Setting up for Cheltneham Science Festival

I’m volunteering at Cheltenham Science Festival this week and have just got back to the YMCA where we are staying after a long day of unloading chairs and tables and sofas and fridges off lorries and distributing them around the venues. I am not a very strong person (!) so this has been a tiring day, but absolutely worth it, because the venues look incredible now, and one of the things I got to help lift was a giant dinosaur head!

Dave’s jaw

Cheltenham Festival looks like it is going to be a great experience– if anyone is interested in science communication I would thoroughly recommend applying next year. There are lots of chances to help run experiments, see some great communicators, and even help engage speakers and the public in dialogue in the Talking Point.

This is a space where the public can chat and debate science and the topics of some of the talks they have seen, and after their talks speakers can come down too and join in. The whole point of it is to extend the Q&As after the events into more of a dialogue, with the public also putting forward their opinions and the speaker asking questions. This is such an interesting idea– I am really excited to see how it works. In many lectures and festivals I have been to, the Q&A parts have not worked that well, and it is clear that the audience really want to continue the conversation for longer than the allocated time.

One of the themes of the festival this year is dinosaurs– the idea is that they are the ‘gateway drug’ to science for a lot of kids (and adults)! The Dino Zone– the part with the giant Dino head entrance– also has sections on cosmology and the history of the universe linked through the asteroid that may have ended the reign of the dinosaurs, as well as particle physics, from the use of synchrotron radiation to examine fossils. It’s a brilliant area that also has a rather dramatic surprise once an hour on the hour which I won’t give away just yet!

Setting up the Discovery Zone 🙂

As well as a lot of furniture moving, all the volunteers have had loads of training in how to help run events, where to take the VIPs, and how to help on various stalls. It’s been really good fun and we are well looked after 🙂 The other volunteers are lovely– a lot of them have done the Festival multiple times, which gives it a great atmosphere and has also been good to get the dirt on some of the famous speakers! The festival starts tomorrow, and I am spending my day split between the Discovery Zone, the VIP room and an event on Genetics 🙂 exciting times!

If you want to get more of the inside gossip on Cheltenham Science Festival (and more pictures of dinosaurs) follow me on Twitter @42EmmaWills 😛


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