2023 – with the Sun coming to Orkney!

It’s a spectacular installation developed in collaboration by artist Alex Rinsler and solar physicist Prof. Robert Walsh. Their aim: to recreate the surging energy of the sun. The means: an inflated sphere and state-of-the-art projection of NASA images, speeded up to show the bursting flares and boiling storms on the solar surface. It’s their energy that provides our warmth and light and drives our tides and weather. For an early flavour, here is a brief 1-minute video.

The Sun will be in the heart of Orkney, in St Magnus Cathedral, for the seven days of the Festival. Events around it will include a concert blending electronic music with choral singing and organ music.

Topics of talks will include the latest news of the quest to achieve nuclear fusion, and an Arctic journey in search of the Northern Lights.

It will also be an opportunity to see more of Orkney, through walks and bus tours. This year is the centenary of the birth of the Orkney writer Bessie Skea whose descriptions of Orkney’s landscape, plants and wildlife are a delight.

We have an Orkney wildlife photography competition, to be judged by two well-known wildlife photographers, Raymond Besant in Orkney and Richard Shucksmith in Shetland.

We also have a schools competition where we want pupils to Capture the Sun. Email Dave Craig on dave.craig@scdi.org.uk to get your free kits, and for more information click here.

The Festival dates are 7-13 September 2023 and we’ll be bringing more programme details soon. In the meantime, links below to events from last year give a flavour of the range of topics and activities we like to cover.



Welcome to the 32nd Festival!

We’ve a fresh new format to expand the ways you can enjoy events. There are many events at Orkney venues, and a new range of events outdoors as well, so that you can walk the hills with us or watch seabirds or find out more at first hand about Orkney’s archaeological past or its energy future. You can see the various event categories on this page.

Then in addition we’ve a range of events online, with speakers from distant places joining us with subjects ranging from dinosaur evolution to the story of bere, Orkney’s ancient grain. So wherever you are in the world, you can join us. And if you’re in Orkney, then you can sample the sea air and views to the horizon while you’re reflecting on the many ideas and stories that we’ll feature.

There is much information here about the various events. In addition, you can read about more of the background to some of the topics and speakers in our online magazine Frontiers.


Fire on the Amazon, fire in the Arctic. Orkney’s rocks forming in an ancient lake. Dinosaurs with wings. The origins of the potato, and the origins of Orkney’s own grain. And can artificial intelligence do everything that we can, or are there areas in which the human brain is unrivalled? You can hear about these and much more in a rich and varied talks programme.


We’ve a rich harvest of stories, among them the account of one of the great voyages, six men in an open boat through Antarctic seas on a rescue mission through blizzards, ice and mountainous waves. We will go deep into the past, with stories of the rocks, and stories of transformation in legend, and then look ahead to the future through science fiction and new narratives for ways ahead.


You can access many events online. Some of these are livestreamed from Festival venues, others are online only. You can hear about underwater treasures and landscape of limestone, about the queen of science and about the people who gave their lives to save a seedbank for future generations. We are encouraging local hospitality providers to put screens in social spaces.


The programme will include two concerts in St Magnus Cathedral, ranging from the 17th century to today. We have music written by an astronomer, and music influenced by astronomy where we meet the composer. We will also hear music created around sounds from renewable energy, and music from Shetland, and we join a gathering of synthesizers in harmony.


We’ve a varied mix of art and photographic exhibitions in various venues and online. Art meets geology in The Rock Cycle, and art meets poetry and natural history in When the Grass Dances, for which there’s a film as well. There’s a film too of The Deer Woman, images of transformation culture, and images and music and performance from two of Orkney’s smallest schools, exploring land and sea.


Orkney wildlife guide Megan Taylor of Wild Orkney Walks has put together a special Festival programme, and there are some classics – including an opportunity to go on the great coastal walk from Yesnaby to Stromness. There’s a trip to Flotta, and a wildlife walk at the Ring of Brodgar. She’ll be looking at waders and seabirds, wildflowers and insects.


We’re going out into the fresh air on various occasions this year, covering topics ranging from energy to archaeology. You can learn about wave and tidal power, see fuel cells, seek out a site where earls feasted, walk a route of rocks and sea views and stories.


The Family Day is back, spaced over several venues to give an opportunity for people and activities to be spread out. There’s energy events, wildlife and environmental activities, and astronomy events – including a travelling planetarium. And what about trying a lint and yarn workshop, or the shore and seaweed workshops, or papermaking by the sea?


We’ve a new afternoon event this year – Afternoon Teas at the Peedie Kirk with fresh local produce. They will feature a 10-minute story at 3.30 pm. There’s also a new morning tea event in Stromness – Teas for Transition, for discussions about transition to the future. In the later evenings we’re going to the Orkney Club for talks, conversation and music – from the Hammars Hill Waltz to Haal in da Drogue an Gie da Boys a Biscuit.


Broad Street in Kirkwall is the venue for the Vintage Rally on Saturday afternoon, and for the Pipe Band Parade in the evening. Sunday morning sees the Science Festival Service in St Magnus Cathedral.

Past events from 2022 Festival:


August 31, 2022 → 6:00 pm7:30 pm


September 1, 2022 → 11:30 am12:30 pm


September 1, 2022 → 2:00 pm3:00 pm


September 1, 2022 → 3:30 pm4:15 pm


September 1, 2022 → 5:15 pm6:15 pm