On the 23rd May 2016 Pint of Science went live in Nottingham for the first time! Pint of Science is an international science festival that takes place in pubs across multiple countries every May since its launch in 2013. With the number of participating cities increasing every year.
Scientists are taken from their natural environments of University’s and research labs into the relaxed atmosphere of the local pub. Here they can present their hard earned scientific findings in a simplified, fun fashion and be quizzed by inquisitive members of the public.
I was lucky enough to be part of the team that brought this interactive science concept to Nottingham for the first time. The Theme I focused on was ‘Atoms to Galaxies’.
The Nottingham festival was coordinated by the talented Matt Young and many members of STEM Outreach Nottingham Society. It was pulled together in 8 months covering 4 great science themes across 4 fantastic pubs in Nottingham:
- Beautiful mind @ Canal House
- Atoms to Galaxies @ Spanky Van Dyke’s
- Planet Earth @ Rough Trade
- Tech me Out @ Missoula
Most of the events were sold out and the feedback from the public was very positive. Which is an amazing achievement for a first time festival put on by volunteers. Most of the volunteers were PhD students but there were also contributions from undergraduates, post docs and other academics that made this festival possible.
My personal experience of Pint of Science 2016 is told below:
I have been involved in science events and communication before so felt totally prepared to offer my help and get involved with Pint of Science Nottingham. However along the way I found out how different organising your own stand or talk is compared to forging a cohesive program of events over 3 nights.
The day stared with me at the venue from 3pm setting up the audio visual equipment. I had great help from Tom, the events coordinator at Spanky van Dyke’s, especially with working out extension cords, projector positioning and mic sound checks.
At 4pm the additional chairs and tables I ordered arrived, this was a done so quickly with a group of men piling up furniture in the door way and being gone before I could say a word to them. Efficient you could say, however I was now left with 50 white patio chairs and 10 white patio tables, so much for the black folding chairs I had requested! So the next challenge was to hawl these upstairs and arrange them in the venue space. Now the space looked a little like a garden party gone wrong, so another rearrange: hiding the white plastic tables in the back room, and replacing them with the trendy metal stools, and adding the finishing touch by placing some candles!
Finally it was looking like a bar again!
Next steps involved a kind friend enduring some tricky one way road systems and loading my boyfriend up like a pack horse to get all the various banners and merchandise to the venue.
Once the merchandise arrived so did the rest of the group, it was 5.30 so 1.5hr till the public arrived.
It was like a whirl wind, tshirts flying everywhere, pens being launched, banners being hoisted. But it all came together and I was breathing a sigh of relief when a side of chips arrived.
Seconds later our first audience members appeared, which was reassuring even though we knew we had sold out so we’re expecting about 90 people.
However I did start to wonder where the speakers were, the crucial aspect of the event! I needn’t have worried though as the speakers arrived in time and then it was a time trial to find any technical issues with the presentations. Of course their were some issues and I was lucky a member of the team had a spare usb stick handy.
Before we knew it the event had started and everyone was listening avidly to the weird and wonderful world of physics.
While they listened me and the team were filming, tweeting and marking quiz sheets.
After the applauds me and the team helped the bar staff clean up and saw first hand how many people had binged on a pint of science!
After the hectic nature of the first night the second ran perfectly.
The speakers talks were paired with transfer tattoos and a play doh molecule making stand, which helped encourage people to get even more involved.
And even though we had had a last minute change in the program our replacement speaker was great and even brought some liquid nitrogen along.
The final day, another sell out evening and fantastic talks about outer space. The audience was great and kept asking questions. In the background the team was trying to adjust the mics as the audio quality had changed, then as the rain in Nottingham got heavier a leak developed!!
Panic amongst the team at the puddle forming around the electrics, however a word with the management, a bucket and a lot of bin bags later and we were back on track.
The night ended on a high with lots of photos, a giant piece of chocolate fudge cake and stacking garden furniture!
Top tips for science events
- Always have spare usb stick
- Know how to use the audio system
- Don’t panic if things go off track
- Risk assessing is worth it just in case
- Never underestimate the British weather
- Take lots of photos and get your audience tweeting
- Ask the venue where they hire from so you don’t end up with garden furniture!
I fully recommend getting involved in the Pint of Science festivals around the world to give you a taste of quality scientific public engagement. Already looking forward to next year!
Photo courtesy of Tom Bailey.