The Festival had an outdoor look this year, and opened with stories of survival skills in the wild. Zeki Basan is a glacier guide in Iceland’s winter, and at other times of the year a wilderness instructor in the Cairngorms and elsewhere, and an accomplished filmmaker as well.
In between there were talks, outings, workshops, hands-on activities, and concerts as well, with the theme for St Magnus Cathedral the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon mission. Writer and astrophysicist Pippa Goldschmidt joined writer and actress Gerda Stevenson in a look at some of the visionary writers about space exploration, with music by the Mayfield Singers and Paisley Abbey organist George McPhee.
The talk and tea at Skaill House marked the 150th anniversary of the Orkney geologist Sir John S. Flett, with a look at his work by present-day geologist Dr John Flett Brown, and an insight into progress of tackling the challenges which he set out.
And after a week of many varied activities, it was rounded off by a show for children about food chains and digestion. Developed by ward-winning designer and performer Mamoru Iriguchi, it featured Lionel McLion – and the human he swallowed who’s alive and well in his stomach and just wants to say hello.
We had dragons as well – with a look at the physics of dead dragons, with the help of storyteller Tom Muir and Ragnhild Ljosland and the Orkney Children’s Theatre Club. And from West Africa came the drummers Kakatitsi from Ghana, along with Mbilou from Gabon, to give a concert and help us mark the centenary of an expedition to West Africa that changed the world of science. Arthur Eddington’s visit to the island of Principe to measure the Sun’s bending of starlight during a solar eclipse confirmed Einstein’s theory of general relativity – the theory that has given us black holes and gravitational waves, the expanding universe and the Big Bang.
From the US we welcomed back Steve ‘Jake’ Jacobs, former chief scientist of the Discovery Channel, with a family show that fascinated the audience. After Jake’s Midnight Science Club, he was welcomed into the Faraday Club, set up some years ago to establish the highest standards for the communication of science. We also welcomed Forres-based engineer and innovator Bill Graham to membership, and his latest development, 3D-printed butterflies to demonstrate the DNA code, were a big success at schools and on the Family Day. Our third new member was teacher Anita Angier from Shapinsay school who was last year received the Outstanding Primary Science Teacher award by the Primary Science Teachers Trust (PSTT). This is a UK-wide award aimed at recognising teachers who raise the profile of science and the quality of primary school science provision.