Socialising Science | A Round Up Of Science Events

With so many science events happening regularly across the country, its seems timely to write a new column here at HeadStuff that summarises and reports on as many as we can. ‘Socialising Science’ column will capture a flavour of the range of activities happening nationally, and sometimes even internationally. This week I review the Cheltenham Science Festival where I performed live and give you a heads up on some exciting events happening later this month in Dublin. 

Cheltenham Science Festival, UK, June 6-11th:

Cheltenham festival
The Cafe area, Cheltenham Science Festival 2016 (Photo credit: Niamh Shaw 2016)

I’ll kick off this new column with a round-up of the Cheltenham Science Festival . I’ve been going to this festival religiously since 2012 (well, I missed it last year since I was abroad attending the Space Studies Programme in Ohio). I always enjoy it. The big names in science usually attend and it’s a chance to see some pretty interesting talks too. It was an extra-special festival for me this year, as I was also contributing to the festival programme, with my family show ‘My Place in Space’. It was pretty nerve-wracking to be sharing the stage with science giants such as Richard Dawkins, Jim al Khalili and Alice Roberts, to name but a few, but also quite a buzz! Performing the show in the Crucible Tent to an audience of 300 was also a first (before this, my largest venue in Ireland was 50!).

My place in space
Niamh performing ‘My Place in Space’ at Cheltenham Science Festival (Credit: Niamh Shaw 2016)

Thankfully everything went really well and it was all worth it. I met up with Chris McCreery, Director of the Northern Irish Science Festival and we made up the Irish quarter in the VIP room (although we did spy Liz Bonnin at one stage).  I also managed to get to some talks while I was there too: Richard Dawkins and Yan Wong spoke about their new edition of ‘The Ancestors Tale’, a book which frames the story of evolution in a style similar to Chaucer’s epic poem ‘The Canterbury Tales’. The FameLAB International final took place on Thursday in the Crucible Tent and Abhi from Malaysia took the prize this year. His 3 minute presentation focussed on cancer and the challenges facing geneticists in this field. Our Irish FameLAB regional winner Niamh Kavanagh, research scientist at IPIC in Cork, reached the semi-finals the night before, and huge congratulations to her for her excellent talk on lasers and fibre optics.

space dome
The Space Dome at Cheltenham Science Festival (Photo credit: Niamh Shaw)

There was a wider cross-section of science activities at the festival this year too, especially in the arts and technology sector. It was not by accident either. This was the influence of Hana Ayoob, Programme Coordinator of the festival who also happens to be an artist. I find it especially encouraging to see this art science marriage gaining momentum at established science festivals such as Cheltenham. Maybe next year they might even host a theatre event . Theatre was, however represented in this years programme with a panel discussion between the Royal Shakespeare Society, Imaginarium studio, and Intel who discussed their collaboration in the making of an upcoming production of ‘The Tempest’. It was an interesting discussion about incorporating technology into theatre, with a great working example of real time reaction and the use of avatars to create modern magic on stage. To celebrate the bard’s 400th anniversary, the company wanted to mark this special year by bringing cutting edge technology to the stage. Using 3D projections and gaming software the team has been working on this project for over 2 years. Attracting audiences from both the sciences and the arts, the panel shared key learnings, pitfalls and some pretty cool innovations, and explored how to make best use of projections and augmented reality in serving the story, as opposed to using ‘technology for technology’s sake’. With ever more theatre and public events using creative technology to weave the narrative, it was a timely discussion with lots for everyone to learn and experience. ‘The Tempest’ runs at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon from November 6th. This is a show I would love to see, although I heard on the night that it’s almost fully booked.  This video will give you a taster of this production of ‘The Tempest’:

What Science Events are Happening This Month?

bright club
Bright Club poster (Credit: Jessamyn Fairfield)

Bright Club is an initiative that emerged from the UK, to present comedy-style events to promote public engagement by scientists, academics, and others with specialist knowledge. Now running in Ireland since February 2015, Bright Club has become a regular fixture in Ireland’s gigs list, a variety night providing a platform to unleash the comic talents of our academics across the country. And just as the Royal Shakespeare Company celebrates the bards 400th anniversary, so too does Bright Club in June, with a Shakespeare-themed science comedy night (what will that look like, I wonder?). Kicking off at 7.30pm at Stags Head pub, on Dame Lane, Dublin, organiser Jessamyn Fairfield promises a great line-up of researchers, comedy and music abound.

This Shakespeare Lives Bright Club will be hosted by comedian Peter O’Byrne, with researchers Kevin Murray, Emer Maguire, Jennifer Lonergan and Clare Stead. With music from Shrug Life, comedians on the night will be Jim Elliott, Luke McGuinness, Stephen Bradley, Brian Quinn and headliner Davey Reilly. Get your tickets now!

‘Seeing’ Exhibition, Science Gallery Dublin June 24th-Sept 18th 2016


Science Gallery Dublin launch their next exhibition ‘Seeing’ on June 23rd. Promising to challenge our perceptions and how we see, this exhibition, curated by Semir Zeki (Prof. Neuroaesthetics, UCL), Kate Coleman, (Ophthalmologist and general ophthalmic surgeon), Lynn Scarff (Director, Science Gallery Dublin), and Gerard Lacey (Prof. Computer Science, TCD) explores vision, in all its forms. The open call for submissions had an overwhelming response earlier this year, so I’m excited to see the final selection of exhibits. Tickets for the launch night on June 23rd are available so get yours now! The exhibition opens June 24th and runs until September 18th.


We do our best to cover as many national science events as we can in this column, so if you have an event coming up, email [email protected] with ‘Socialising Science’ in the Subject line and we’ll include it in the next column.

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