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Celebrations are full STEAM ahead: A decade of the NI Science Festival

By Andrew Moore 11th January 2024

The NI Science Festival returns to celebrate a decade of exploration and discovery, a milestone in the journey to inspire inquisitive minds that has resulted in the festival becoming one of the largest science events in Europe.

From Thursday 15 – Sunday 25 February, scientists and enthusiasts including biological anthropologist, author and broadcaster Professor Alice Roberts, aerospace engineer-turned-baker Andrew Smyth, wildlife filmmaker and presenter Gordon Buchanan and Limerick’s own ‘cultural phenomenon’ Blindboy join the festival’s largest ever programme of archaeologists, environmentalists, psychologists, neuroscientists and much more to ignite scientific curiosity and explore the workings of ourselves and the world around us.

From astronomy to autopsy, biology to beer brewing and Teeny Tiny Creatures to Tetris, the annual festival of all things science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM), will return for a jam-packed 11 days.

Over 300 events are planned across Northern Ireland covering everything from the natural world, our planet, and the vast expanse of space to technology, engineering, the mind and body, food and much more.

Commenting on the launch of this year’s festival, its director, Sarah Jones, said, “We are very excited to be celebrating our tenth anniversary with a fantastic programme of events for young and old, that not only showcases the marvels of science but also explores its connections with arts and culture and beyond.

“As ever, our festival extends right across Northern Ireland and for the first time even crosses borders. For ten years we have spread the joy of science, sparked fascination with technology, engineering and maths and facilitated thought-provoking discussions regarding the arts – we look forward to building upon this not only this year but for many more to come.”

Speaking ahead of the festival launch, Graeme Wilkinson, Director of Skills at the Department for the Economy, said, “The Department for the Economy is delighted to congratulate the Northern Ireland Science Festival on reaching its tenth anniversary. The Department has been lead sponsor for the Festival since it began in 2015 and has watched it grow into the major event it is today.

“The Festival has engaged thousands of young people in science and introduced them to the wide range of career opportunities available in this field. This continues to be a key aspiration for the Department, given how vital science and other STEM skills are to the economy. We wish the Science Festival team every success with this milestone event and look forward to continuing to work with them in the future.”

Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Ryan Murphy said, “I can’t wait to see the tenth year of the NI Science Festival go full steam ahead this February! We’re so proud to support this festival – it brings immense joy and fun to science discovery for people of all ages.

“There are so many inspirational events lined up – and I’m particularly excited to see people enjoying “The Compass” installation at our city centre cultural venue, 2 Royal Avenue from 15-17 February. Congratulations to Sarah Jones and all the team involved in making this festival such a success.”

Professor Victoria Simms, Chair of NI Science Festival, added, “We are delighted to launch your largest ever Northern Ireland Science Festival programme to celebrate our 10th anniversary. This really reflects the vibrancy of the scientific community in Northern Ireland and the creativity of our brilliant team. We can’t wait for you all to join us in February at our inspiring events.”

Alongside some friends from previous editions, the NI Science Festival will celebrate its tenth birthday with a takeover of the awe-inspiring surrounds of the Ulster Transport Museum. On Saturday 17th February, Scientific Sue, Strong Women in Science and many more will join a packed day of interactive activities, workshops, immersive experiences and much more that the whole family can enjoy.

Get ready to see Belfast’s 2 Royal Avenue at the heart of the city centre in a whole new light and venture inside The Compass from 15-17th February, to interact with animated stories from across research and marvel at the spectacular projection experience. Just as a compass helps us to plot a course, find our bearings and explore new worlds, this installation will show us how scientific endeavours and processes directly resonate with our daily lives.

On Friday 16th, join The Irish Astronomical Association at The Old Church, Cushendun, for a night under the stars, where telescopes reveal cosmic wonders. Afterward, immerse yourself in the sci-fi masterpiece “Moon.” A perfect blend of real and fictional space exploration, this event, hosted din partnership with The National Trust, promises an otherworldly experience for all attendees.

‘Super Science Sunday’s’ return to the Whitla Hall across the two festival weekends. On Sunday 18th February, award-winning forensic chemist Niamh Nic Daeid explores how the leading-edge technology of today like Virtual Reality is being used to investigate crime scenes and the breakthroughs of the future that could crack previously unsolvable cases. Also on 18th, Dame Athene Donald uses her own experience and those of other top scientists who are women to discuss the factors that drive women to give up on a career in science, while Alice Roberts will talk about her new book, Crypt: Life, Death and Disease in the Middle Ages and Beyond, looking at how ancient bones hold the key to understanding the impact of violence and disease in mediaeval society.

On Sunday 25th February, Gordon Buchanan, one of the most prominent wildlife presenters and filmmakers working today, takes to the stage to share his incredible passion for the animal kingdom and the unique ability he has for presenting such hidden animal worlds to an audience. Wrapping up the Whitla Hall events, Around the World in 80 Games, an exploration by award-winning mathematician Marcus du Sautoy, uncovers the intertwined relationship between mathematics and games across cultures and time.

On Wednesday 21st, experience the thrilling showcase of scientific talent and communication at FameLab Northern Ireland’s live final, featuring ten finalists competing with charm, scientific expertise, and innovation in a three-minute window. The global competition launched the career of award-winning BBC presenter, science communicator and local musical comedian Emer Maguire back in 2015.

Alongside a wide selection of events taking place right across Northern Ireland, the festival will also take to the road with its Regional Roadshow. Join CBeebies’ Teeny Tiny Creatures animal experts Chantelle and Rory as they shed a light on the vital planet-saving role that our tiniest animals play in the wonderful web, and science communicator Jon Chase who will explore the science behind THE movie franchise that helped change the way we see dinosaurs. The roadshow will visit Bangor (15 February), Newcastle (16 February), Enniskillen (17 February) and Portrush (18 February).

NI Science Festival is supported by the Department for the Economy, Belfast City Council, Derry City and Strabane District Council, Ulster University, Queen’s University Belfast, British Council Northern Ireland, MCS Group, The Open University NI, Arts & Business NI, Matrix NI, Film Hub NI, Institute of Physics, OCN NI and Belfast Harbour.

The 2024 NI Science Festival runs 15–25 February. For more information about events and bookings, visit Keep up to date with the festival on social media via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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