Science Communication Conference 2013

Working with Arts Festivals

Arts festivals are targeted principally at adults, expect punters to pay for tickets and take place in public venues. They are constantly on the lookout for new lines of programming that will broaden their audience and attract funding.

They are also one of the primordial forms from which science festivals like Gothenburg and Cheltenham evolved.

It seemed like the right time, in an era when there is intense pressure to maximise the dissemination of research, to put together a session about how science might more often find a place in the programmes of arts festivals. In fact, it seems odd that the conversation has not been more animated to this point given over a decade’s investment in the creation of a large body of work at the science: art boundary of which I guess only a small fraction has gone on to feature in the programmes of arts festivals [Cue plea for research on the subject].

So what will there be to talk about?

What models might be appropriate? What about an equivalent of Einstein’s Garden, a satellite science festival that co-exists with and draws inspiration from the Green Man Festival? Or a science strand woven into the programme like Canterbury’s?  Or the staging of installations, demonstrations and experiments at arts events and music festivals like Guerilla Science. Or science performers, like Andrea Sella, working with artists to create intense experiences for new audiences?

What types of Arts Festival might make the best platforms?

Maybe ones with a broad programming base who already, for example, feature authors of science books? Or ones positioned close to a science hot spot which has no local science festival? Or ones that are themselves based in the birthplace or workplace of a famous scientist? Or ones that have gaps in their audience profile that need filling? Or ones that have sponsorship candidates who might be wooed by a science scented proposition?

And that’s before discussion of exactly what forms might these science additions take?

Need they be specifically positioned at the science: art boundary in a form like performance? Or might they simply be an opportunity to broaden the audience for more traditional science events like presentations and debates. Or should the aim be to innovate by  drawing inspiration from a particular Festival’s ethos and audience.

That is just a taste of what might arise at a session designed for discussion which is why each speaker is getting a measly 6 minutes to make their points leaving 45 minutes for the audience to get involved and also why the session will use a “fishbowl” room layout with the audience arranged in a circle around the speakers.

~ by Frank Burnet on May 7, 2013.

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