And on to 2024!

5 - 11 September

We’re moving on outwards to probe the cosmos with the latest news of gravitational waves and their clues to cataclysmic events with black holes and neutron stars. And we’ll hear the music of the cosmos, with laser light as well. Sparks will fly as we celebrate the centenary of Orkney’s mains electricity, with shows and stories and a look back at the building of the great Highland hydro-electric schemes.

We’ll hear about the fulmars of Eynhallow – and if goes well we will take a trip there to see them, and to hear stories on the beach. We’ll hear about an Orkney writer who went deep into the nature of Time, and an old Orkney and Shetland story that seems to contain ancient astronomy. We’ll also celebrate the bicentenary of a detective story pioneer with some mysteries to solve. This is just the start – much more will follow!

Sun Gallery

A memorable

2023

The Sun shone bright across Orkney – and it glowed in St Magnus Cathedral itself, as thousands of people came to see the amazing installation with the solar storms slowly swirling across its surface. There was a concert of ethereal electronic music blended with voices and instruments, and a special farewell concert with music and poetry and stories.

Elsewhere there were talks on the Northern Lights and the science of the Sun, and stories of new frontiers in photonics and robotics and many other subjects. We walked with archaeologists at Brodgar and Stenness and learned how to explore Neolithic skies through modern software, and we heard the story of a solo trek to the South Pole. A wizard did wonderful things, with a legendary western group as well, and we also saw art and dance and history meet mathematics. And there were ancient grains and a lost flock, ultra-running and violin making, and new horizons in energy and transport.

The programme below gives the flavour, and then nearer the time we’ll replace it with the 2024 schedule.

7-13
SEPTEMBER
2023

TALKS

Microalgae turning waste into food or pharmaceuticals. Tools of light. An ancient Greek computer with mechanical gears. Tracking Ice Age rock movements. Unearthing a mammoth graveyard. A lost flock, a hydrogen ship – and the energy of the Sun!

MUSIC

The Western music legends Riders in the Sky. The astronomy-inspired works of the Scottish composer Eddie McGuire. A Cathedral concert of ethereal electronic music blended with voices, instruments and organ. The violin virtuoso Charlotte Rowan in concert.

ART & FILM

Art and mathematical links at the Pier Arts Centre, through natural forms and then in interwoven 18th and 19th century lives. Modern music inspired by astronomy, blended into film. And a new film probing Orkney’s Ice Age glacier paths.

FAMILY EVENTS

It looks like being the biggest Family Day yet, with Dynamic Earth’s planetarium, the Scottish Seabird Centre’s marine mammal activities and Glasgow Science Centre’s energy activities too – plus computer coding, astronomy, lasers, and much more more!

WORKSHOPS

See robots in action. Learn how to access AI on your PC. See the skills of violin making and hear the resulting sound from a virtuoso. Look at the night sky seen by Maeshowe’s builders. Learn about wild life photography, Slovenian archaeology, and the art of wind and wave!

WALK & OUTDOORS

Walk over an ancient landscape, and find out about plants and animals past and present. Walk over the Ness of Brodgar site with the director, following this year’s recently completed excavations. See the transformation at Arcadia Park.

LUNCHES & EVENINGS

Lunches of Orkney fare, with a One O’Clock Toast to a notable Orcadian. Later evenings in the Orkney Club, with talks on subjects from a landscape of limestone to memories of a hurricane, talks and discussions after music concerts, and live music too from time to time.

SPECIAL EVENTS

A science show with a wizard from Kansas and four cowboys, and the story of Tombstone, Arizona with its microscopical scientific society. A Tattie Tasting. A Friday evening in Hoy, A Vintage Rally, a Pipe Band parade, and a Sunday morning Cathedral service.

ONLINE EVENTS

Friday night is astronomy night for Eric Walker and guests: he’s hoping you’ll be able to join him online, wherever you are. We’ll also be livestreaming a number of in-person events direct from halls, and filming others, and we’ll be announcing details nearer the time.

EXHIBITIONS

Plans are taking shape for several exhibitions during the Festival, and fuller details will be coming soon. We’ll have scenes of Orkney land and sea transformed by sunlight, astronomy images, origami and crochet models, and art meeting mathematics in natural forms.

THE SUN

It’s a spectacular sight, created from time-lapse photography from space of the surface of the actual sun with its seething fires, projected onto a 6-metre-diameter sphere suspended from the Cathedral’s crossing with the dramatic changes on the solar surface.

Additional

dimensions

We’ll be posting updates here as the plans take shape.

There will also be regular news in our social media – on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

And if you haven’t yet see our online magazine of science and exploration, Frontiers, now is a good time to start reading! It’s full of features about Orkney, with a rich range of contributing writers, artist and photographers.

And we have a real treasure chest developing with the new Orkney Landscapes website. It starts the story several hundred million years ago, as sediments gathering on the bed of a great ancient lake, in which great fishes swam, with the bones of them surviving today as fossils, along with mud-cracks and ripple-marks from Lake Orcadie. You can find how to recognise the fish themselves and other clues to their origin, and how the emerging Orkney landscape was shaped by fire and ice, and wind and sea. Developed by Orkney geologist Dr John Flett Brown and Edinburgh geomorphologist Dr Adrian Hall, with fossil specialist Jan den Blaauwen, this new site provides a journey through time and space and a wealth of insight and understanding.

If you’ve missed some of this year’s events, or would like an opportunity to see them again, we have some of them in our YouTube channel. You can also find more about our background and highlights of past festivals, and see more of Orkney itself.