Get connected at the Science Festival this spring

The Edinburgh International Science Festival has revealed a jam-packed programme for 2017.

Edinburgh international
Edinburgh international Science Festival

As the world’s first and Europe’s biggest science festival, Edinburgh's offering invites audiences to Get Connected this year and explore what it means to live in the Information Age.

Running 1-16 April, the Edinburgh International Science Festival will take place in 29 venues across Edinburgh. It will join in celebrations for the Edinburgh’s festivals’ 70th anniversary and the city’s spirit of enlightenment, and cultural, creative and scientific excellence.

Offering a rich and entertaining programme for children, teenagers and adults alike, this year's Festival will put science at the heart of global issues and prove its role in building a sustainable future for our connected world.

Programme Highlights for 2017

  • Brand new exhibitions: Play On at the National Museum of Scotland and Moments in Time on The Mound.
  • The biggest ever theatre programme of commissions, new work and existing plays – Science in the Spotlight – for both families and adults.
  • Great Easter holiday days out for families including the flagship City Arts Centre, the new Experimentarium drop-in at Summerhall, and hands-on workshops for teenagers at the National Museum of Scotland.
  • Cutting-edge discussions and debates on themes of our modern, connected world including technology, communications, sustainability and society featuring Dr Aleks Krotoski, Dame Anne Glover, Prof Mark Maslin and Dr Paul Patras.
  • In-depth explorations of food science, space, the environment and health featuring Dr Adam Rutherford, Steve Jones and Prof Derek Bell.
  • Big nights out where science is at the heart of sociable: Public Service Broadcasting: The Race for Space LIVE, Science Festival Lates and Party On.

Creative Director Amanda Tyndall said: “Conflict, cultural divisions, demographic shifts and environmental degradation are not new, but what is new is the degree to which we are all connected – both in real time and virtually in a wired world – to these issues and to each other.

“These virtual, digital connections offer exciting opportunities for creativity, society and the economy. Science is at the heart of the technology, tools and techniques that have fuelled digital innovation, and Edinburgh is home to many established heavyweights, and innovative start-ups, that are driving global connectivity.

“We are interested in what it means to live in this Information Age through mind-expanding talks, interactive experiments, theatre shows, interactive exhibitions such as Play On, sociable science activities and artistic installations for all ages.”

The City of Edinburgh Council’s Festivals Champion, Councillor Richard Lewis, said: “Every spring the Edinburgh International Science Festival transforms the city into a marvel of science and technology.

“I’m delighted the Council remains a proud partner of the two-week programme, which sees the City Art Centre celebrate hands-on science with amazing educational exhibits and experiments.

“This year, the Festival promises to showcase more events, talks and activities than ever before. In a move which celebrates the Capital’s 70 year status as The Festival City, the addition of Moments in Time will see visitors ‘time travel’ in tardis-like boxes through key moments in Edinburgh’s history.

“With hundreds of events on offer, it looks set to be one of the most spectacular Edinburgh International Science Festivals yet.”

With around 250 speakers and 270 events across 29 venues, this Science Festival promises to be the most spectacular ever. Alongside annual favourite venues National Museum of Scotland, City Art Centre, Summerhall, RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Dynamic Earth, the Festival expands into Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, the National Museum of Flight, Jupiter Artland, Edinburgh Gin Distillery and Surgeon’s Hall Museum among others, and takes a road trip to explore deep time at Siccar Point and tours of Torness Power Station.

The Festival’s biggest ever arts programme will be staged at some of Edinburgh’s leading arts venues, including the Traverse Theatre, The Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, Printmakers Gallery, Festival Theatre Edinburgh’s Studio, Bedlam Theatre, the National Museum of Scotland and Summerhall.

The 2017 Edinburgh Medal will be awarded to Prof Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a Professor of Global Health, who in his speech will address the challenges that infectious diseases pose for the human race, the lessons learned from recent outbreaks and the ways in which we are preparing for future pandemics. This prestigious award is given each year to men and women of science and technology who are judged to have made a significant contribution to the understanding and wellbeing of humanity. It is presented by the Lord Provost of Edinburgh and Prof Sheila Rowan, Chief Scientific Advisor for Scotland, will give a special oration.

Exhibitions, but not as you know them…

Play is fun! That’s the starting point for Play On, an interactive, family-friendly exhibition which lets audiences get hands-on with the amazing ways technology influences our leisure time. Taking place across four immersive zones in the National Museum of Scotland’s Grand Gallery: Picture This exploring how visual tools and technologies have developed from cave paintings to 3D printing, from real to virtual; Game Theory looking into the changes game industry has gone through since the 1970s; Make Some Noise showcasing how our consumption and storage of music has changed and Toy Box looking at the growing number of various types of toys. These interactive themes are accompanied by a series of workshops and discussions at the Museum. 

Play On will showcase digital innovation and technology from Scotland and beyond, including four specially commissioned artworks: The Dennis & Debbie Club’s Pause Reality uses virtual reality experience to lead you down a digital path to inner peace; Abstract Playground allows visitors to play with the architectural structures of the Grand Gallery; designer Roy Shearerhas creates a riotous mashup of table football and camera-based motion detection, pitting life-sized gaming agility against pure, bar-honed foosball skills in Be The Goalie; Kirsty Keatch’s digital kinetic sculpture Katakata re-creates a classic wooden Jacob’s ladder toy that can be played with and controlled by a smartphone.

Play On is supported by Creative Scotland through Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund and City of Edinburgh Council.

Moments in Time is a free, interactive, family-friendly exhibition in the heart of Edinburgh’s city centre, and is one of the main highlights of this year’s Festival celebrating Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017. Located on the Mound Precinct, it consists of 4 Scottish style police-boxes, each with a different theme. Enlightenment box, developed in partnership with Edinburgh City of Literature, introduces 18th century poet Alison Cockburn hosting a salon filled with 3D-printed items from the era and other interactive exhibits. Grimy and mechanical Industrial Revolution box looks at how the new inventions and opportunities influenced the contemporary lives while the Information Age box aims to recreate a Roslin Institute laboratory; audience can examine objects in a sterile box where you have to put your hands into gloves and view them through glass. Lastly, 101 Scottish inventions box puts the various ground-breaking discoveries such as Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone (1876) and A G Barr’s Irn Bru (1901) in the spotlight, celebrating the free education system in Scotland which has been facilitating these discoveries since the Reformation age. Moments in Time is part of Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

Theatre – Science in the Spotlight

Launched as part of the 2016 Edinburgh International Science Festival, Science in the Spotlight brings together the wonder of theatre and the explosive world of science communication.

There is a packed programme of theatre for children and families. Dr Stirlingshire's Discovery is a new production presented by Grid Iron and Lung Ha Theatre Company. It takes its audience on a journey through Edinburgh Zoo to find out which possibly mythical animal cryptozoologist Dr Vivien Stirlingshire has discovered. Beyond planet Earth, the rocket-fuelled Cosmonaut, specially commissioned by the Science Festival features three interlocking stories from the early space race in a play about history, conspiracy, and myth. Last year’s popular and award winning commission Uncanny Valley and Lost at Sea return. In Giddy Aunt’s new production, A Stone’s Throw, a girl knocks the sun out of the sky and then as the world starts to fall apart, embarks on a special mission to restore it. And things take a musical turn in Ensonglopedia of Science, where award-winning writer and performer John Hinton presents his brand new show with a song about science for every letter of the alphabet!

In the adult theatre programme, Traverse Associate Artist Stef Smith’s new play Girl in the Machine focuses on Polly and Owen, a couple with successful careers who are wildly in love, but whose world is turned upside down by a mysterious new technology creeping into everyone’s phones, directed by Traverse Artistic Director Orla O'Loughlin. Scientific experimentation is at the heart of Caryl Churchill’s A Number, presented in partnership with the Royal Lyceum Theatre Company, where a 35 year old only child learns the chilling truth that he’s one of 'a number' of clones, directed by multi-award-winning playwright Zinnie Harris. History and fantasy collide as Bedlam Theatre and the Edinburgh University Theatre Company present Issac’s Eye by Lucas Hnath, a contemporary look into the life of a young Isaac Newton. Back in the present, Jenna Watt’s Fringe First winning Faslane – a hugely powerful and timely insight into the UK's nuclear debate - seeks answers to the questions we should all be asking about the nuclear deterrent. Hacking is the hot topic behind The Big Data Show, a work-in-progress interactive, digital performance which explores digital citizenship through your own mobile phone. Written with Rupert Goodwins, one of the four behind the first prosecuted big hack in the UK – The Big Data Show aims to demystify what big data is and how we choose to give it away.

Artists Installations and exhibitions

Connect: Contemporary Connection, this year’s showcase exhibition at Summerhall, focuses on what happens when artists and scientists meet and collaborate. Exhibits range from Lily Hibberd’s Black Hole Horizon, which takes you on a 3D-sound journey into a black hole, to Stephen Hurrell’s Beneath and Beyond: Seismic Sounds which takes its inspiration from tectonic shifts and on-going movements beneath the Earth’s surface for this immersive live sound and visual artwork. At Edinburgh Printmakers Firedamp: Revisiting The Flood is Sean Caulfield’s first UK solo exhibition, exploring the impact of technology on the environment and our bodies. The bonds between art and music through geometry and mathematics is the subject of A Hidden Order, while Lichtsuchende: Cybernetic Sunflowers With Maslovian Behaviours stars small static robotic creatures, which form an interactive, digital, photo-kinetic sculpture, created by Dave Murray-Rust and Rocio von Jungenfeld.

You can see the world from a different angle in International Images for Science 2017, The Royal Photographic Society’s new exhibition which brings amazing images of everything from galaxies to a computer chip, supported by Siemens as part of the Curiosity Project. For anyway who wants to get hands-on, the Light Drawing workshop teaches you how to paint and doodle using light to create beautiful images. At the Scottish National Gallery, Constable’s Clouds is a special hands-on science-art workshop inspired by some of the wild weather and stunning skyscapes on show in the gallery's collection. There’s a unique chance to take part in the Jupiter Artland Mindcraft Experience, as players get together to use a mobile app to find the magical creatures who used to live in Jupiter Artland. The Biophilia Education Project makes its Scottish premiere: based on Björk’s 2011 album where each song is accompanied by its own app exploring an element of musical theory and paired with a corresponding scientific phenomenon. These workshops let your listen, learn and create.

For Families and Kids

There’s a packed programme of events for families and even a brand new space – The Experimentarium at Summerhall, which Baillie Gifford are venue sponsors of in 2017, where events include: How Do Rivers Work?; What’s it Like to be a Heart Scientist?; and Vets, Pets and Datasets.

Medicine is an ever-popular subject and there are lots of events such as the Blood Bar, where you can make your own scabs, mix up a gooey blood clot and even touch a real heart. In ER Surgery, you will get the chance to scrub up and save lives with the help of a surgeon. These and many more hands-on activities fill six floors of City Arts Centre, sponsored by Cirrus Logic.

Young robotics engineers will love getting hands-on at Robot Lab, which has everything from cute football-playing robots to an assembly-line robot that wants to learn to work with you. Mini Zoomers: Sensory Scientists offers the chance to discover hidden stories and explore fascinating phenomena through open-ended play and messy experiments. Wee Science at Edinburgh Zoo looks at how dogs bark, meerkats call, but only humans use words, while My Monkey and Me for primate babies aged 0-2 years and their grown-ups involves sensory science, stories and songs inspired by the National Museum of Scotland's Monkey Business exhibition.

Look out for lots of great family theatre shows including Dr Stirlingshire’s Discovery, which takes you on a search for undiscovered animals at Edinburgh Zoo, and Uncanny Valley, which asks the audience to interact with a real 'live' robot and help to tell the story of Ada and her best friend OKAY (Outstandingly Knowledgeable Android Youth).

There are lots of creative digital arts activities, include the Music Producer Workshop, where you can write and publish your own music using the latest technology at Play On. And two of the most popular science entertainers around will be on hand to keep things lively – you can Sing and Dance in Space and Time with Mr Boom or join TV’s favourite stunt scientist for Dr Bunhead’s Eggcellent Eggsplosions.

For Teenagers

Whether its game design, the music industry, robotics or zombies there is lots for teenagers to get their heads around and their hands on. Marty: Activate is a walking, dancing robot and a chance to do some coding in Scratch, to help him interact with the world. Future humans are in the spotlight in Making the New Human, where ideas of science fiction and real-world research around human augmentation collide.

In VR Worlds: Meet the Experts, find out about the development of a hybrid reality world that mixes up virtual reality and the real thing. There’s also the opportunity to conduct an inspection on top of a wind turbine – from the comfort of your head-mounted VR display.

Creating and remixing music in Conductive DJ, uses the MaKey MaKey invention kit to turn everyday objects into touchpads (everything from pots and pans to fruit and veg). Creative vision will come in useful at the Digital Maker Workshop offering the chance to design and produce your own 3D model using Raspberry Pi and 3D Slash.

Discovering your virtual self is the aim of Unlocking the Gamer, where experts will discuss games design with the player in mind. Get hands-on with Games Design Using Xbox Controllers, designing your very own video game using an icon-based programming language. The more skills you have the better for Zombie Science: Worst Case Scenario, where an expert Theoretical Zombiologist will look at what you’d have to do to survive if a zombie epidemic ever occurs.

The 2017 Edinburgh International Science Festival is powered by EDF Energy, in the first of a three year deal as headline sponsors. It is supported by the City of Edinburgh Council, The Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund, The Edina Trust, Baillie Gifford, The British Psychological Society, Cirrus Logic, Event Scotland, Heritage Lottery Fund and Siemens. 

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