In this special episode of Stories from Science, we go behind the scenes of a very modern phenomenon: the Science Festival.
Specifically, we peek behind the curtain of the ATOM Festival of Science and Technology, which has taken place in Abingdon-on-Thames every year for the last five years. This year’s festival took place in March 2018, and – in spite of a sudden and dramatic snowfall on the final weekend – was a huge success.
Kicking off with the Science Market (think Farmer’s Market but with science!) a whole week of talks, hands-on science activities, school’s outreach, and quirky science events culminated in the Family Science Day which saw over 500 people descend on the Yang Science Centre putting on VR goggles, looking at friendly (and not so friendly) microbes, messing around with fire, bubbles, dinosaurs, making cars and rockets – and learning about the scale of the universe.
In this episode we speak to the people involved in ATOM: the speakers, communicators, organisers and audience who came along.
Along the way, we’ll discover the peculiar properties of Iron Selenide, discover how much fun you can have with liquid nitrogen, and learn that even if you never liked science at school, there are still plenty of opportunities for you to have a career in science.
What Science Festivals do may seem obvious – lots of entertaining science events to inspire young and old alike – but when you pick apart a festival like ATOM, the results are more far-reaching, and – in at least one surprising instance – rather profound with implications for new opportunities for business and academia.
For ATOM, this is partly due to its special location in the Science Vale – between the science centres of Culham, Harwell and Oxford.
But there are lessons for everyone involve in science communication, outreach, events and other festivals. We hope this podcast gives you loads of inspiration and – for anyone involved in a science festival – ideas to help your festivals thrive.
Because the benefits of a well-run, community-centred science festival have all kinds of implications: for business, academia, town centre regeneration, inclusivity, education and community cohesion.
Ultimately we are talking about ‘Science Capital’ – a way in which science becomes embedded within a community, for the benefit of all, with impacts felt far and wide.
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