Holiday season is just around the corner, so we’ve rounded up the best of what’s on over the coming months if you’re interested in science and expanding your mind. From explosive theatre and festivals celebrating curiosity, to immersive art installations and events exploring our relationship with the moon, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Find out what’s going on near you…
Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing
20 July marks 50 years since US astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon – and all sorts of out-of-this-world celebrations are taking place to remember the occasion.
Opening at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich on 19 July, The Moon exhibition is showcasing artefacts and artworks related to our lunar neighbour. Taking celestial celebrations to another level is the Moon Festival, which runs from 19 to 26 July at various venues in London. There’s an eclectic line-up of events covering storytelling, club nights, street theatre and cabaret.
Outside the capital, the Observatory Science Centre in Herstmonceux is celebrating the anniversary with a weekend of science shows, rocket launches and crater building activities. Unsurprisingly, there are lots of events taking place at the National Space Centre in Leicester too, including a live performance from Darkside The Pink Floyd Show. The bluedot festival at the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire will be host to astronaut Helen Sharman – as well as other scientists, space commentators, musicians and comedians from 18 to 21 July. Over the weekend, festival-goers will get to relive the Apollo 11 mission in real time through archive audio and video footage.
Experience the union of science and art
This summer sees a flurry of festivals, events and installations challenging the assumption that science and art represent two opposing worlds. In South Kensington, organisations as diverse as Imperial College London and the V&A Museum are coming together in the spirit of the Great Exhibition of 1851 to celebrate the arts and science at the Great Exhibition Road Festival (from 28 to 30 June).
At SAPIENT @ FACT Liverpool, artists will be presenting their interpretation of scientific research into the brain. Featuring video, sculpture and interactive experiences, the pop-up exhibition runs from 13 to 23 June. Science provides the inspiration for an installation at Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum too. Atmospheric Memory (from 6 to 21 July) draws on state-of-the-art technology and phantasmagorical effects to investigate whether computing pioneer, Charles Babbage, was right to suggest that the atmosphere is a ‘vast library’ holding every word ever spoken.
Celebrate one of the greatest scientists that ever lived
2019 marks 500 years since the death of Leonardo da Vinci – a ‘Renaissance Man’ renowned as much for his scientific endeavours and engineering inventions, as he is for influential artworks, like the Mona Lisa.
If you missed the tour of 144 of da Vinci’s greatest drawings – which ran from February to May across 12 cities in the UK – the full collection will be on display in the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace (from 25 May until 13 October). Elsewhere, the British Library will be showcasing da Vinci’s handwritten notes, drawings and diagrams at its Leonardo da Vinci: A Mind in Motion exhibition (from 7 June to 8 September).
And if you’re lucky enough to be visiting Paris this autumn, the Louvre – home to the Mona Lisa – is planning an ambitious exhibition to showcase more than 20 of da Vinci’s artworks from all over the world.
Explore electricity with the experts
Our visitor centres have a huge range of free events taking place over the summer holidays – from STEM Clubs for budding engineers to nature trails and craft activities.
If you can’t wait until the summer holidays, you’ll find us at the Imagineering Fair at the Royal Bath & West Show from 29 May to 1 June and we have a whole pavilion dedicated to exploring electricity[VF1] at the Cheltenham Science Festival (from 4 to 9 June). Come along to explore how we produce electricity through interactive circuits kits, virtual reality films and a retro arcade game. There will be puzzles, quizzes and construction challenges for the whole family to join in too.
Get elemental and celebrate the periodic table
The United Nations has declared 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements. The first version of the periodic table was published by Russian scientist, Dmitri Mendeleev, in the journal of the Russian Chemical Society in 1869. You can find it currently on display – for the first time – at the Science Museum in London.
The Science Museum is also working with the V&A, Imperial College London and other organisations in South Kensington for ChemFest 2019. As well as family-friendly activities, look out for academic conferences and chemistry-themed late night specials.
For a giant 3D version of the periodic table, head to the Elements exhibition at the Ulster Museum in Northern Ireland. Here you can learn about all 118 elements, what they look like, where they were made, and how they are used in everyday objects.
Be prepared for rainy days
Stuck for things to do when the sun’s not shining or everyone’s in need of a relaxing day indoors? Panic not… There are some fantastic science documentaries and sci-fi movies on Netflix and Amazon Prime to save for a rainy day. Blue Planet enthusiasts will love One Strange Rock on Netflix – even if you’re not convinced that Will Smith is the next David Attenborough. Another one to watch is Bill Nye: Science Guy, in which he takes on the climate change sceptics.
Over on Amazon Prime, there are masses of sci-fi classics to keep you entertained: from the original Mad Max to Dune and Stargate. For mind-expanding documentaries, add to your watchlist Sky Line – about the scientists trying to make a real-life lift into outer space – and Beyond the Spectrum – Being Taken about the believers determined to prove that alien abductions exist.
For long car journeys, remember to download some podcasts first. BBC Earth has compiled its top 20 science, technology and nature podcasts; while Wired has a comprehensive list of 18 favourites to choose from. And for quick viewing on your tablet, you can’t beat a TED talk – you’ll be guaranteed to learn something new from any that you tune into.
Focus on events in… Scotland
Kicking off a season of science north of the border is the Glasgow Science Festival (from 6 to 16 June), which has all manner of interactive exhibits, scientific expeditions and family-friendly activities.
In August, skip the main Edinburgh International Festival for the Edinburgh Fringe (from 2 to 29 August) to catch all manner of science shows. Our top picks include Rocket Girl for aspiring astronauts, the Maths Magic Show to learn some new tricks and Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo for its special effects.
Focus on… London
The capital is awash with explosive science shows, interactive exhibitions and eye-opening spectacles this summer. Head to the Garrick Theatre for exploding dustbins, combusting microwaves and live daredevils stunts in Brainiac Live! Over at the Science Museum, Top Secret, a new free exhibition celebrating 100 years of GCHQ, the UK’s intelligence agency, has declassified documents on show, firsthand reports of working at GCHQ and codebreaking quizzes.
For something completely different, consider a trip to one of London’s lesser-known science attractions. The Old Operating Theatre is the oldest purpose-built operating theatre in the country – so some of the exhibits on show aren’t for the faint-hearted. But what makes a trip here fascinating is its location: hidden in the attic above St Thomas’ Church, within walking distance of the Shard.
Meanwhile, the Grant Museum of Zoology in the grounds of University College London houses one of the oldest natural history collections in the UK. Discover all sorts of curiosities here, from a jar of moles, to a quagga skeleton (a now-extinct type of zebra) and an assortment of bisected animal heads.
Focus on events in… the North
A visit to Newcastle isn’t complete without a trip to the Life Science Centre – and for gamers, it’s a must-see destination from 25 May until 4 September, with the launch of its Game On 2.0 exhibition. There’s something for all generations with 150 playable games including Space Invaders, Minecraft and Donkey Kong. If you prefer superheroes to Sonic, book tickets for the centre’s summer science show, Super Hero Science, which promises to recreate Spider Man and Iron Man’s super powers live on stage.
In the North West, the Science and Industry Museum is home to MakeFest and Tinkertastic (from 25 May to 2 June). Inventors can have a go at building space rockets, turning colour into music and meddling with Micro:bits. And for those in Liverpool, your own MakeFest takes place at the Central Library on 29 June. Meanwhile, steam enthusiasts should head to the Bolton Steam Museum on one of the upcoming bank holiday weekends for a rare chance to see 30 old steam engines – many over 100 years old – that have been lovingly restored by volunteers.
Focus on events in… the South
The Kew Science Festival runs at Wakehurst Place in West Sussex from 25 to 26 May and at Kew Gardens in London from 20 to 21 July. It’s a chance to hear some of Kew’s top scientists talk about their influential work and get a behind-the-scenes tour of the labs. Plus, there will be hands-on activities and pop-up science shows to join in.
In the South West, a new exhibition opens at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter on 20 July celebrating the incredible feats of migration performed by birds, such as the swallow and cuckoo. Continuing with the theme of migration, archaeologist, Dr Jeff Rose, will be giving an exclusive talk at the museum on 17 July about the discoveries his team have made about humankind’s earliest adventures out of Africa.
Prehistoric creatures take centre stage at Bristol Museum from 6 July in an exclusive exhibition with Aardman, the creative force behind Wallace & Gromit. Making Early Man takes visitors behind the scenes to show how stop motion animation and the latest VR technology brought to life this mammoth movie.
To find out more about the huge range of events on at our power stations this summer, take a look at our Visitor Centre page to locate the centre nearest to you. You can also find lots of support and tools to help inspire a career in STEM on the Pretty Curious hub.