Manchester Science Festival 2015: Our highlights

Stevie Mackenzie-Smith

Food cravings, scientific art, laboratory tours, Richard Dawkins, a ball pool for adults, and sci-fi cinema at Manchester Cathedral – our Manchester Science Festival highlights.

This year’s Manchester Science Festival, which returns next month for its ninth outing, sounds like the firing gun for the race to 2016, when Manchester is bestowed the title of European City of Science. It’s a nod to a proud city of firsts; of the programmable computer, the passenger railway and atomic theory. It seems fitting, then, that 2015’s festival programme casts an eye over the city present and past: it ranges from the landmark innovations of yesteryear, to the cutting-edge research taking place across Manchester today, like the discovery of Graphene.

Taking place 22 October – 1 November, this year’s Manchester Science Festival (produced by the Museum of Science and Industry) is a hefty one, with 170 events taking place in 40 different venues across Greater Manchester. With the half-term holidays slap-bang in the middle, the festival is full of experiments, coding competitions and science shows to harness the imagination of kids. There are also adult-friendly events with quizzes, late-night exhibitions, gin-tastings and a grown-up only ball pool (!) to, erm, harness the imagination of adults as the nights draw in.

Opening the festival is Evaporation, the world premiere of a large-scale sculptural installation by Devon-based artist Tania Kovats, which examines the relationship between humans, water and oceans. It’s on display at the Museum of Science and Industry, as is Cravings: Does Your Food Control You?, a new exhibition exploring how food affects our bodies, brains and eating habits. At the opposite end of Deansgate, Manchester Cathedral hosts a series of sci-fi film screenings. Catch E.T., the Extra Terrestrial, Back To The Future, The Matrix, and more projected against the atmospheric backdrop of the nave.

Quizzes, late-night exhibitions, gin-tastings and a grown-up only ball pool

This year’s festival comprises a strong arts strand; one of our picks is artist Liz West’s gorgeous rainbow-hued light installation Your colour perception which fills the Allerton Studios at the University of Salford. If you missed this radiant display at Castlefield Gallery’s Federation House last year, we urge you to catch it. Meanwhile, the university’s MediaCityUK campus is home to Kinetic Flux, an interactive installation responding to movement and speed via a series of infrared cameras and electric light. Jump in and influence the flow of energy.

Working from a pop-up hospital studio, artist Lucy Burscough has painted patients alongside the natural objects crucial to the development of their treatments; CurARTIVE exhibition is the moving result at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital. Back at the Museum of Science and Industry, renowned composer Jonathan Dove and RNCM musicians have taken inspiration from Tania Kovat’s festival commission to create The Wave: A structured improvisation for voice and instruments. Drop-in performances take place throughout Sunday 25 October.

For half-term fun, look to The Astronaut Science Show at Jodrell Bank, where British ESA Astronaut Tim Peak surveys the challenges of his upcoming International Space Station Mission via a series of experiments. Similarly space-themed is Chella Quint’s Science In My Den, an intergalactic library-cum-life-sized recreation of poet Adrian Henri’s romantic ‘Galatic Lovepoem’ at the Museum of Science and Industry. Prefer to indulge your imagination through a set of goggles? A weekend of virtual reality, musical robots and film screenings unfolds at The University of Salford’s Science Jam, 24-25 October. We also recommend Young Fab Academy; a three-day workshop for teenagers culminating in the creation a stereo amplifier for a phone.

A rainbow-hued installation, an Anechoic Chamber, Brian Cox and a menu made by microbes

Did you know that one of the quietest places in the world is in Salford? Take this rare opportunity to visit the Anechoic Chamber, the University of Salford’s sanctuary of peace on 30 October. Another top tour tip is Alan Turing’s Manchester, a guided tour retracing the steps of Manchester’s enigma code-breaker. Less walking and more talking; controversial scientist Richard Dawkins is in town, discussing his life’s influences at The Lowry, while Professor Brian Cox and Robin Ince bring their award-winning Radio 4 science-comedy show The Infinite Monkey Cage to the Museum of Science and Industry on 22 October; grab tickets while you can.

Fancy drinking gin in the name of science at Manchester Museum? Ginesis: Distill My Beating Heart wins the award for most imaginatively-named event, with two expert distillers sharing the origins of juniper juice. The late-night Cravings event at the Museum of Science and Industry will figuratively and literally tickle the tastebuds with food-themed fun, tastings and an audio-exploration of cravings. On 29 October Harvey Nichols lay on A Menu Made By Microbes, a tailor-made gourmet menu of food using bacteria, fungi and yeast. A culinary experience for the curious (which we may, just possibly, be giving away tickets for).

This year’s festival packs a real punch, cramming an impressive number of events into little over a week. We’re sure that many will sell out, so… Ready, get set, GO!

Produced by the Museum of Science and Industry and supported by Siemens and Lead Educational Sponsor the University of Salford.

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