Friday, 12 October 2012

Exploring the Polar Regions and Locating Lionel

Andrew Glester is the Producer/Director of Polar:Explore and Locate Lionel at this year's Manchester Science FestivalFor this week's blog, we've asked  him what he loves about science, who is Lionel and what we will love abut his events.

Tell us about Lionel?     
Lionel is my campervan but, inspired by the words and works of Carl Sagan, he is also the Spaceship of Our Imagination. He’ll be landing in Manchester just before and, then again, during the festival.

As he’s a Space and Time machine, we don’t actually know where or when he’ll appear but keep an eye on the twitter hashtag #LocateLionel and Facebook for news on sightings. If you happen to locate him, you’ll be able to step inside and watch a selection of films…and, stocks permitting, a bit of fresh popcorn.

How did the idea come about?
You’d have to ask Lionel. All I know is that I was camping by Coniston Water, reading Carl Sagan’s book Cosmos and now I’m turning up at festivals in the Spaceship of Our Imagination. I’m not really sure how that happened.
What will people love about Lionel and Polar:Explore?
Locate Lionel is a lot of fun but there are also some really beautiful and thought-provoking films which he’ll be showing and I know that people will be able to relax in that unique environment and take in a film or two that they won’t have seen before.

Polar:Explore is a bit different. We brought Polar, the full scale orchestral concert to the festival last year and Polar:Explore enables us to take it further. There will be a string quartet and a harpist performing some of the best chamber music ever written, combined with a special version of the film from Polar but the real difference is that we have teamed up with the British Science Association and are able to introduce real scientists to the audience to explore the science of these magical frozen lands.

We have an astronomer on hand to talk about the ethereal Northern Lights and a zoologist who knows a thing or two about the animals from the poles but there will be hands-on activities for children of all ages too.

Polar:Explore is taking place at Manchester Museum which is just brilliant because we have all their resources and people to call upon to really help us explore the themes of Polar with the audience.

Why do you love Science?
When you look out into the night sky, you see stars which no longer exist. When some of those stars exploded, they sent all sorts of exotic particles out into space. Particles the stars themselves had cooked up over billions of years before going supernova. Those particles are what everything is made of: this planet, those trees, that computer, the atmosphere, you, me, my daughter, this pencil…everything. We don’t know that because we sat quietly and thought about it or because we had some revelation in a dream. Science is the reason we know these things. It’s the reason we know pretty much anything.

Exploding stars spewing out matter which comes to life and gains a consciousness which allows it to understand that it is, itself, made out of those dying faint dots of light in the night sky.
I don’t see how you fail to be interested in that.

Why will people love Lionel and Polar: Explore?
At Sound of Science, we try to bring the beauty of reality to life. It doesn't really need our help but, personally, I like to take time out occasionally to look at the world and the universe around us and appreciate just how beautiful life can be and I think that’s what Lionel and Polar: Explore can do for the audience.

I don’t make anything for a specific age or type of audience. I just make things that I know I would love to experience and I imagine the 4 year old me would love hanging out in a campervan watching films as much as the slightly more grown up version does and I know that adults will enjoy Polar:Explore as much as the children in the audience will. I don’t believe we ever stop wanting to have fun or to marvel at something beautiful or thought-provoking. The programme says it’s for families but you don’t need to bring yours with you. Come on your own or with a friend and talk to the scientists and the musicians.

Alice, the lead violinist in the quartet has been to the Arctic on a field trip with her dad who is a marine biologist.  Greta, who will be playing the harp, doubles as a neuroscientist and actually made her own harp. These are people worth talking to! I suppose I should probably mention that both events are completely free of charge too…

Lionel is on Facebook  and Twitter and you can follow him via #LocateLionel

Locate Lionel and Polar: Explore are available as part of our Art Meets Science and Family Fun programmes. Visit our website for a full list of events. 
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