10 Oct 2012

North East’s Science Questions Help Shape Prestigious Festival

Tsunamis in Northumberland, the distance to heaven, the weather in 2099 and flies in space – just a few of the burning issues on the minds of the North East.

Residents of all ages are seizing the opportunity to ask the questions they’ve always wanted to put to scientists as preparations for the 2013 British Science Festival get under way.

Host Newcastle University is shaping the content of the prestigious, six-day Festival by canvassing the people of the North East on what scientific issues they would like to see explored via its Ideas Take Flight campaign.

Their responses have certainly given the scientists food for thought, with creative and controversial suggestions covering a whole range of scientific subjects and now the University is encouraging more people to get involved.

Rose Wu, Science Festival and Engagement Coordinator said: “We want to make the 2013 Festival one that truly celebrates and reflects the North East by finding out exactly what scientific issues interest and excite members of the public.

“The ideas and suggestions made will help shape the content of the Festival, by helping to inspire some of the 200-plus events which range from lectures and debates, to hands-on activities for schools and families, as well as live music and comedy performances, theatre and exhibitions.

“A nationwide ‘Call for Proposals’ is now open for individuals and organisations who want to organise an event to be part of the Festival and the public’s suggestions will be shared with applicants to influence their ideas.”

The campaign has already inspired a proposal for a project entitled Ideas Take Flight to the Edge of Space by Newcastle University researcher Dr Alton Horsfall from the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, who plans to work with school groups to send student-built satellites into space. Researchers will work with students  to design an experiment to test their ideas at the edge of space, designing satellites that contain a small computer system to measure and record information from a series of sensors that enable participants to measure their ‘ideas’ at an altitude of over 100,000 feet. The satellites will be returned after the flight so that data collected can be downloaded and analysed, and it is planned that the results will be presented at the British Science Festival.

One of the first questions submitted by the public to the Ideas Take Flight campaign: “Could the Angel of the North Actually Fly?” also inspired a workshop at Southridge First School in Whitley Bay. Two classes of eight-year-olds got answers to their thought-provoking questions about flight from Newcastle University lecturer Professor Robin Johnson and artist Yvette Hawkins held workshops teaching origami to create paper versions of the Angel of North, birds, butterflies and other flying things.

Bringing together hundreds of the UK’s top scientists, science presenters, journalists and tens of thousands of members of the public, Europe’s largest science event will set up in Newcastle over 7th-12th September 2013. The theme of the Festival is Making Waves and it is supported by associate partners Newcastle City Council and Northumbria University.

To help shape the 2013 Festival, use one of these free postcards reproduced here to submit your science questions or use the hashtag #ideastakeflight. Postcards can also be found at cultural and sporting venues across the city, and you can see a selection of the questions and answers sent in so far at www.ideastakeflight.org .


Notes to editors For more information contact Rose Wu, Science Festival and Engagement Coordinator, on tel: 0191 222 8171, or email: [email protected]


British Science Festival 2013: Newcastle, 7th – 12th September

In September 2013, Newcastle University will host The British Science Festival. This is Europe’s largest and most high profile science event – organised annually by The British Science Association in partnership with a different host city. The Festival brings together hundreds of the UK’s top scientists, journalists and tens of thousands of members of the public. Lasting over six days, events range from cutting-edge lectures and debates for adults, to hands-on activities for schools and families, as well as live music and comedy performances, theatre and exhibitions. With the British Science Association planning to return to Newcastle every four years, the Festival is an opportunity to showcase and further enhance our reputation as a city and region of science and innovation.  

  • Europe’s largest, longest-established and most media-worthy science event
  • 50,000 – 80,000 attendances each year
  • Audiences of all ages; caters for all levels from professional scientists to families on a day out
  • Huge international media coverage – 100 leading journalists from across UK attend

Ideas Take Flight (www.ideastakeflight.org) is a Newcastle University led campaign to enthuse and involve people regionally to help shape the British Science Festival ahead of its arrival in September 2013. The campaign will encourage the public to send back questions they want answered, ideas for events, and issues they want to discuss. The campaign design has been delivered by Roots and Wings, a local design C.I.C. and former graduates of Newcastle and Northumbria Universities.


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