As summer approaches and the festival season gets into gear, what could be better than a jam packed programme full to the brim with science fun? To tie in with the World Science Festival, which takes place in New York City this week, our latest mini-series will focus on science festivals and will ask a range of related questions. What work goes into organising a science festival? How are they planned? What are their goals? We will talk to key contributors, gathering some top tips for aspiring events’ organisers. Finally we plan to link to some of the best science festivals in the world; so if you are looking for some science-inspired entertainment, stay tuned…
WSF, June 1-5, 2011
The World Science Festival is taking place in New York City this week with an extensive selection of pioneering science programmes and events, aiming to shine the spotlight on some of the most fascinating science.
Prominent scientific minds will join forces with artists, performers and dancers for a five-day programme, promising drama, discussion and excitement. But what we want to know is how did this creative festival come about? What are its roots and who are its inspirations? We spoke with Tracy Day, one of the key founders of the World Science Festival, in order to learn more about its origins.
Tracy Day, along with Brian Greene, is the Co-founder and Executive Director of the World Science Festival. She is a four-time National News Emmy award-winning journalist, has produced live and documentary programming for the nation’s pre-eminent television news divisions for over two decades. She has produced documentaries, specials and live broadcasts for PBS, The Discovery Channel, CNN, Lifetime and CNBC. In addition to Emmy awards, she has also won a Hugo Award, a 2004 Clarion Award and the CINE Golden Eagle for investigative journalism. Tracy is a graduate of Duke University and has been an adjunct professor in the Leadership and the Arts program at the Sanford Institute for Public Policy:
How did the idea of a world science festival come about?
Brian Greene and I were discussing things over a business dinner back in 2007 and it came up that there was no major science festival in New York producing science content in a different creative way. My background is not in science but in production and investigative journalism, however during my production career it was always the science that I found most fascinating. What I thought the science world was missing was the storytelling element, transforming science into fine writing, colliding science with art. Born from this was the festival mission:
To cultivate and sustain a general public informed by the content of science, inspired by its wonder, convinced of its value, and prepared to engage with its implications for the future.
What will the festival include?
The World Science Festival approaches science in a new and exciting way, taking theatrical performances and fusing them with science content. It is the marriage of art and science that makes our festival unique; it opens new avenues for both highly informed audiences and those looking to learn.
I bring an entire career of production to the team. As a journalist, I have a deeply rooted background in multi-media and Brian Greene, a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, brings his scientific mind to the team. Joining forces we have been able to look at science in a new, inspiring way.
How are your events different?
We are not presenting science in lecture halls but in theatres; we dim the lights and create an electric environment allowing the audience to look at science in a fresh and emotional way. For example we may showcase a scientific historical drama; this year the festival opens with Radiance The Passion of Marie Curie. We do not bury the science – science is the star. However the plays are always followed by interesting conversations with influential thinkers and leading scientific minds allowing the science to remain at the forefront. We also cater for the scientific community with Saloon events and we have programmes specifically for children and their parents.
What about outreach activities?
The World Science Festival is now in its fourth year and is New York’s flagship science festival. This year our main priority has been to make sure the festival has a presence in the digital space. We will stream all events live in HD; we may have 1,000 people in a theatre, but this way we can reach out further and this is why we started WSFTV. There you will be able to find full length shows, but also snippets taken from the event. We also host archives on our website where you can learn about past and present events and participants.
What impact do you expect the festival to have?
Science has remained on the fringes of popular culture for too long. The aim of the World Science Festival is to shift people’s perception of science and to realise that the general public do not need to gloss over science, but can enjoy it in all its glory. We are driven by our mission – science is the star.
We would like to thank Tracy for taking the time out of her busy schedule to speak with us. Do let us know if you plan to attend the WSF in our comment thread.
If you want to read more highlights from the World Science Festival, you can find a summary of all our coverage here.