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Waterfront Festival

We Hear All About the Festival of Science and Curiosity From Organiser Megan Shore

2 February 22 illustrations: Sophia Bensalem

The Festival of Science and Curiosity - a ten day celebration of the world of science - is back with a (big) bang. After a predominantly online schedule of events for their 2021 programme, this year’s festival looks forward to welcoming people of all ages to an eclectic array of in-person events, activities and talks. We speak to organiser Megan Shore to find out more…

For the uninitiated, can you tell us a bit about the Festival of Science and Curiosity?
The Festival of Science and Curiosity is ten days of events designed to engage people across Nottinghamshire with the world of science. It’s a collaboration between lots of different partners all working to break down barriers to science, celebrate all the amazing research that’s happening in our area and allow local people to express their own curiosity. 

How has the festival changed since you first started?
The festival began about eight years ago as lots of things in Nottingham do - with a group of people seeing a gap and working together to fill it with something creative. All the original partners are still involved, but we’ve also brought in new organisations to help us reach not only communities in Nottingham but also Kirkby, Mansfield, Newark and even as far as Retford. 

We're definitely a lot more organised now - we plan much more in advance and have proper processes and strategies, but we’ve very much retained our DIY approach which means we can bring all sorts of different people with us, adapt to what schools and communities want and try new things each year. 

How much of a challenge has it been to plan for the 2022 festival? Did you have to adapt your original plans after the new regulations came into effect?
Nothing could be more difficult than the 2021 festival, which was in the deepest, darkest lockdown! So we knew that through the two adaptations we made - the TV show and the magazine, our ‘COVID keepers’ - we’d be able to make do again no matter what.

But we know that everyone’s really missed in-person activities, and so we’ve had to find a middle ground with running events in the landscape of so much uncertainty. We’ve gone for a programme that’s mostly pre-bookable workshops, keeping numbers limited but still giving people opportunities to engage face-to-face. We made that decision back in October, and it seems like we made the right call (touch wood).

The thing with science is it’s always pushing forward - investigations generally end up with more questions than answers, so there’s always more to discover

What would you say the guiding principles behind FOSAC are?
FOSAC has always been about providing opportunities for people to engage with science in new and creative ways and creating spaces where people feel confident in asking questions about the things they wonder about the world around them. It’s about accessibility, enjoyment and openness.

Are there any misconceptions around science, or STEM fields in general, that you’re looking to change?
The whole perception of what ‘science’ even means! The images of bunsen burners, lab coats and petri dishes really limit people’s imaginations when it comes to science. Science is around us all the time and it affects our lives all day every day.

So the festival tries to showcase all the different things that ‘scientists’ do - making sure shampoo does what it says it does, helping inventors patent their ideas, looking at the rocks under our feet to know more about climate change… and put it forward in a way that challenges perceptions.  

We’ve got free workshops for families ranging from extracting the DNA of strawberries to understanding how lateral flows work

How much do you think has the pandemic changed our attitudes toward science?
It’s definitely raised the profile of lots of scientific fields, and brought home the importance of science in all of our lives. The role of science communication has become more important than ever, and the work that we do, helping researchers to talk about their work in ways that really connect with people, is part of that. 

Do you think 2022 is an exciting time for science?
The thing with science is it’s always pushing forward - investigations generally end up with more questions than answers, so there’s always more to discover. 

But it is especially exciting to see the two things that children are always interested in - space and dinosaurs - being in the news recently with the launch of the James Webb telescope and the discovery of the largest and most complete ichthyosaur fossil in Rutland. 

What can people expect from this year’s festival?
We’ve got free workshops for families ranging from extracting the DNA of strawberries, to understanding how lateral flows work, to developing your own app, to building structures with fractal shapes. 

There’s an exhibition about space race toys, an immersive installation about mycelium networks, an event about living species that were around at the time of the T. rex. Expect tickets to go quickly so book early! And then there’s also The Curiosity Show, our series of live broadcasts on Notts TV, which is a sort of Nottingham mix of Blue Peter, The Really Wild Show and How 2, with lots of live activities and demonstrations.

The Festival of Science and Curiosity takes place from Monday 7 February to Wednesday 16 February. For a full list of events, visit the FOSAC website

nottsfosac.co.uk

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