This Septem­ber, Hull and the sur­round­ing Hum­ber­side area will trans­form into a large-scale cel­e­bra­tion of sci­ence, as the Uni­ver­sity of Hull hosts the Bri­tish Sci­ence Fes­ti­val. We talked to the fes­ti­val di­rec­tor IVVET MODINOU about cre­at­ing one of Europe’s big­gest sci­ence events

How did the Bri­tish Sci­ence Fes­ti­val come about?

There’s been an an­nual meet­ing of sci­en­tists since the be­gin­ning of the Bri­tish Sci­ence As­so­ci­a­tion in 1831. Some­time in the 1990s we started call­ing it a fes­ti­val, but the idea has stayed the same: it’s about try­ing to bring cur­rent re­searchers to­gether to share their work with who­ever’s in­ter­ested. It’s hosted some­where dif­fer­ent ev­ery year.

How do you de­cide what top­ics to cover at the fes­ti­val?

It’s ex­tremely broad. In the pro­gramme you’ll see things about space, vol­ca­noes, ar­chae­ol­ogy and psy­chol­ogy, but we also in­clude things like mu­sic, the arts and ex­er­cise. We re­ally try to cover the whole spec­trum.

It’s not just lec­tures, right? There are some re­ally unique events go­ing on…

We work with our host or­gan­i­sa­tion, the Uni­ver­sity of Hull, to cre­ate a va­ri­ety of for­mats and en­gage­ment styles that suit their re­search best.

Take UV Yoga, for ex­am­ple. Kat San­ders, a Uni­ver­sity of Hull anatomist, will be tak­ing peo­ple through a yoga class in the dark, where the in­struc­tor is cov­ered in UV paint that high­lights the mus­cles she uses in dif­fer­ent poses. It’s a fun way to share that new anatomy re­search.

Do cur­rent events in­flu­ence the talks?

Def­i­nitely. Each year we have the Hux­ley de­bate, where we pay homage to the fa­mous de­bate about evo­lu­tion be­tween Thomas Henry Hux­ley and Bishop Sa­muel Wil­ber­force. That hap­pened at the 1860 fes­ti­val, seven months af­ter Darwin’s On The Ori­gin Of Species was pub­lished. It was an op­por­tu­nity for peo­ple to have a con­ver­sa­tion about the bound­aries of sci­ence and what we don’t know, in front of an au­di­ence, as sci­ence is of­ten seen as some­thing that hap­pens be­hind locked doors. Each year we take a topic where the fringes are still be­ing dis­cussed – this year it’s about plas­tics. We’ve also got talks about Brexit, AI and the ethics around tech­nol­ogy.

What events are you most look­ing for­ward to?

I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing four-time UK cham­pion beat­boxer Grace Sav­age talk to a re­searcher about why beat­box­ing is so unique.

We also have a great event with Lemn Sis­say, the poet, in con­ver­sa­tion with Jo­ce­lyn Bell Bur­nell, who will be talk­ing about how physics in­flu­ences the po­etry she writes.

The fes­ti­val is free to at­tend. Was that im­por­tant for your team?

Yes, we’ve tried to get rid of one of the bar­ri­ers that ex­ist around get­ting peo­ple to at­tend sci­ence events. We also know that you might come along to a sci­ence event be­cause you re­ally love physics and space, but you might stay for some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent – you’re more likely to do that if it’s free.

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