John Mitchinson, one of the founders of Quite Interesting Ltd and co-author (with John Lloyd) of the best-selling The Book of General Ignorance.

During the 2009 US Election, Colgan was commissioned by the Times newspaper to create a unique 'round' featuring the main players: Barack Obama, John McCain, Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. The Sarah Palindrome was published in the Times Online edition.

He was a writer/artist contributor to the QI 'F', 'G' and 'H' Annuals 2009–2011.

In 2010 the Cornish Language Fellowship (Kowethas an Yeth Kernewek) and the Cornish Language Board (Kesva an Taves Kernewek) published Henhwedhlow, a book of Cornish Faerie Stories written and illustrated by Colgan. The book was published in both English and Cornish language on facing pages to aid translation. The stories are modern interpretations of traditional tales plus several brand new stories by the author. The book contains the largest existing body of modern Cornish prose.

In 2013 he launched a new book called Constable Colgan's Connectoscope with the crowd-funding publisher Unbound. It was successfully funded and was published in September 2013.

He is currently developing three new book projects and finishing a novel.

Radio and television[edit]

In 2012 he co-wrote the pilot for a radio series called 101 People to Meet before You (or they) Die with Dan Schreiber. The show features interviews by Schreiber of people who are alive today and doing extraordinary things; explorers, scientists, test pilots etc. The gimmick of the series as that the interviewees will often encourage contact from the listener. The pilot – featuring Venezuelan discoverer Charles Brewer-Carias – was broadcast on the London-based radio station Resonance FM and was well received. A live show followed featuring on-stage interviews with Marc Abrahams and Dr Jan Bondeson.

Also in 2012, he became one of the researcher/writers for Series 5 of BBC Radio 4's The Museum of Curiosity and continued the role for Series 6 in 2013.

His artwork has been seen on episodes of the BBC TV series QI and he was name-checked by Stephen Fry in the QIXL episode 'Humans' in 2010.

He joined the regular researching and writing team for Series K in 2013.


In recent years he was a visiting lecturer in metacognition at St Bartholemew's Hospital and the Royal London Hospital (known locally as Barts and the London and affiliated to Queen Mary University of London). He also worked closely with the training company Sixth Sense. He holds the Certificate in Education from the University of Hertfordshire. In 1999 he was awarded the Diploma in plain English by Plain English Campaign.

He now works as a freelance lecturer and speaker and has spoken at venues and events such as the Ig Nobel Prizes, Imperial College, Birmingham Central Library, Unbound Live, and to many Skeptics in the Pub meetings. In 2013 he also appeared at the Hay Festival, Latitude, the Edinburgh Fringe, Harrogate International Festival, Salon London and many more. His talks are a mix of science, autobiography and comedy and are based on the concept of interconnectedness. He has also taught art and lectured on creative thinking and problem solving.

He is a judge for the 2014 Transmission Prize for the Communication of Ideas, sponsored by Salon London.

Stevyn Colgan at the Merseyside Skeptics Society



  1. ^ Bucks Free Press Midweek 23 September 2008


External links[edit]