Has coronavirus put an end to the infamous handshake? 2020 saw the elbow bump favoured over this commonplace greeting. But it turns out the humble handshake has a much deeper and surprising history. Paleoanthropologist and comedian Ella Al-Shamahi embarks on a fascinating and funny 7 million year old voyage exploring the origins of the ancient gesture. From meetings with uncontacted tribes to the most famous handshakes of modern history, Al-Shamahi reveals the social and power dynamics behind it, and what it tells us about the enduring power of human contact.

This event will be live-streamed for free and available on-demand via the CheltSciFest Player. To register, click here.


Ella Al-Shamahi is an explorer, paleoanthropologist, evolutionary biologist and stand-up comic. She specializes in the study of Neanderthals. She is also the presenter and producer of BBC2’s Neanderthals: Meet Your Ancestors. She is a Trustee of the International Association for the Study of Arabia.

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The Handshake


Cheltenham Town Hall, Main Hall

The Town Hall, situated on Imperial Gardens in the centre of Cheltenham comprises of a Grand Main Hall, distinguished by its Corinthian styles columns and coved ceiling.

The venue’s early 20th century Edwardian elegance makes it the classic ‘shoebox’ concert hall. With a seating capacity of 900, the Town Hall is perfectly suited to grand symphony orchestra performances with a thrilling impact.


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