Science Communication Conference 2013

•May 7, 2013 • 2 Comments

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.

FameLab Italia

•April 14, 2013 • 1 Comment

Just spent a fantastic two days contributing to the Masterclass stage of FameLab Italia. Hard to believe that it will soon be ten years since the first FameLab competition and that it continues to create a platform for what has turned out to be and extraordinary number of gifted young scientist communicators worldwide. Can’t wait for the Italian Final in Perugia on May 3rd

Unforgettables 2012

•January 2, 2013 • 2 Comments

For the second consecutive year,  charcoal-grilling part of my wife’s pet hedge at our mid-summer barbecue party, which turned out to be an epic scorched meat and succulent salad fest that will be long remembered by all who had to listen to it across the valley.

My  young grandson Ethan’s absolute obsession with vacuum cleaners, and waking to the sound of a haunting cry of Hooverrr, Hooooverrr spoken in the same tone as a Jane Austen heroine pining for a lost love

Returning to the Cheltenham Science Festival after three years to find it in rude health and double the size and to meet Barry Marshall the man who won the Nobel Prize for proving that Helicobacter cause peptic ulcers and who did it by, amongst other things, serving himself a stiff helicobacter-packed cocktail and waiting to see what happened.

Spending three days in Puglia seriously sampling at 10 in the morning wines that were candidates to feature at my daughter Maija’s wedding.  Dave, her fiancé, joined me in some epicurean, charcoal-centred activity that ensured the non-wine drinking wedding guests had their needs considered with equal selflessness

TentativeTaxonomy of Science Festivals

•April 8, 2012 • 1 Comment

I developed this tentative-taxonomy-of-science-festivals 2 for a talk I gave in New York in November 2010 and thought it might be worth making it more widely available. I found it interesting that Science Festivals seemed to draw to different extents on two distinctive traditions for public events, namely the University Open Day and the Arts Festival and would be very interested in other people’ views

Wild Hackney nominated for two BBC Audio Drama Awards

•January 12, 2012 • 3 Comments

Wild Hackney has been nominated for two BBC Audio Drama Awards in the Best Online Audio Drama and Innovation categories.

The drama is set in the aftermath of the inundation of the East London flood plains, a not so wild guess at what sea level rise might mean to the low lying coastal  world capitals. Public Engagement with climate change given the upstream treatment?

Wild Hackney

•July 22, 2011 • 1 Comment

Fresh from winning a Silver Sony Award  for Night in Hackney Francesca my daughter and producer has given me the chance to narrate another piece Wild Hackney  that  takes  its inspiration from the Victorian Gothic novel After London by Richard Jefferies that describes London reverting to nature after a flood, with only a few survivors roaming the marshland under which the once great city is submerged. Francesca at her compositional best in exploring a scenario that might still become a reality [although it’s a huge comfort that we could all take refuge in the Olympic Stadium].

Science comes to the Canterbury Festival

•July 22, 2011 • 1 Comment

Very excited as the programme for the science strand I devised for the Canterbury Festival is published. It’s all about science and performance, my two great loves and features some of the liveliest minds at that fascinating boundary between science and the arts.

Get down to Canterbury between October 18th and 22nd if you can.