What makes the Edinburgh Science Festival 2024 so special?

The Edinburgh Science Festival was the world's first such festival when it launched in 1989. Today it remains the UK’s largest Science Festival and for 2 weeks each year - centred around the Easter break - offers a range of amazing experiences for all ages, with a programme of exhibitions, events, workshops, performances, screenings and discussions in venues across the city. This year [30 March to 14 April 2024] the theme is Shaping the Future, showcasing some of the cutting-edge science and technology that can help us create a future that is sustainable, accessible for all and exciting. So what makes the Festival so special?

1. There's lots of family fun

Blood Bar - EISF

At the heart of the festival is it's family programme with lots of fun and inspiring events for children, young people and adults, including:

  • the perfect, inspirational day out at City Art Centre where you can explore five floors packed with workshops and interactive events perfect for kids up to 12 years old. Parents can join in the fun too with drop-in workshops and our digital art exhibitions.
  • with your City Art Centre Day Pass, you'll have access to any number of drop-in activities and up to three bookable workshops – the perfect day of science fun! You can mix and match any workshop including Splat-tastic, Blood Bar, ER Surgery, Wild Vets, Imagination Playground, and Creative Coding.  
  • meanwhile in other venues, you can jjoin former Great British Bake Off finalist and creator and judge of Netflix's Baking Impossible, Andrew Smyth for an edible exploration of the engineering involved in baking - in Bakineering. With audience tasters and live demonstrations, this fast-paced family show takes you on a journey via sea, road and sky to discover the hidden engineering inside his bakes
  • in The Rocket Show our back-yard scientist and discover what it takes to build a rocket fit for space. In this explosive family-friendly adventure, delve into rocket science as we explore forces, test materials, and prepare for launch. So strap-in, countdown, and blast-off for a show that’s out of this world. This is a friendly performance: there will be some loud noises, but you can download a visual story from our website and we'll have ear defenders available
  • can you imagine a city that is good for us, and good for the planet? By bringing nature into our cities, we can do so much; reduce pollution, stop flooding, regulate heat waves and help keep our minds and bodies healthy. Using LEGO® bricks in Build a Better City, join our scientists to construct the city of the future where plants make a better place for us all. Build a wall of plants, a rain garden or even better something that no one has invented yet. Speak to our scientists and find out what they are doing to make our cities better.
  • and join us at Dynamic Earth this Easter for an adventurous EggStravaganza egg hunt unlike any other! Travel through time and scour our exhibition to find out all about eggs: from corals and dinosaurs to penguins and catsharks, a huge diversity of animals lay eggs of different shapes and sizes. Discover a host of surprising eggy stories, complete the trail and collect a tasty surprise gift!

2. And sociable science for the adults

Gastro Lab - EISF

As in every year, Edinburgh Science Festival produces a range of entertaining science events with a twist for adults, including:

  • the Festival’s Opening Event Science Festival Late (28 March) at the City Art Centre allows adults to play with the intercative exhibitons before the venue is turned over to children; 
  • the interactive family-friendly exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland gets an adult-only evening for Growing Home After Hours [4 April]
  • Science troubadour, Jonny Berliner (“Seriously funny”- Scotsman) and Ugly Animal wrangler, Simon Watt (“All the wit and passion of the best comics”- Chortle) invite you to the only Anarchonerd pub quiz in UniverSilly Challenged Quiz [2 April]. Niche prizes to be won and full marks for foolishness. Paxman would hate it.
  • in Stranger than Fiction: The Panel Game [2 April], a motley team of non-fiction writers will try to pull the wool over your eyes by sneaking some surprising facts amongst ridiculous fiction and persistent scientific myth
  • and Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon planetarium experience [4 to 13 April] is back! Experience a mesmeric and immersive 360° show with breath-taking views of the Solar System, set to the official 1973 album in spectacular surround sound. Half a century after its launch in a planetarium, this truly is a unique way to experience this album.

3. While we also tackle the Big Ideas

With Programming for the Planet a continuing focus for the Festival, this year features an inspiring line-up of speakers and events including:

  • How could AI help us respond to the climate and nature crises? In the next decade, the world needs to take decisive steps to save the planet as we know it. At the heart of whether it could be successful or not, is whether we will be able to make the urgent progress in cleaning and greening the built environment. In AI for Earth, join Dr Will Cavendish, Global Digital Leader at Arup and ex-Strategy Lead at Deep Mind, to hear about what role AI might play in helping the world meet these urgent challenges, and what might hold us back.
  • In Carbon Capturers [9 April], join us to meet scientists from The University of Edinburgh who are working on real solutions to some big environmental problems! See first-hand how issues such as carbon emissions and freshwater shortages are being tackled here in Edinburgh, and talk to the experts that are helping solve these global problems!
  • You might not look to your washing machine as a major culprit of pollution but microplastics and fibres from synthetic clothing are constantly being washed into our waterways and can be found everywhere, from the deepest depths of the oceans to food products and even in our own bodies. Join National Geographic Explorer and Founder of Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean, Rachael Miller in Science and Solutions for a Clean Ocean [1 April], where she guides us through the problem with plastic and the innovative new technologies that are helping us to solve this critical environmental challenge.
  • Each year, The Edinburgh Medal is presented to those who have made a significant contribution to the wellbeing and understanding of humanity through the sciences. This year’s recipient is the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, a pioneer nonprofit research institute dedicated to open clinical and biomedical research - and his  Edinburgh Medal Address [2 April] will share insights into the benefits of an approach that does science for social good.

4. And explore the connections between Science and Art

Pop-Up - EISF

Each year the Edinburgh Science Festival commissions or exhbiits artists who work in the grey space between art and science, exploring the connections that many do not see and helping us to look at science in a different way:

  • Journey through Max Alexander’s stunning photography to explore the rising concept of space sustainability in Our Fragile Space [8 March to 18 April]. Showcasing the importance of space to our economy, society and scientific communities, this exhibition addresses the crucial need for stewardship of this fragile environment. This touring exhibition has already informed space policy units in Europe and the US, and now travels to Scotland – a world leader in satellite production and emerging key player in space initiatives.
  • Rising Tide [until 14 April] considers our relationship to the natural environment through contemporary responses to climate change and plastic waste by Indigenous Australian and Pacific Islander artists. The exhibition hosts the latest version of artist George Nuku’s installation, Bottled Ocean 2123, which imagines the state of the oceans 100 years into the future in an immersive, undersea landscape crafted from single use plastic bottles.
  • Get the scoop on all things ice cream at Dovecot’s latest exhibition Andy Warhol: The Textiles. See Warhol’s vibrant ice cream prints and learn about some of the science behind the making of real dairy ice cream with Mackie’s of Scotland, where you will be introduced to the ingredients, science and technology involved in making Scotland’s favourite ice cream on the family farm. 
  • Future Proof at Summerhall, presents a series of exhibitions and events from visual artists that explore alternative futures through examination of the past and present and pose existential questions from the blurred boundary of art and science - including We Pretended It Wasn't Green, A Topography of Micro Planets, Mythic Instruments and Geometry, Art and Mind. Artist talks included in the programme will shed light on their work and associated workshops in ASCUS Lab will invite you to experiment alongside the artists.

5. With lots of events around the city

Besides the core festival venues at City Art Centre, National Musuem of Scotland, and Dynamic Earth, you can find amazing experiences across the city region:

  • Explore Beach Pebbles [various dates] in beaches around Edinburgh, and find out about the stories hidden in every stone. We'll discover an amazing variety of different types of pebble, find out where they come from and what they tell us about Scotland's geology. We'll also explore why the beach looks the way it does, and how it might change in the next few decades with climate change.
  • In Frankenstein's Plants [12 to 14 April], learn what data is important to collect and put on a specimen and how plants are named. Then once your specimen is ready, digitise it to an online catalogue so the world can view it. Find out from the real Herbarium staff how this fun task mimics the jobs they do every day in the internationally renowned Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh Herbarium.
  • Learn to hunt and identify mushrooms in our practice foraging zone at The Biscuit Factory in A Night in the Undergrowth [10 April]. Dig into talks from experts in the world of fungi, pull up a toadstool for some hands-on activities, immerse yourself in creating some mycelium art, relax at the bar and enjoy some beats from our DJ! With an event this packed, there’s not mush-room left!
  • Start your day with an exclusive pre-opening breakfast workshop with discovery rangers in The Brany Brunch [6 & 13 April], where you’ll learn all about the importance of genetics and breeding for conservation purposes at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

That's just a snapshot of the Edinburgh Science Festival [30 March to 14 April 2024] and you can download the full festival brochure HERE or explore the online listings HERE. Now, let's get out there and Shape the Future this Easter.

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