The Lancashire Science Festival Story

The Lancashire Science Festival started in June 2012, as the University of Central Lancashire’s major contribution to the Preston Guild. Everyone seemed to love it, so now it is an annual event and has grown into a three day explosion of science fun. Read below the history of the Lancashire Science Festival and how it has evolved over time.


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Lancashire Science Festival 2017

Once again, the Lancashire Science Festival took over the University of Central Lancashire’s Preston Campus for 2017. We saw a huge 13,000 visitors across the three days of the festival which were combined by two school visit days and a family day when we opened the doors to the community.

This year’s festival got started with the first ever-awesome Late event Skeletons in the Closet: CSI Murder Mystery evening which had attendees fascinated delving into the forensic world, using real scientific techniques to catch the murderer. Festival favourite Late event Why Should Kids Have All The Fun was extremely popular yet again. This year taking a light hearted look at survival psychology, Jaws puppet show ending with a masterclass in molecular cocktail making with our brand new mixologist Huw James.

Among this year’s star attactions were Matthew Tosh’s shows on the Science of Fireworks and the Science of Stage FX and Heavy Metal Marine Biology, presented by television personality The Blowfish.

Similarly, to 2016 we had numerous Fringe events taking place across the county. We had our second Lancashire Science Festival: Burnley Edition, which again was a fantastic success. These events took place all over the county from the Harris Museum & Art Gallery to Ribchester. A big thank you goes out to all our amazing volunteers, Student Ambassadors and staff.

We would like to thank our sponsors BAE Systems, Electricity North West, National Nuclear Laboratory Ltd, Workers’ Educations Association, Fort Vale Engineering Ltd, Institution of Engineering & Technology and the Institute of Physics.

‘Wonderful event – my teenagers loved the talks – 18, 14 and 12 so you’re clearing appealing across the age range as the young children were evidently excited too’

‘You offered experiences that were

engaging, educational and entertaining. A good variety of topics covered. Good descriptions of the shows/drop-ins on your website which helped with decisions.’

‘Supremely well organised in terms of on the ground staff and helpers. Well signposted car parks, great quick and easy registration, comprehensive programme and lots to see and do. I think you do an excellent job of organising and executing the event- bravo!’




Lancashire Science Festival 2016 Goes Beyond

The Lancashire Science Festival got even bigger and better for 2016. We saw more than 13,000 visitors over the three days of the festival, and counting the Festival Fringe and Festival Lates events the festival reached more than 17,000 people. In total we had 213 events and more than 80 exhibitors across our two Science Showfloors, including BAE, City Deal and the National Nuclear Laboratory. We had three incredible headline acts; Extreme Sports Battle, The Experimentrics and Amazing Acrobalance and we also saw the return of festival favourites Jon Wood, Matt Pritchard and Huw James as well as many other amazing performers. The Science of Cocktails returned yet again and was joined by some very brave and amazing academics doing stand up comedy. Our launch event was held at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, where we learnt about the history of brewing, tested our bravery with a chilli roulette and also had a cheese making demonstration. For the second year in a row we created our own FestiveAle, which went down really well in local pubs and this year we also created our very own festival cheese ‘Exberryment’!

We had plenty of Fringe events taking place this year all across the county and stretching as far as Cumbria! This including the very first Lancashire Science Festival: Burnley Edition which was a huge success! We also had a water rocket challenge, dance workshops and an Exploring Light and Dark Exhibition in Whitehaven.

We had visitors travel from as far as York, Durham and Newcastle and the furthest distance travelled was 131 miles!

Once again the festival could not have gone on without the help of our outstanding volunteers, Student Ambassadors and staff.

We had some lovely feedback from our visitors and here are some of the comments we received:

“Both children and staff came back from the visit absolutely buzzing!!!  They said they had an amazing day, enjoyed every minute of it and the children said it was the best trip they had ever been on!” Carnforth North Road Community Primary School.

“Beyond our expectations – Will be back next year.”

“Come every year and every year it gets bigger and better, fantastic day for all the family.”

The event was kindly sponsored by City Deal, BAE Systems, National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear Decommissioning Agency, The Institute of Engineering and Technology, Fort Vale, NSG, The Institute of Physics and South Ribble Borough Council.


Lancashire Science Festival 2015 Evolves

As usual the Lancashire Science Festival was a huge hit in 2015. Thanks to some great sponsors, the festival was able to remain a free event. The first two days were open to primary and secondary schools and as in previous years, the final day was open to the public. Over 11,000 people visited the festival over three days, 25 to 27 June. In total, there were 228 individual events of which there were 116 performances, 96 workshops and 27 all day drop-in sessions. There were 45 exhibition stands on the Science Showfloor and the Skillzone. We invited 21 external performers and 55 external exhibitors with 22 stands from STEM businesses, such as BAE, to LSF15. As well as festival favourites, such as Being 747 and Matt Pritchard, we also welcomed two huge dinosaurs. As the ‘adults only’ events were so popular in 2014 we brought them back for 2015. The Science of Cocktails returned for a second year and once again went down really well. We also created our FestiveAle that was sold in local pubs and held an opening dinner at Heathcotes restaurant.

The Festival could not have gone on without the tireless efforts of our 27 volunteers, 49 Student Ambassadors, and around 39 service staff.

After collecting postcode data we found that the furthest visitors travelled from NE38, 131 miles away which is a 2 hours and 10 minute drive!


Lancashire Science Festival 2014 Power Up

The University of Central Lancashire’s Lancashire Science Festival 2014 Power Up exploded science fun all over campus for all ages. The many many months of planning were all definitely worth it and the team had an amazing time. 2014’s festival nearly blew the roof off the university with three jam packed days, with over 6500 visitors, two sell-out evening events, the incEdible Bake Off and a #LSFSelfie competition! We also ran out of visitor lanyards, which we thought near impossible! We would not have been able to make the festival happen without the support, friendliness and enthusiasm of our sponsors, colleagues and friends.

Feedback from the general public, school groups, head teachers and families was wonderful and here are some of the lovely comments we received:

“To everyone involved in today’s fantastic festival…THANK YOU!!!! You have made 12 very keen scientists even more inspired and eager to join the world of science! Our children loved every moment of the day; from organisation to entertainment, you ticked all the boxes!” Science Coordinator, Devonshire Primary School

“Without doubt it is my favourite festival to work for. I’m always impressed by the professionalism, enthusiasm and friendliness of all the staff” Matt Pritchard, the Science Magician

“The Science Festival is just one example of an agenda that we’re really good at and I’m very proud to be the VC of a university that is leading the way”- former VC, Gerry Kelleher


Lancashire Science Festival 2013 Goes Extreme

It took 15 months of planning, a pilot run through and the support, goodwill and enthusiasm of many of our friends and colleagues to deliver Lancashire Science Festival 2012. The festival was brilliant, but to be honest, we were all quite looking forward to having a bit of a rest and working on some other projects, but there were so many requests for the Lancashire Science Festival to be an annual event that we had to crack on and do it again.

It seemed crazy to pull another event together in a shorter time period, without the buzz of the Guild celebrations to engage people. It seemed…extreme. “That’s it!” we shouted, it is extreme. “We will do just as much amazing stuff, but crammed into one day. With an extreme theme”.

Again we had fantastic financial support from the University of Central Lancashire and also from BAE Systems, NIS Ltd, Incorez, the Northwest Aerospace Alliance, Training 2000, the Institute of Engineering and Technology and Signs Express. We were also joined by BBC Radio Lancashire again as our media partner.

We were pretty creative with the extreme theme. Our headliner was Greg Foot and Andrei Burton’s Daredevil Labs Stunt Show- a showdown between freerunners and BMX bikers, with the science supplied by narrator Greg. We had extreme situations with Sarita Robinson talking about surviving an alien invasion, extreme environments from Dr Mike Leahy and his ‘Bite Me’ show, and even extremely cool music, with Science Rapper Jon Chase.

The day sold out, with every session packed. The Extreme Sports Stunt Show was the highlight of the day; the crowd went wild when Kai bunny-hopped down from the roof of the van and landed just inches from Greg’s head! Science was made cool and accessible, children were inspired and we all learnt something too.

Learning point number one: it is just as much effort to deliver a one day, content packed day of science.

Learning point number two: we were too popular just to offer one day.

Learning point number three: this was really taking off, wasn’t it?


Lancashire Science Festival 2012 The Big One

So we had decided Lancashire needed a science festival, we had some ideas, we’d tested the water. We also had fantastic financial support from the University of Central Lancashire, who recognised that this would be a worthwhile contribution to the region and local community.

We planned a three day festival, and decided to hold the event every two years, giving us time to evaluate and refine the format.

Now to think about the serious stuff- we needed a logo and a brand. We worked with University of Central Lancashire students on this, and they came up with a whole range of concepts, from the predictable (science guy in a lab coat) to the strange (science penguin). We decided to go with a Robot. The students concepts formed the basis of our brief to marketing company CDM, and a few weeks later LanBot arrived, with his UCLan flag flying high. At the same time we chose the festival colours and we went with yellow, teal and black.

Lancashire Science Festival 2012 took place from 28-30 June 2012, and drew over 5000 visitors. It was a resounding success! We invited Titan the Robot, maths comedian Matt Parker, science rock band Being 747 and a whole host of other talented science communicators and performers.

The event was kindly sponsored by NIS Ltd, The Ogden Trust, The Institute of Physics, the Northwest Aerospace Alliance and United Utilities.

We had some fantastic feedback from the public, including:

“The whole event was absolutely fantastic and brilliantly organised.  We have been to a science festival at Liverpool before this one and there was no comparison.  Your organisation and the care that was taken of the pupils, your health and safety procedures, timing between events etc. was all brilliant. Please run this event again in future because it was fantastic.”

“A lot of hard work had obviously gone into organising this event and it is a credit to UCLan.  Top Class Event… next year I am definitely going to put the date in my diary and be available the whole day”

“I have already recommended it to many people if it runs again. The whole family thoroughly enjoyed the day. Please do it again!”

Are you sensing a theme? We were. It was clear to us that Lancashire shouldn’t have to wait until 2014 for another lancscfest…


Lancashire Science Festival Take One

So how do you go about developing a science festival? We had lots and lots of ideas, and enthusiasm. We didn’t have much experience of running large events, or actually, any kind of a budget. So we decided to do what any good scientist does, and do a small experiment. A test. To test the hypothesis ‘Lancashire needs a science festival’.

Initially we planned to hold a science fair for schools. We had plenty of anecdotal evidence from partner schools in Preston, that the existing science fairs in major cities, were inaccessible due to the cost and also the journey times. So we gathered some feedback from local schools, and we designed the first, small scale attempt at a UCLan science fair.

The Lancashire Science Day took place on the 29 June 2011. We invited Johnny Ball and many UCLan researchers put on exciting workshops and interactive lectures. We also had a small showfloor of hands-on activities.

It went well. Actually, it sold out.

At the debrief we agreed- we can do better than this. We’d already started planning for 2012, and the success of the science day gave us confidence that we could run a proper science festival. So planning took off!


The Lancashire Science Festival is Born!

So where did the Lancashire Science Festival come from?

It came out of a conversation between Jo Heaton-Marriott (Public Engagement Manager at UCLan), and her boss, Robert Walsh (University Director of Research and Innovation), back in March 2010. Robert and Jo had spent the week manning stands at the Big Bang Science Fair in Manchester, talking to over 10,000 members of the general public.

“Let’s do this again!” we cried.

A sudden flash of inspiration hit us.

“Let’s do this in Preston” we agreed.