Monday, 17 October 2011

Out of this world!

A Spacetacular Manchester Adventure!

Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI)
Friday 28 October
Bar and activities from 6pm; event starts 7.30pm
£8 (£6 concessions).
Booking advised.

Helen Keen’s been defining the razor’s edge between science and comedy since her first full-length show in 2008, called It Is Rocket Science!

This year, the Manchester Science Festival is hosting a night at the museum, featuring a campervan journey into the imagination of Carl Sagan, a specially created planetarium show, and a performance of Spacetacular! – quite possibly the first stand-up comedy/science/fancy dress/variety/quiz show entirely themed around outer space -- co-presented by Helen, quizzing spacemaster Matt Brown and local space scientists from Jodrell Bank!

It’s going to be a special interactive and participatory night, as the audience can bring along their own space memorabilia for show and tell, and everyone’s encouraged to wear space-themed costumes! There will even be free tinfoil & futuristic galvanized steel wire pan scourers to augment/create your look!

Manchester Science Festival blogger Nija Dalal caught up with Helen, to discuss this free-form show that’s designed to inspire through laughter!

How did you come up with the idea for this show?
It’s something I’ve been thinking about for awhile. I’m really interested in space and space science, so I go to talks and events, panels and so on. And they’re great events, where you can really learn a lot about space and science, I love them. But they’re often dominated by white, middle-aged men, which can give people a really narrow impression of the people who study space.

When I did my It Is Rocket Science! show, I found the audiences to be really varied, and that’s not necessarily reflected by the people who usually give lectures and talks. A few years ago, I met a researcher named Dr. Sophia Khan. She’s young, she’s glamourous, she’s from Liverpool, and she has worked for NASA. She’s just not the stereotypical space scientist. Whenever I do science-themed shows, I find the people who come along are also a really broad range of people. I think that’s fantastic.

Can you describe the show for me a bit?
It’s a variety night themed around outer space. It’ll have a mix of people, comedians, musicians, and especially for our Manchester show, we’ll be shining a light on local, Manchester-based researchers, and showing off the fantastic work that’s happening locally!

What got you excited about space?
I’m so old that I remember Halley’s comet flying over in 1986. Well, I was very young then, I was only 9, but still I remember it well, because it was so exciting. I’m an only child, and I had kind of a small world. There was just a huge contrast between my world and the infinity of the night sky. The space shuttle launches, I remember were really big things when I was a kid, I guess I just got excited about it all back then.

You encourage people to dress up for this event… what kinds of costumes have people worn in the past?
I think it would be fantastic to be looking out at a sea of silveryness… or anything. Even if people just have a tinfoil crown or a tinfoil wristband…
People don’t have to dress up, but I would love it.

And they can dress up as anything related to outer space, they can be a crew member from Mercury 7, or a character from Star Wars or Star Trek… anything. Space is really flexible that way!

What kinds of objects have people brought before?
There have been a lot of items, but off the top of my head… there was:

A bit of a satellite that fell off… don’t remember how he got it, but I know it wasn’t nefarious!
Mission patches from space missions.
Badges from NASA camps that they went to when they were kids.
And I’ve even seen some space-themed tattoos! (luckily, none of them have been in weird places!)

When you’re putting your science-y shows together, do you think about inspiring people, or just about making them laugh? I guess first and foremost, I want to make an entertaining show! I love weird obscure facts, and I definitely want to share my enthusiasm with the audience.

What can people look forward to?
I think what people will enjoy most is the mix of different things that will be happening. One moment, they’ll hear someone talking quite seriously about their research at Jodrell Bank, and the next moment we’ll be having a competition for Most Creative Use of Tinfoil in a Costume!

You never know what’s going to happen next, just that it’ll all be fun and interesting, because all our guests (even the researchers from Jodrell Bank!) talk about their work in a really entertaining way, and they also do more than just talk!

And they’ll be bringing in really cool physical objects to show the audience as well!

Everyone is sure to have a fun, enjoyable night, and come away enthusiastic about science and outer space!

The Manchester Science Festival 2011 presents
Out of this world: A Spacetacular Manchester Adventure!
MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry), Liverpool Road, Castlefield, Manchester, M3 4FP
Fri 28 Oct 2011
Bar and activities from 6pm; event starts 7.30pm
£8 (£6 concessions). Booking advised

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