Groundbreaking ideas and unique experiences from science and the arts on display at the Great Exhibition Road Festival transforming South Kensington.
Pioneering theory and practice in science and art set the stage for the Great Exhibition Road Festival 2022: Pioneerswith over 38,000 visitors traveling to South Kensington for the weekend long festival.
Imperial College London partnered with the Science Museum, Natural History Museum, V&A and Royal College of Music, as well as the Goethe-Institut, Royal College of Art, Royal Parks and the Royal Geographical Society to create a unique program of events. Olympian Sir Mo Farah even dropped by the festival to encourage visitors to ‘train their minds’.
Through lectures, workshops, performances and activities, audiences were inspired by innovation in medicine, art, technology, design, chemistry and more, from advanced virtual reality experiences to insights into forgotten histories, untold stories and scientific breakthroughs. As in previous years, the entire program was based on the vast wealth of expertise from the College, museums and cultural institutions that have collaborated to deliver it.
Passion for pollinators
For families and for children, I love having the opportunity to discover different science projects that you will probably never be aware of if you don’t come to these kinds of events. A visitor to the festival
Bee ecologist Dr Richard Gill of the Department of Life Sciences (Silwood Park) was excited to bring the wonder of pollinators to the public with ‘Bees and us’. Together with colleague Dr. Peter Graystock and a team of volunteers from Imperial, the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation and Seedball led a hands-on workshop packed with information and activities.
For him, the festival was a positive opportunity to “build excitement for bees and butterflies, showcase ecology and educate the public about the threats and harms bees face.” The booth also explored ways to support pollinators, giving children the opportunity to create a bee-friendly testicle to plant at home.
Creating wonder with science and art
Neuroscientists Ani Kulkarni and Mathilde le Gal de Kerangal from the Department of Bioengineering teamed up with science artist Nick Sayers to celebrate the tricks of the mind with “Make Your Own Brain Illusions.” Demonstrating a work in which technology from old record players was adapted at different speeds to create illusions, Nick said, “I enjoyed getting the public excited about science and its creative applications, and the connection between art and science.” Children were invited to create their own brain illusions by drawing around bicycle parts and giving their image a spin on the custom turntables.
Exploring the world of nano
In the Magnificent Molecules Zone, PhD chemistry student Rupali Dabas was ready to demonstrate nanomedicine. “My work involves creating nanoparticles for mRNA delivery, similar to what has been used in COVID vaccine technology. Today we want to share our passion for science and maybe debunk some of the myths surrounding nanoparticles – they are so amazing in what they can accomplish, with huge potential to transform medical research and be revolutionary.”
This year’s festival was bigger than ever and spread out into the great outdoors, with visitors invited to explore themed areas. Princes Gardens hosted the Hands-On Families Zone, packed with games, storytelling, crafts and experiments for budding scientists, engineers, and even mini-suffragettes. Kids can build a beetle, try paper marbling or explore the world of badgers.
The Curiosity Zone provided a ‘scientific selection box’ of activities for all ages on Imperial College Road, exploring fascinating research from Imperial, including light that diagnoses disease and 3D-printed bones. Visitors were invited to make DNA-printed bracelets, origami boats and microchip key rings.
Inside, the Medical Marvels Zone explored advances in the fight against malaria and cancer, while the Royal Geographical Society’s Adults Zone served up fashion upcycling, cloud demos and controlled corrosion alongside drinks on the patio.
I really enjoyed meeting the geologists who explained about carbon capture, just because I didn’t know much about it and that was very interesting. It was fun because I really just came for the kids, I didn’t really know I was going to get so much out of it. A visitor to the festival
The Smart Machines Zone provided insight into the advancements in artificial intelligence and the digital realm, while the Future Design Zone invited visitors to explore cutting-edge innovation on the four floors of the Dyson building.
Visitors could explore the world in nano in the Magnificent Molecules Zone, and on Sunday, the Neurodiversity Zone celebrated the positive impact of different thinking in science and art, with unique lectures, activities and soothing environments.
In addition to a wide range of activities, the public was offered a range of engaging lectures from inspiring public figures. Panelists and speakers addressed topics ranging from climate change to aging, the search for life on Mars, and the untold stories of LGBTQ+ lives in our museums. Britain’s first astronaut, Helen Sharman, explored how science and technology can help overcome environmental and geopolitical challenges at the poles. Curator Annemarie Bilclough discussed Beatrix Potter’s life and legacy as an artist and naturalist, while author, filmmaker and educator Juliet Jacques discussed her latest work on the lives of trans and non-binary people.
appeal to Londoners
Vicky Brightman, Festival Director and Head of Public Engagement at Imperial said: “The festival is a special opportunity to engage Londoners with leading edge research happening at Imperial, to gain insight from a wide range of people to further inform our research and to inspire people of all ages through unique collaborative events in science and art.
“We are deeply grateful to the hundreds of staff and students in our Imperial community and our cultural neighbors who participate in public events, including the Great Exhibition Road Festival. Their creativity and dedication makes these kinds of events possible.”
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