During the chaos of being on tour I was asked to write a few lines about how the science communication scene had grown during the last 18 months. It left me pleasantly surprised.
In February 2014, Birmingham held it’s first Science Showoff and now has an established regular Bright Club too. These brought local performers and researchers together with not just the public but also practitioners from around the country. It’s been especially nice to see people come to one show, see how it works and sign up as a performer for the next one. It was wonderful to receive an email asking me whether there were any other outlets for performing science stand-up as they had ‘got the bug’.
Over the last year, the city hosted the British Science Festival and its fourth Arts and Science Festival. The festival in September was a great success for the regional chapter of ScienceGrrl, who invited the public to ‘Talk to them’ and hosted a Women in Science Networking event. New volunteers flooded Chamberlain Square to busk science, many for the first time. The University of Birmingham simultaneously brought some science to the city centre with their pop-up shop and the city engaged with the reinvention of the Fun Palaces.
For the second year running, the Big Bang Fair has been held at the National Exhibition Centre and brought a huge opportunity for local scicomm practitioners to get in front of an audience. While some voices speak out on the tone of the Big Bang Fair, I will say that this year, there was an atmosphere of it being like a craft fair; very low budget and very hands-on; less the huge military display of previous years.
For the first time, we’ve run a series of events for Pint of Science, with academics and researchers from all the universities reaching new audiences in our bars. Thanks to Jim Bell, we’re sending our first batch of researchers off to the Green Man festival to show families ‘the future’ in Einstein’s Garden. They’ve come a long way.
Rowena Fletcher-Wood brought the story of Ludwig Boltzmann to a small stage and garnered praise from audiences. There is a video of ‘Trusting Atoms’ here. Vikki Burns went on to the UK finals of Famelab., and Rosie Davies went to work on the Famelab Academy, bringing scicomm to schools. Sarah Cosgriff delivered new shows nearer to home in the East Midlands and congratulations are due to two members of Engineering at the University of Birmingham, Zoe George and Naomi Green, who both won their respective zones in ‘I’m An Engineer, Get Me Out Of Here’.
It looks like a lot has been done and it has! However, it is not easy to pin down how all this has happened other than to describe it as hard work done by many people. For me, I have to give special thanks to those who have formed the #BrumSciComm community of practice; not just the organisers, Sarah and Naomi; but to everyone who has come along, supported it, shared stories, offered help and brought demos. The resulting #BrumSciComm socials have had regular visitors from Universities in Birmingham, Aston, Warwick, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Leicester and have had guests from CERN and London on several occasions.
To celebrate all these brilliant achievements AND our first anniversary, we are holding the #BrumSciComm picnic on the 16th of August from 12:00 onwards at the Bandstand, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham. Get information from the facebook page. Don’t forget to bring your entry for the Great Birmingham Science Bake Off competition. Oh yes, bring demos and families too. We’re having a ‘works do’!