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18/19 In Review: Festival

Posted: 20 January 2020

Fabulous 31st Festival edition!

Now that we're less than a month away from announcing our 2020 programme, it felt appropriate to end our In Review season with a retrospective look at our 2019 Festival. 

31st Festival

In 2019, Edinburgh Science Festival celebrated its 31st year of inspiring people of all ages to experience the world of science around them. This year, inspired by the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, we asked visitors and participants to join us at the Frontiers of science, technology, knowledge and understanding.

The Science Festival took some small steps into favoured familiar territories and some giant leaps in new and exciting directions with new venues, new collaborations and a programme packed full of events and ideas that explore the cutting edge and celebrate the inspiring individuals dedicated to expanding the frontiers of our collective knowledge.

Our New Festival Hub – Pleasance

2019 has been another tremendously successful programme of events, as we pushed our creative frontiers and welcomed our new major Festival venue sponsored by Baillie Gifford – the iconic Pleasance. The unique venue programme was packed with an exciting range of events and workshops, exploring the cutting edge of scientific frontiers and drawing a wide-ranging audience.

Events included performances of Melody and Sam: Record Breakers, our original play that highlights the effects of climate change to a young audience, Experimentarium, Gadget Factory, interactive workshops and a variety of fascinating discussions led by outstanding academics, broadcasters and performers. 

A Human Touch 

56,000 visitors experienced A Human Touch, our stunning large-scale open-air photography exhibition, which explored the effect of human activity on our planet: how modern practices are changing our landscapes and affecting the environment, and looking at some of the steps taken to cope with a rapidly changing world.

Build and Break

An audience favourite and staff highlight of the 2019 Science Festival was Build and Break. Held in the National Museum of Scotland’s Grand Gallery and free to the public, Build and Break inspired free play, resourcefulness and creativity through electronics and building blocks.

In BUILD IT participants would unlock their creative spirit and build magical, massive structures with our super-sized construction blocks and then in BREAK IT they would be set loose on a huge pile of discarded electronics with a screwdriver and a pair of pliers, ripping old pieces of tech apart to discover what they are made of encouraging them to identify parts we might be able to reuse.

Science in the Spotlight

Science in the Spotlight continued this year into its fourth year. In association with Imaginate, we worked with Scottish writers, producers and directors to develop and deliver a new piece of science-themed theatre to premiere at the Festival – Melody and Sam: Record Breakers which is a hilarious and tender story of determination, friendship and record-breaking success with underlying themes of environmental awareness and sustainability.

Funded by the Scottish Government’s Festivals Expo Fund, Melody and Sam: Record Breakers, travelled to community centres and primary schools to deliver the show free of charge after its successful run in Pleasance’s Quaker Studio.

City Art Centre

Every year during the Science Festival, we transform five floors of the City Art Centre on Market Street into a science playground packed full of workshops, shows and interactive events for our younger audience. This year’s City Art Centre was extremely popular and saw us welcome over 8,000 children and adults who enjoyed six new workshops including Cubesat Creator, Geo Explorers and Wild Vets, as well as City Art Centre favourites like ER Surgery, Splat-tastic and Blood Bar.

Nights Out With A Twist

Although the Science Festival has developed a reputation for outstanding children’s entertainment and education, our 14+ and adults only events are gaining more and more traction each year. From the tantalising and tasty treats available within our Gastrofest programme, including fan-favourites Cheeseology and scientific explorations of your favourite tipple, to our deep-dives into space, time and consciousness – our adult programme featured some of the best discussions, activities and discoveries to be found during the Festival. Audiences this year enjoyed a range of science, technology and societal topics that were morphed, styled and shaped to create the perfect night out.

Edinburgh Medal

The Edinburgh Medal is a prestigious award given each year to men or women of science and technology who are judged to have made a significant contribution to the understanding and wellbeing of humanity. This year, the Medal was awarded to Christiana Figueres, for her work as a recognised world leader on global climate change and her efforts in bringing nations together to jointly deliver an unprecedented climate change agreement. Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), was instrumental in the successful conclusion of the Paris Talks. The Edinburgh Medal took place at the Signet Library with a reception before and after the event and an exclusive dinner hosted by the Lord and Lady Provost, sponsored by Artemis Investment Management.

For All Ages

Our family programme also consisted of a wide range of workshops, shows and activities on science of all sorts, with many of these delivered through our partnerships with organisations such as the University of Edinburgh, Scottish Parliament, Dynamic Earth, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University.

Continuing our work from 2018 during Scotland’s Year of Young People, we consulted our Youth Consultation Group throughout the planning and design stages of the Festival to increase our offering and appeal to young adults. What resulted was Generation Space – an event by young people for young people exploring themes of interest to them. These themes included space exploration and sustainability and were investigated through a number of hands-on activities and experiments.

Delegate Programme

In 2019, Edinburgh Science Festival launched a Delegate Programme for science engagement professionals, teachers, youth workers, academics and creatives. Aimed at our science communication, festival and creative partners and peers, this specially curated programme of events, guided tours, special discussion sessions and networking events provided 55 local and international delegates with the opportunity to experience the excitement of a world-leading Science Festival, meet with like-minded peers, be inspired and explore opportunities for future collaboration.

The programme is supported by Platforms for Creative Excellence (PLACE) and is part of a three-year project to develop a career-long professional learning framework for the Scottish (and wider) science engagement community and its creative and artistic partners and increase creative development opportunities for science engagement stakeholders.