This month Bradford will host the British Science Festival for the fourth time in its 184 year history, giving residents and visitors access to some of the brightest minds in modern science through a series of workshops, exhibitions, talks and lectures.

The festival programme covers everything from artificial inteligence to Indian fashion via methane leaks and stinky bottoms! And best of all it’s all free. We caught up with two of the key figures behind this year’s event to find out a bit more about the festival and what it means to Bradford.

Ivvet Modinou (IM) is Head of Engagement at the British Science Association, and her team is responsible for managing all the BSA’s activities and events for public audiences, including the annual British Science Festival. Emma Bridge (EB) is Head of Communications at the University of Bradford – she was involved in managing the successful 2011 Festival and is a key player in the delivery and promotion of this year’s event.

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First of all can you tell us a bit about the British Science Festival…

IM: “The British Science Festival has been running since 1831 and travels to a different city each year. We aim to shine a spotlight on that city and the local region, especially its heritage and the cutting edge research and innovation going on there. This year, we’re in Bradford from 7 – 10 September. Across the four days of the British Science Festival there are more than 100 events covering many different aspects of science. We have events throughout the day on topics as diverse as health, technology and sport to dinosaurs, space and the arts. After dark we have an exciting series of events taking places in bars, shops, theatres and museums in the city centre. Immediately afterwards, the Festival Fringe will run from 11 – 18 September featuring family fun activities and a schools programme.”

Why have you chosen to hold the event in Bradford this year and what are you hoping the city will bring to the event?

IM: “The city has a rich scientific, industrial and cultural heritage, and the University of Bradford is a  leading science and technology university so it’s the perfect place to host us. This year, we’ve been particularly excited to work with local businesses in the Independent Quarter and the West End, to bring out some of the hidden science within our hobbies and interests – like music, fashion, tech etc. Look out for events every night in everywhere from Bombay Stores and the newly opened Bier Keller to the National Media Museum and Waterstones.”

The festival has been around for over 150 years, can you tell us a little bit about its history and in particular its connections to Bradford…

IM: “This is our 185th year. We came to Bradford in 1873 (the 43rd festival), 1900 (our 70th meeting), and, most recently, were hosted by the University in 2011. Some of the topics we discussed at those early Festivals – such as space science, the history of our own planet, the teaching of science in schools and the impact of alcohol – would be just as relevant today. Meanwhile, this year there are lots of great events that shine a light on the research being done at the University and also celebrate Bradford and the local area. Visit www.britishsciencefestival.org for full details and booking.”

The festival has managed to have a huge impact on popular science over the years, what would you say is its greatest achievement and what is the best invention or theory to have made its first public appearance at the event?

IM: “The Festival has been host to the announcement of many major scientific advances over its long history. Examples include Joule’s experiments on the mechanical equivalent of heat in the 1840s, the discovery of the first of the inert gases, argon, by Rayleigh and Ramsay (1894), and J.J. Thomson’s discovery of the electron (1899).  My favourite fact is that the dinosaur officially got its name at one of our Festival meetings!”

EB: “More recently, at the British Science Festival in 2011 the University unveiled its ‘smart bomb’, a new cancer treatment (Click Here)  derived from colchicine, a natural compound occurring in the autumn crocus plant, indigenous in the UK. This was a really big story and received a lot of attention from the media. After this the Bradford Crocus Cancer Appeal was launched which underpinned the University’s on-going commitment to take these types of cancer drug discoveries from the lab to the clinic. The appeal recently hit its target, enabling new cancer drug discovery work to take place in the city, following the purchase of a new cutting-edge proteomics mass spectrometer, now installed at the University’s Institute of Cancer Therapeutics. The equipment will allow researchers to analyse proteins in cancer cells at a much quicker rate, improving the number of opportunities for the development of new cancer medicines.”

 

Who is the festival aimed at and how can people get involved?

IM “The Festival is aimed at anyone over 16 who is curious about finding out more about science, technology, health, medicine, engineering, manufacturing, the environment and the natural world. If you’re a fan of science or nature books, TV or documentaries, there will be something for you. Perhaps you’re more interested in exploring another side of art, fashion, music, and the city itself.. well there are plenty of events for you too! The Festival Fringe is aimed at schools and family audiences.  All tickets are free, and people can book online at www.britishsciencefestival.org

How do you decide on the content for Festival and is there anything in particular you are looking forward to this year?

IM “We put the programme together with the University of Bradford, our 16 Scientific Sections and other national partners. This year, we have curated more than 100 events from across the scientific spectrum, taking place over four days on the University campus and throughout the city. It’s a really rich and varied programme that will stimulate, inspire and provoke – we think there is something for everyone and hope to see you there!”

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EB: “I saw Dame Ellen MacArthur present her vision on Science of a Circular Economy at Bradford in 2011. I remember being really amazed by the event and her vision really impressed me. It helped me to understand how businesses should look at how their products are made, sold and then discarded, each time using finite resources. The Re:Centre at the University of Bradford is home to the Northern Office of The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and, in partnership with the foundation, our Faculty of Management and Law developed the world’s first MBA in Innovation, Enterprises and Circular Economy.”
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What is the most impressive thing you have ever seen at the British Science Festival?

EB: “I saw Dame Ellen MacArthur present her vision on Science of a Circular Economy at Bradford in 2011. I remember being really amazed by the event and her vision really impressed me. It helped me to understand how businesses should look at how their products are made, sold and then discarded, each time using finite resources. The Re:Centre at the University of Bradford is home to the Northern Office of The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and, in partnership with the foundation, our Faculty of Management and Law developed the world’s first MBA in Innovation, Enterprises and Circular Economy.”

Finally, who is your favourite scientist past or present and why?

IM: “Someone I really admire at the moment is neuroscientist Professor Gina Rippon. She debunks myths about the differences between the male and female brain. We’ve got a great event called ‘Women and the trouble with science’, which Gina will be speaking at on the evening of 8 September.”

EB: “I work with loads of amazing scientists at the University of Bradford every day, but through my work I like to look at the way people communicate science and bring it to life. I don’t think anyone has done that better than the incredible Sir David Attenborough.  In 1998 the University gave him an Honorary Degree for his contribution as a broadcaster and a writer.”

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