British Science Festival returns to Newcastle

In the first of a series of features, The Journal talks to some of the British Science Festival's biggest supporters ahead of the event

Rowan Walsh, eight, from Newton Hall who is excited for the British Science Festival
Rowan Walsh, eight, from Newton Hall who is excited for the British Science Festival

From eight-year-old schoolchildren to experts in their eighties, people across the region are getting ready to welcome one of Europe’s largest science events this autumn.

The British Science Festival returns to Newcastle for the seventh time in its 174-year history from Saturday, September 7, to Thursday, September 12.

Organiser the British Science Association and host Newcastle University say this year’s event will have more to offer than ever before.

People will travel from across the globe to hear about the latest breakthroughs, new technologies and groundbreaking research as more than 350 of the world’s greatest scientists prepare to share their work.

For eight-year-old Rowan Walsh from Newton Hall in Northumberland, his first attendance at the festival will be memorable as he will have a chance to experience activity he has actually helped inspire.

The budding scientist wrote in to the Ideas Take Flight campaign, run by Newcastle University to generate ideas about festival activities, to ask a series of questions such as ‘why are bats blind?’ The St Mark’s RC Primary School pupil even got his school friends involved too, handing out postcards for them to use to pen their own questions.

“It’s fair to say that the festival has inspired this little scientist before it’s even begun,” said Rowan’s grandma, Julia Barron of Bedlington.

“He’s so incredibly excited about it all that we’ve booked him on a marine biology summer school at Newcastle University’s Dove Marine Laboratory in the run-up to the Festival and once those booking lines are open he’ll want to be signing up to everything – it’s fantastic.”

For 68-year-old Horace Regnart, of Jesmond, the 2013 festival will mark the latest piece of history in his 38 years of supporting the event.

The retired barrister has travelled the length and breadth of the country almost annually to see science brought to life and was the same age as Rowan when his passion for science was sparked.

The Newcastle University alumnus, who is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, is thrilled the festival is returning to Newcastle to showcase the city’s world-class science and technology credentials.

He said: “We are a major science city and have been since the days of Stephenson and Swan – in fact right back to the times of Bede’s experiments 1,300 years ago.

“Science is part of our culture and so it is fitting that we celebrate the part it plays in our future.

“I tend to use the festival to explore new fields of science that I don’t know a lot about and I find it truly inspirational. I’m sure others will too and it will hopefully inspire a new generation of scientists.”

September 1995 was the last time the festival was hosted by Newcastle and teacher Deb Friis, who now lives in Brighton, remembers it well.

Having graduated from Newcastle University in maths and psychology earlier that year, she got the job of recruiting, training and organising the steward team for the Festival. Deb said: “It was an amazing experience. I met Sir Martin Rees amongst others and in fact was reminded of that when I saw him on University Challenge just recently.

“I learned so much from that couple of months and had a fantastic time at the festival.”


Next week we’ll be looking at the superhero science that’s going on in Newcastle and a special edition comic that tells the stories of the lab in a new way.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer