My British Science Festival timeline: 1992-2012

The British Science Festival 2013, which has just started in Newcastle, will be the first one that I haven’t attended since 1992. I first became involved because the Festival was coming to Keele in 1993, and I got involved in planning the Chemistry section’s programme. Attending the Festival in Southampton in 1992 enabled me to experience an event like this for the first time. Here’s a list of the annual British Science Festivals and their locations that I have attended since then:

1992 Southampton
1993 Keele
1994 Loughborough
1995 Newcastle
1996 Birmingham
1997 Leeds
1998 Cardiff
1999 Sheffield
2000 London (Imperial College)
2001 Glasgow
2002 Leicester
2003 Salford
2004 Exeter
2005 Dublin (Trinity College)
2006 UEA
2007 York
2008 Liverpool
2009 Guildford
2010 Aston
2011 Bradford
2012 Aberdeen
An important aspect of the organisation of British Science Festivals are the Scientific Sections. They are responsible for coming up with proposals for sessions to run at the Festival, and although other bodies and organisations can propose sessions, the sections still have an important role, in that they are best placed to identify the key topics and speakers in their own areas. Although the Festival continues to evolve, it is to be hoped that the sections retain an important role, but that is now for others to decide.
Going back to my involvement, I held the post of Chemistry Recorder (a quaint quasi-legal term) for the periods 1996-2000 and 2006-2012. This means that I had overall responsibility for the Chemistry programmes at the Festivals in those years, working with locally based Section Presidents and ‘Local Secretaries’ who handled much of the local organisation. Over the years I’ve been privileged to work with some very distinguished Section Presidents. They didn’t always make my life easy (!), but they nearly always came up with good suggestions for speakers and session topics.
Officially my second term of office as Recorder came to an end after the Aston Festival in 2010, but at that point I hadn’t been able to find a potential successor. So I stayed on for Bradford and Aberdeen, and I’m glad I did so, because the Aberdeen Festival was one of the best I was involved in, of all the 21 Festivals in the list above.
I finally stepped down after Aberdeen, having found a successor as Recorder, Dr Stephen Ashworth. I am confident that the Chemistry Section is in good hands, and wish Stephen all the best in his first Festival as Recorder, and for the Festivals to come.
Of course the Science Festival leaves a gap in my life, but I thought it was important that someone with new ideas took on the role. The model I used for my sessions, which was mainly talks and question and answer sessions, was perceived by some to be old fashioned. Regardless of the merits or otherwise of that view, there is no doubt in my mind that it was time for a change. And for anyone who is concerned that I will have time on my hands, I am running a symposium in London at the end of this week, and preparing to attend a conference in Germany next week.
If you are attending the Science Festival this week, I hope you enjoy it. It is a truly unique occasion.
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3 thoughts on “My British Science Festival timeline: 1992-2012”

  1. Hi Rob I am glad you enjoyed your time, though I remember the more interesting occasions when things became more fun. Like the year of the quote “the section runners”. The BAAS as I feel it still should be called will miss your hard work. Warmest Regards

  2. Yes indeed! That was 1996 at Birmingham, my first year as Recorder. I kind of implied this where I said that some presidents didn’t make my life easy, but I remember the incident clearly. Coincidentally the festival returns to Birmingham next year, but none of the ‘personalities’, either from the BA or the University, are still involved.

  3. On balance I enjoyed those 20+ years, but as Mark mentions in his comment, there were some moments when I doubted my sanity at ever volunteering for the post! But those moments were few and far between.

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