By Neil Harrison
Manchester Metropolitan University staff were out in force last week to help launch the Manchester Science Festival 2014. At the packed – and proper Northern – event, held by Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), scientists and academics mixed with local celebrities and members of the public to enjoy great music, free drinks and pies!
MMU is just one of numerous local institutions and organisations who have worked together to compile a fascinating and engaging calendar of events and activities at this year’s festival. As the launch night got underway, we spoke to Festival Director Marieke Navin. Marieke told us,
“It’s such a wide and innovative programme of events because we work with so many different partners across the area. For instance, we work with over fifty different venues to put on this festival across Greater Manchester.
“This is the 8th Manchester Science Festival and I think every year it gives the people of Manchester a really unparalleled opportunity to get up close and personal with real science in the area, and to explore science, but also to enjoy themselves. We really put fun and playfulness at the heart of everything we do.”
Of the many surprises thrown up by the festival’s opening party, perhaps the most bizarre occurred when erstwhile Happy Mondays dancer, Bez – now reincarnated as a reality TV star and anti-‘fracking’ activist – appeared on stage clutching a 3-D printed bust of his own head.
Meanwhile, artist, Marcus Coates, gave the audience a glimpse into his unique project, entitled The Sounds of Others: A Biophonic Line. Marcus told the crowd that he is on the hunt for a “common point” at which all the sounds made by living things become exactly the same. To demonstrate this, Marcus recorded the audience (all human, with the possible exception of Bez) making bird noises for five minutes, before speeding up the recording until they sounded like, well, like birds …
Between free pies, we managed to grab a few words with some of the MMU staff at the event including Professor Sam Illingworth of the Science and Engineering Faculty and Helen Malarky and Jim Moore, form the Faculty of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences (HLSS). Firstly, Sam told us why he was there,
“MMU is quite heavily involved in this year’s Manchester Science Festival and our department has lots of fantastic events coming up. Among them, we have the Science Extravaganza event, which I’m really excited about. It is happening all day on the 25th October at MMU’s John Dalton Building. This is a day were families and anyone who is interested can just come along and find out all about the cutting edge research that MMU does and the world class professionals that work there.
“What’s really great about the 25th October is that, on the same day, the University of Manchester are holding their Science Spectacular event. All the way down Oxford Road there will be ‘Science Buskers’ who are going to be busking science for passers-by! There will also be amazing walking tours because, basically, in the space of around 200 metres, the first computer was built; the great Enigma codebreaker, Alan Turing, worked; the atom was first split and graphene was produced. The scientific heritage of Oxford Road is just amazing.”
Helen Malarky, meanwhile, was there to promote the HLSS Faculty’s Humanities in Public Festival, which is also working with the Manchester Science Festival on some great looking events this year, Helen explained,
“We are going to be taking over the Power Hall here at MOSI, for our event What Is This Thing Called Steampunk? on Friday 24th October. We’ll have a series of talks on Steampunk films, fiction and fandom, demonstrations of working Steampunk technology and a lovely, Victorian-style afternoon tea.
“We also have The Bone Ages, which is being held in conjunction with the Gothic Manchester Festival. This is a really exciting event because it will bring together academics from across several different faculties at MMU. They’ll all be looking at different aspects of what bones can teach us, from, not just an archaeological perspective, but also a sociological and a modern day health perspective.
“We will have two 3-D printing demonstrations, one of which will show how new technology is helping to revolutionize archaeology. There will also be genuine human remains on show and people at the event will be taught how discover the gender of a skeleton and also how to spot clues about how the person might have lived.”
Back at the launch night and, following a DJ set by members of Elbow, the evening began to draw to a close. We caught up with Festival Programme Coordinator, MOSI’s Antonio Benitez, to ask whether he thought the evening had been a success. Antonio told us,
“I think it’s been a great evening that really reflects what is great about the Manchester Science Festival. It is about bringing people together – people from different backgrounds and walks of life. It really shows how, in Manchester, we have a different way of doing things and that science can really be fun.”
For more info on The Manchester Science Festival and to discover the full programme of events please visit ManchesterScienceFestival.com
Neil Harrison is Editor in Chief at Humanity Hallows, he is in his third year studying History at MMU. Follow Neil on Twitter @looseriver