A walk through the Edinburgh Science Festival programme
For over 30 years the Edinburgh Science Festival - the world’s first and Europe’s biggest science festival – has served up fun and facts in a bid to get everyone interested in science. Running from 1 to 16 April, this year’s festival is spread across 31 venues and locations around Edinburgh and one-third of it is free to access. And unlike many other festivals it’s not all about sitting still and listening to experts. They want people to get involved, get out and about, get their hands dirty, and get social with science. And with the 2023 theme being Let's Experiement, let’s take a quick look through the programme in five easy steps.
1. There's lots of family fun
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.
- Experimental Life at the National Museum of Scotland (3-14 April) is a new, free, interactive experience inviting everyone to take a deep dive into the weird and wonderful diversity of life and includes the Trees of Life installation exploring Darwin’s revolutionary theory of evolution
- also at the National Museum of Scotland are two family-friendly, hands-on weekends filled with fantastic shows and new activities:
- FutureFest (1-2 April), a celebration of technology, robotics, artificial intelligence, coding, computers, and space
- and EarthFest (15-16 April) invites the participants to learn more about our planet, the animals that live here and how we can take care of them.
2. And sociable science for the adults
As 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 (30 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 Experimental Life After Hours [6 April]
- 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
- news and media experts from the BBC will help us grapple with the disruptive impact of AI on journalism in the interactive event Making and Deep-faking the News [4 April]
- discover the process behind gin distillation in Gin and Genetics [8 April] with the chance to sample different tipples all while learning about the science behind our tastebuds
- in The Science Behind Happy Couples [7 April] you'll guide our players' intimate relationship by voting as a group in this audience-interactive, choose-your-own-adventure, style show
join us for an evening of tasting and drinks as we explore the history of oysters in Edinburgh and their role in ecosystem restoration at Oysters in Edinburgh [6 April];
- and over at the Heriot-Watt University, audiences have a chance to meet Robots After Dark (15 April) in a unique event of hands-on exploration of the machines of the future.
3. While we also tackle the Big Ideas, focusing on the Climate Crisis
With programming for the Planet a continuing focus for the Festival, this year features an inspiring line-up of speakers and events including:
- Nicola Sturgeon in Conversation with Ambassador Patricia Espinosa (6 April) instrumental in efforts to make the Paris Agreement a reality; Astronomer Royal and former President of the Royal Society,
- Lord Martin Rees explores If Science Is To Save Us (3 April);
- author Louise Gray looks at the environmental impact of our favourite fruits and vegetables in Avocado Anxiety (3 April);
- founder of the global network The People Who Share, Benita Matofska talks about how sharing and circular economy can fundamentally change the way we live in Generation Share (12 April);
- Emotion and the Climate Emergency (13 April) features a panel of experts answering the question of whether emotions stop us from thinking rationally about climate action?;
- while a panel of Edinburgh scientists and healthcare workers explore the interaction of environment and climate with our health in Our Planet, Our Health and Our Future (14 April);
- and in How to Save a Planet in Crisis? (14 April), young author Siddarth Shrikanth shows us how valuing our planet's natural capital will motivate us to work in our self-interest and can pull us back from the brink of environmental catastrophe.
4. And explore the connections between Science and Art
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:
- Summerhall’s galleries house Interlinked (1 April – 15 May), a fascinating series of exhibitions and events from visual artists exploring themes of earth, climate, sustainability, biodiversity, micro-life and humanity by experimenting with scientific processes and practices.
- Darkroom Ecology by environmental artist Scott Hunter which explores the co-existence of ecological and industrial materials;
- Lost, a climate action exhibition featuring a collection of 18 #LitterCUBES stitched and woven together from thousands of pieces of beach litter plastic;
- 3607 by artist Kexin Liu examines microorganisms living in the human body and their impact on our sense of “self”;
- Earth, Soil + Filth by interdisciplinary artist Agatha Smith explores the soil as an indicator of the future and a record of our human struggle.
- Dynamic Earth hosts a range of fantastic late-night art/science events incluidng When Fish Begin to Crawl (15 April), a world premiere co-directed by filmmaker Morag McKinnon and composer Jim Sutherland, of a meditation on the climate crisis and humanity’s relationship with nature;
- also at Dynamic Earth is A Night in the Stars (4 April), a multi-art form celebration of the scientific achievement that is the James Webb Space Telescope;
- and Biomimicry (5 April) explores the practice of learning to solve human and scientific conundrums through mimicking nature, with examples from the world of fashion, AI and digital art, again at Dynamic Earth;
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:
- Portobello Promenade hosts Cherish: Shaping Our Planet, a stunning outdoor large-scale aerial photography exhibition that takes us on a birds-eye view of our impact on the landscapes that support all life on Earth;
- North Berwick's National Museum of Flight creates a unique escape room experience in Operation Sabotage (14-15 April);
- visit Yellowcraig Beach to learn how to identify and prepare wild vegetables and seaweeds in a Guided Walk with Monica Wilde (8 April)
- pop by The Bayes Centre for a chance to meet humanoid robots and hear about how they can assist humans in Meet the Robots (14 April)
- join our zoo rangers for an exclusive pre-opening tour learning all about the latest research and discoveries going on at the Edinburgh Zoo in Eggsperimental Breakfast (1, 2, 15, 16 April];
- join a tour of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to explore innovations, from porous paving to rain gardens, that solve problems and improve sustainability in Future-proofing Greenspaces (13 & 16 April) - plus a myriad of others events at the Royal Botanic Garden
- And the politics of food is at the heart of this year’s Edinburgh Medal Address (12 April) in City Chambers, awarded to Professor Marion Nestle, a pioneer in the study of food politics, nutrition and public health, who through her research, advocacy and public engagement work has contributed knowledge and inspiration to the field.