British Science Festival could inspire a generation

Tens of thousands of people have flocked to Newcastle over the last six days to enjoy the British Science Festival

British Science Festival
British Science Festival

The event drew to a close on Thursday night when a flash mob of Newcastle University’s Street Scientists took to the city centre with instruments they had fashioned themselves.

Now, the festival, hosted by the university, has been hailed a huge success.

From groundbreaking discoveries and illuminating debates to a mock virus outbreak and science superheroes, the festival has inspired scores of people to think about science in a new way.

Jo Coleman, British Science Festival Manager, said: “We have been overwhelmed by the warm welcome we have received in Newcastle, the friendliness of the people who have taken part, the excitement that people felt about the festival and the level of interest in science.

“Lots of our event organisers have commented on how interested and engaged the audiences were on the topics discussed – there is a real appetite for science in the area.

“The level of understanding on scientific subjects has been noticeable, with audiences keen to get answers to their questions and to take part in very stimulating debates that often ran over schedule because they were so lively.

“More than half of the event tickets were sold in advance of the box office even opening, which is unprecedented and just proves how excited the area was to have the festival visit.

“This year also recorded the biggest ever Young People’s Programme, with 7,000 schoolchildren from around the region coming to enjoy the very best in science workshops and shows.

“Feedback from parents has already been really positive with one mum emailing us to say her son came home buzzing with excitement about what he’d learned and how she now plans to build on the interest he clearly has in science – that’s music to our ears because inspiring the next generation is a key aim of the event.”

Prof Sugata Mitra, who inspired the film Slumdog Millionaire, shared his vision for delivering education to children in India’s slums via his ‘School in the Cloud’ project, while Prof Tom Kirkwood joined two panels of experts to discuss the universal challenge of an ageing population during two headlining events.

Two Newcastle University researchers were selected to present two of the five prestigious Award Lectures in recognition of their skills in presenting their work to a general audience.

These special lectures were a highlight of the programme, awarded to rising stars of the world of science – Professor Brian Cox and Professor Richard Wiseman both gave Award Lectures at the start of their careers.

Dr Michael Sweet delivered the Charles Darwin Award Lecture and Professor Hayley Fowler presented the Joseph Lister Award Lecture.

The festival also saw scientists reach out to young people. Thousands of students aged eight to 18 had a chance to experience university life, visiting the campus on weekdays to enjoy the best the UK has to offer in science shows and workshops.

A programme of after dark events included the SciScreen all-night film show at the Tyneside Cinema. During an entire night dedicated to films themed around science, including cult classics, science fiction, talks and experimentation.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
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Business Editor
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