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Nottingham Festival of Science and Curiosity 2018 is Coming to Town

30 January 18 interview: Bridie Squires

Thanks to STEMCity and Ignite, this month sees Nottingham being taken over by the cleverest clogs abaht. We had a word with the Nottingham Festival of Science and Curiosity producer, Megan Shore, about what’s in store this year…

photo: Ash Bird

Nottingham Festival of Science and Curiosity has been running for four years now – what have been some of the highlights and what has changed over the years?
In the early days it was all very ad-hoc, I think things were pulled together in a matter of weeks! These days we’re more organised and we’ve got a great team of partners working hard to get it all happening. After a bit of experimentation, we’ve now settled on the pattern running the festival in three phases: school activities, public city-centre activities, and half-term activities in community venues.

My personal highlight is taking over Broadmarsh Shopping Centre; part of the joy is that people don’t expect to have their mind blown by science when they’re popping into Argos! One thing that remains the key driver behind the festival is our purpose of taking STEM out of the lab, into the hands of the people and giving people the opportunity to express their curiosity.

What have you been looking for when programming this year’s events?
We’re keen to have something for everyone and our programme this year is our most diverse yet. In just one venue you’ll see chemistry experiments with an engineering showcase on one side and invisible ink microbes on the other. I’ve been especially pleased to get some really special maths and engineering activities, which we’ve lacked in the past. We focus on the idea that the activities have to be interactive – there has to be an element of getting your hands dirty – and our exhibitors this year have really run with that. We’ve also had the added bonus of having the expertise of Matt Young (co-Producer), who’s been brilliant in developing the Curious Lates programme of science events for adults.

Science has traditionally been classed as a bit of a “geeky” subject – how does the festival adhere to or buck those connotations?
This perception is something that really puts people off getting involved with science and that’s a real problem for our city. We believe that at its core, science is a creative subject; many of the challenges we face in our daily lives require not just intelligence, but imagination and creativity to come up with solutions. The activities we have in the festival are designed to invite people to interact with science in a different way than they perhaps did at school, and discover that actually science is for them.

But we also get that sometimes science geeks want a space to nerd out in, so we’ve got the events like Shrodinger’s Caffe and science comedy nights to cater to those needs.

The city went dinosaur mad last year and there are a few nods to the subject in 2018’s festival – can you tell us a bit about those events?
The incredible Dinosaurs of China exhibition at Wollaton Hall’s Natural History Museum was an absolute once-in-a-lifetime exhibition and I think I lost count of how many times I saw Hunter the dinosaur! For the festival, they’re running activities about the diets, sleep patterns and daily lives of dinosaurs, and we’re especially thrilled that this year they’re running activities on the Sunday especially for families with special educational needs and disabilities.

Nottingham’s scientific history is rich. What can we expect to learn about it this year?
Nottingham has been an official ‘Science City’ since 2005, but the legacy of scientific culture goes much further back. This year, we’ve got interactive activities about George Green’s discoveries at Green’s Mill & Science Centre and there will be a free poetry coding workshop inspired by Ada Lovelace’s status as the first computer programmer. Looking to the present, visitors will be able to interact with the world-class research currently happening at Nottingham’s two universities and have their say on how we can use technology to make Nottingham a fairer city.

What events should we look forward to the most?
You won’t be able to miss us in the city centre on Saturday 17 February at Broadway, the NVA, intu Broadmarsh and Central Library. For those into their comedy, don’t miss the award-winning All Star Science Riot at the NVA on Wednesday 21 Februarty. And for those looking to entertain little ones during half-term, look out for activities in Bilborough, Bulwell and Sneinton libraries.

Nottingham Festival of Science and Curiosity 2018 takes place from Wednesday 14 – Wednesday 21 February in venues all over Nottingham

Nottingham Fesival of Science and Curiosity website

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