Light and creativity: Public engagement at Dunbar Science Festival

I thought that you might like to see some of what I was up to last weekend!  Five years ago, I set up a community science festival, Dunbar SciFest, with my extraordinary friend, Dr Audrey Cameron, a deaf chemist and Scotland’s first ever female deaf doctor.  We also run the fortnightly Dunbar Science Club on Saturday mornings between September and June annually.

Magic Lantern, Dunbar SciFest 2015. Jon Savage 1

Photo courtesy of Jon Savage Photography

Our 11 day festival started in style with a light installation and projection show to celebrate 2015 being UNESCO International Year of Light and Light Generation TechnologyThe Magic Lantern at Barns Ness Lighthouse.  Dunbar’s very own resident Light Artist, the “Magical” Malcolm Innes from Edinburgh Napier University, along with the “Brilliant” Black Light (whose founder MD lives in Sunny Dunny!), wove a spell over us all with this unique show.  Thanks also to Heather Christie, whose soundscape was so evocative; Hugh Turvey, X-ray Artist for donating images; Ruaraidh Milnes (Fly Agaric) performed fantastic fire shows and local artist, Anna Davis, who did UV face painting!  On the Preview Show night (Thursday 5 March), the beautiful full moon rose up behind the Keeper’s Cottages, the clouds scudded across the sky and none of us could believe how magical the whole experience really was.

The Dunbar SciFest Family Weekend on Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 March was a great success.  Over 60 different organisations delivered a packed programme of over 100 different events, including stage shows, workshops, drop-in sessions, storytelling and more.

Seven teams from the University of Edinburgh took part – from the Schools of Biology, Chemistry and Physics (Soft Matter), as well as The Edinburgh Cancer Research Centre, The MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine and SCI-FUN.  SCI-FUN also ran an amazing Early Bird Session for Autistic children and their families on the Sunday morning.

This year, while it stayed dry and the sun came out Saturday afternoon and most of Sunday, the horrendous gales definitely affected our visitor numbers.  Last year we had unseasonably sunny and warm weather and so the Family Weekend visitor numbers this year were 3,500 people compared to 4,500 last year.  On the Saturday and Sunday evenings, the public shows for The Magic Lantern at the Barns Ness Lighthouse had a paying audience of 700 people (plus lots of free under-fives). 500 people came on Saturday night which was wildly windy and 200 came on Sunday evening which was thankfully much calmer!  Despite the weather, the public feedback on both events was overwhelmingly positive according to our Independent Event Evaluation Surveyors and we’re looking forward to seeing their report.

Our festival’s Education Programme of workshops and shows in the Dunbar Cluster of five primary schools is on all of this week and our Adult Programme runs in the evenings, from this Thursday 12 to Sunday 15 March:

  1. The Marine Life of the Firth of Forth
  2. Dunbar SciFest, CoastWord & Rally & Broad celebrate Women in Science:
  3. Fabulous Food and Drink from our fertile land and sea
  4. IYL15 – How Light Inspires Creativity

Our street photo exhibition projection event – Royal Photographic Society images projected onto John Muir Birthplace will take place on the evenings of Friday 13 to Sunday 15 March.  More information is here.

I am so lucky to live in a Dunbar where amazing things like this can happen, thanks to the extraordinary work undertaken by the dedicated volunteers on the Dunbar SciFest Organising Team, the Dunbar residents who volunteer to help deliver our community festival events over 11 days, and our generous funders and sponsors.

Dee Davison 3About the author

Dee Davison is a Project Officer with the Beltane Public Engagement Network.  She has extensive experience of establishing and managing science festivals (Dunbar and Edinburgh EISF) and visitor attractions (Dynamic Earth, Exploris – NI Aquarium).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: