Brighton Science Festival

This year’s month-long Brighton Science Festival features 70+ events taking place at nearly 40 venues around Brighton and beyond – from churches and galleries to a village pub and Brighton beach itself.

Festival Director, Richard Robinson, was formerly an actor, puppeteer and a founder member of TV satire show Spitting Image. He has also written nearly 20 books on science, including the best-selling ‘Why The Toast Always Lands Butter-Side Down’.

Brighton Science Festival began in 2005 as a single weekend of talks to encourage curiosity in youngsters. Richard Robinson explains: “Young people love to explore, experiment and create. They don’t mind making mistakes along the way. But the school curriculum doesn’t leave time for mistakes. They have to get the right version in their books straight away, ready to move on to the next topic. There is no room for the spirit of discovery. Secondly, their parents don’t join in. So our family fun days are there for both parents and their children to play, experiment, discover and share the experience.”

Last year’s festival attracted 15,000 visitors, with 2,700 of them coming for the Bright Sparks weekend. Lessons have been learned along the way, not least about how people (adults and kids alike) never stop learning. It’s been quite a journey, which is why we decided to make the idea of ‘journeys’ the theme for this year’s festival – covering everything from animal navigation and migration to evolution and space travel. As usual, our programme deliberately avoids the being-lectured-at style of learning, in favour of hands-on demonstrations, engaging talks and live experiments.

In addition to BSF regulars like Robin Ince and Helen & Kat Arney, we’ve brought in a new crop of pop science presenters and entertainers. Robin Dunbar explains why the number of friends you have is defined by a mathematical limit; we hear from Matt Taylor who put a landing craft on a comet (and got told off for wearing that shirt); while Rosie Wilby examines the science of sex via the nature of pheromones and the origins of kissing.

Meanwhile, there’s more kids’ stuff than ever in our hands-on half-term programme. Dr Marty Jopson from BBC’s ‘One Show’ investigates the shocking story of electricity; Russell Arnott hosts an interactive presentation in which sealife experts champion their favourite underwater invertebrate (we all have one, right?); while ‘Blast Science’ examines the mysteries of space and time with an interactive Star Wars astronomy show – including a light sabre battle finale.

As always, the main attraction is the double day of interactive science fun at Bright Sparks (Hove Park Upper School, 13th & 14th Feb). Two days packed full of activities and demonstrations – whether your idea of a good time is hanging out with a boa constrictor, building a robot, knitting with DNA or investigating a crime scene, there’ll be something for everyone at this event.

Put aside any preconceptions you may have about science – every part of the Brighton Science Festival programme will challenge people’s perceptions about what science is and who can do it. Roll up your sleeves and get stuck in.

Richard Robinson


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