Wednesday, 29 October 2008

International Science Directors

While all the exciting public events have been going on, a group of science festival directors from around the world have arrived in Manchester. Thanks to the British Council and MOSI, 2o delegates have been sharing experiences and lessons on setting up and running science festivals. Alongside that, we have seen some of the top festival events.

So, what have we all been learning? Well, on Monday we learned about why different festivals in the UK were set up, and how their missions have changed. These can be local events, like this festival, or national programmes like the BA Festival. In the afternoon we listened to Trevor Bayliss talk about his belief that invention should be taught to all young people.

On Tuesday we compared the way our festivals, and the major UK events, are operated. It seems that no two festivals are completely alike, although we all have similar issues to contend with (funding, marketing and working with partners). In the afternoon were taken on a walk around the scientific history of Manchester, before participating in the Nowgen debate on the politics of immunisation. Judging by the live voting at the event, the audience was surprisingly representative of the UK population (with very similar views), even though 20 were from overseas.

Today was a rapid journey through the programme to commemorate Darwin Year in 2009, with presentations from two major Darwin festivals as well as UK and international coordinating projects.

So, what have we learned so far? Science festivals are thriving all around the world. UK festivals, like Manchester and Newcastle, compare well but there are some amazingly dynamic and innovative activities elsewhere. Many events are celebratory, cultural events but dialogue is becoming a common theme everywhere. We've learnt about the importance of stories in communicating complex ideas and seen how in some cases a compelling story can dominate over fact. Still to come, we'll find out about wo works in festivals and the perfect location, as well as discovering the identity of the UK's best young science communicator. And maybe, by the time we finish on friday, everyone will have adjusted to UK time.

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