What does the future hold for Orkney? We’ve had twenty amazing years of wave and tide developments – what may the next twenty hold, in energy and transport. And can we design an affordable house?
We’ll hear of microalgae turning waste into food or pharmaceuticals. The science of photonics, with tools of light. Progress on fusion energy, creating the power of the Sun. The man who linked solar storms to the Northern Lights; and an Arctic quest for them.
We’ll go back to 1953 and the hurricane-force winds that destroyed Orkney’s pioneering wind turbine at Costa Head – and the ship that ran before them in an epic journey to Aberdeen. We’ll look back at Stromness’s days of sail; and hear of a journey through the Northwest Passage today.
An ancient Greek computer with mechanical gears. Midwinter sunlight at Maeshowe. Traditional dances gathered by a mathematician; and artists inspired by mathematics. Traditional cereals and their nutritional benefit today. Tracking Ice Age rock movements; and unearthing a mammoth graveyard. Tracing Orkney family origins, the Fletts in particular. A lost flock, a hydrogen ship … and much much more!
MOVING INTO MORE BLUE WATER
September 7 → 10:00 am ─ 11:00 am
Twenty years ago the world’s first marine energy test centre was established in Orkney, taking advantage of the islands’ challenging sea conditions for evaluating new wave and tidal power devices in action. EMEC continues today as a world leader, and has brought further developments in its wake, including a move to a green hydrogen economy, with an onshore production plant in Eday generating hydrogen from wind and tidal energy.
POWER FROM THE SEA WIND
September 7 → 11:30 am ─ 12:30 pm
Johan Daelman, Lead Floating Foundations Engineer, from Thistle Wind Partners (TWP), describes the engineering challenges of developing an 18MW-25MW floating turbine, the advancing technology of offshore wind, and its potential applications for the future.
A NEW DAY FOR THE FERRYMAN?
September 7 → 2:00 pm ─ 3:00 pm
Orkney’s ferries are ageing and fuel-prodigal – but what can replace them? Could it be new energy-efficient ships, or bridges or tunnels or causeways – or a mix of all the various options? Roy Pedersen, former head of transport for HIE, joins Prof. Alf Baird to set out the options.
IMAGINEERING THE FUTURE
September 7 → 3:30 pm ─ 4:30 pm
Engineer Bill Graham shows how bringing together people from varied backgrounds into creative dialogue can open a rich range of ideas for industries and communities – from a different type of ladder to an alternative container ship format, from a safety system for tower blocks to a modular design for an affordable house.
REBUILDING THE SOIL: AN ENGINEER’S PERSPECTIVE
September 7 → 5:15 pm ─ 6:15 pm
The immense amount of carbon dioxide that green plants absorb is far outweighed by the amount of carbon lost from soil, due to the continuing depletion of organic matter. But, says Prof. Karen Johnson of Durham University, we can rebuild our soils and the local economy at the same time.
WHY IS MAESHOWE SQUINT?
September 7 → 6:00 pm ─ 7:00 pm
Dave Craig takes time out from the Festival’s schools programme to describe the mysterious and spectacular solar alignment of Maeshowe. Using the latest Stellarium software, he reappraises the 3000 BC alignment; with, he says, unexpected results. Numbers are limited to 24, and booking is essential. Admission free, with a collection for Orkney Archaeology Society.
LIVING ON THE CROSSROADS
September 7 → 9:00 pm ─ 10:00 pm
Slovenia lies on the crossing point of four great routes across Europe, including the ancient Amber Route from the Baltic to Italy and Greece. It lived on the edge of empires like Rome, and was later the contact zone between the German and Hungarian kingdoms. What has that crossroads position meant for trade and culture over the centuries? Archaeologist Dr Tina Milavec of the University of Ljubljana gives a picture of a central European land of mountains and forests between the Alps and the Mediterranean, the Pannonian Plain and the Balkans.
100 MILLION DEGREES AND RISING
September 8 → 10:00 am ─ 11:00 am
It's the ultimate energy challenge – to replicate the nuclear fusion process that powers the Sun. With big breakthroughs in 2022 and private companies making rapid progress, what does this mean for fusion’s prospects? Will it bring us clean energy for a brighter future? Plasma physicist Dr Melanie Windridge describes the latest progress.
AN ANCIENT GREEK COMPUTER
September 8 → 2:00 pm ─ 3:00 pm
It used bronze gears to predict the position of sun, moon and planets – and eclipses as well. It was recovered in 1901 from an ancient Greek shipwreck, greatly corroded and encrusted, but over decades researchers have applied techniques to reveal its original form. Dr Vassilios Spathopoulos tells the story of the 2,000-year-old Antikythera mechanism and shows a working model of a machine that was in action at the time of Caesar and Cleopatra.
TAILS AND TRIMMINGS, AND ALL OF THE FISH
September 8 → 3:30 pm ─ 4:30 pm
In the making of fish fillets, various parts are discarded. And thereby, says Prof. Giovanna Bermano of Robert Gordon University, we are losing out on the potential for nutrition and for a range of other products that can be developed for industry. She describes a new research project that’s coming up with opportunities, and provides some samples for you to taste.
FASHIONABLY DIGITAL – COMPUTERS AND CLOTHES
September 8 → 5:15 pm ─ 6:15 pm
Smart clothes and new uses for traditional textiles, digital skins and virtual clothes to wear online, projects bringing together computer skills and creative designs …. A team from Robert Gordon University describe the new horizons afforded by the application of digital technologies to clothing, fashion and fabrics. Dr Karen Cross from RGU’s School of Creative and Cultural Businesses will be joined by design researcher Josie Steed from Gray’s School of Art and Dr Yang Jiang from RGU's School of Computing – with designs by Kirsteen Stewart and music by Brian Cromarty.
WILD ISLES LENSES
September 9 → 10:00 am ─ 11:00 am
Richard Shucksmith in Shetland has spent the last three years working on the BBC’s Wild Isles series, broadcast this spring. He shares images and stories, and guidance as well, and speaks about the physical and technical challenges involved, from his lifelong love of photography.
MADE MANIFEST IN FORM AND NUMBER
September 9 → 10:30 am ─ 12:30 pm
Pier Arts Centre, Stromness Many of the artists in the Pier’s permanent collection, including Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo, were deeply influenced by a remarkable book written by a remarkable man. D’Arcy Thompson was Professor of Natural History at University College Dundee and the University of St Andrews, but had wide-ranging interests including mathematics, art, philosophy and the classics. His 1917
THE SCIENCE OF THE SUN
September 9 → 11:30 am ─ 12:30 pm
The Sun’s heat and light is vital for life on earth – but it also generates ‘space weather’ that can damage satellites and endanger astronauts. Dr Karen Meyer of Dundee University describes the huge temperatures of the Sun’s atmosphere and the massive eruptions of energy that sometimes burst from it; and how mathematics can shed light on some of its mysteries.
AURORA: IN SEARCH OF THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
September 9 → 2:00 pm ─ 3:00 pm
What really causes the northern lights? Plasma physicist and explorer Dr Melanie Windridge describes an Arctic journey of discovery through Scandinavia, Canada and Svalbard, interweaving the underlying science with background history, folklore and landscape – and spectacular images of the Northern Lights.
THE MAN WHO LINKED THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
September 9 → 3:30 pm ─ 4:30 pm
The aurora is triggered by the solar wind, but the link only became clear after a massive solar storm in 1859 and an equally powerful magnetic disturbance on Earth observed by Balfour Stewart, of Orcadian descent. Local historian Patricia Long tells the story of the man, and Prof. Tom Stevenson describes his work in physics.
UNEARTHING A MAMMOTH GRAVEYARD
September 9 → 5:30 pm ─ 6:30 pm
Two fossil hunters and a working gravel pit near Swindon with something sticking out – it was the top of a huge fossilised mammoth leg bone from around 215,000 years ago, in a warmer period between ages of ice. The remnants of five mammoths were found – and a human-made hand axe – leading to the documentary Attenborough and the Mammoth Graveyard, and making this ‘one of Britain’s most significant Ice Age discoveries in recent years,’ according to Historic England. The discoverers, Neville and Sally Hollingworth, tell the story and describe the ancient world in which the mammoths and their hunters lived.
ICE OVER ORKNEY
September 11 → 10:00 am ─ 11:00 am
Just 20,000 years ago, Orkney was covered by a kilometre of ice, part of a huge mass that reached out beyond Scotland. Huge glaciers were sometimes in slow motion, and traces of their paths can still be seen today in the scrubbed sides of some of Orkney’s hills. Over the years, geologists such as the great Victorians Ben Peach and John Horne have found evidence of rocks carried by the glaciers, and in a new film by Selena Kuzman, Dr John Flett Brown and Dr Adrian Hall follow in their footsteps – and find some rocks that have travelled a long distance to reach Orkney.
SYSTEM PLANNING IN POLITICAL DECISION-MAKING
September 11 → 11:30 am ─ 12:30 pm
Our political decision-making systems, national and international, have developed over centuries. Sometimes – as with the many COP meetings – they operate extremely slowly. Sometimes with economic decisions they move dangerously fast. One difficulty is the sheer complexity and uncertainty of situations. But, says Prof. Iain Alasdair MacLeod, the discipline of system planning is standard practice for such situations, and is widely used. So could system planning also be used for political decision-making? And if so, how? Former Scottish Education Minister Peter Peacock chairs and welcomes questions and discussion.
DANCING WITH MATHEMATICS
September 11 → 2:00 pm ─ 3:00 pm
Dr Tom Flett, born 100 years ago from an Orkney family in Glasgow, took his PhD at Cambridge under the supervision of one of the greatest mathematicians of the time, John Littlewood and went on to become professor of mathematics at Sheffield. But he is better known across Scotland and further afield as the co-author with his wife Joan of the classic book Traditional Dancing in Scotland, which gathered together a wealth of information about dances and dancers. Their daughters Jane Harrison and Lindsay Smith tell the family story, and a mathematician looks at the mathematical background.
FOLLOWING THE FLETTS
September 11 → 3:30 pm ─ 4:30 pm
The Fletts have long been to the fore in almost every aspect of Orkney life from Orkneyinga Saga times onwards, from farming and business to education and study, and not forgetting numerous victorious Harray teams in the Parish Cup. How far back can we trace them? And where did they originally come from? Prof. Jim Flett Wilson of Edinburgh University brings genetics together with family history to trace the story – and goes on to look at the Drevers, the Sinclairs, the Rendalls and the Linklaters, among others, as well.
BLOWN AWAY FROM COSTA
September 11 → 5:15 pm ─ 6:15 pm
Back in the 1950s Orkney has a pioneering wind turbine. It was situated on Costa head to get the full force of wind – which indeed in January 1953 destroyed it. But it showed what could be done and led the way for other wind developments in Orkney and elsewhere. Neil Kermode of EMEC looks at its story and significance, while archaeologist Dan Lee traces the clues from the remains.
THE THORFINN AND THE HURRICANE
September 11 → 7:30 pm ─ 8:30 pm
70 years ago the Earl Thorfinn, on her round of the North Isles, was hit by a hurricane and had to run before the wind towards Aberdeen. Captain Hamish Flett and his crew coped with mountainous seas that smashed her steering gear and conditions that destroyed other vessels. How did the ship survive, and how has marine communication developed over the years to help in such situations? Prof. Tom Stevenson tells the story.
CRACKING CONCRETE, GROWING CARROTS, SINKING CARBON
September 12 → 10:00 am ─ 11:00 am
Join regenerative gardener Elizabeth Woodcock as she takes the latest scientific research and applies it to growing our own food in our own gardens. “The best way to make our gardens more fertile,” she says, “is to restore the teaming web of life, and this in turn sequesters carbon into the soil.”
THE MICROALGAL MIRACLE
September 12 → 11:30 am ─ 12:30 pm
They are tiny single cells, invisible to the naked eye. They can consume agricultural and food waste – and produce fuel, fertiliser, feed, nutrients and pharmaceuticals. Dr Matjaž Vidmar of Edinburgh University describes the amazing abilities of microalgae and his current research into their potential.
A VIRUS IN OUR GENES
September 12 → 2:00 pm ─ 3:00 pm
The genome of human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) can integrate into the human genome – and thus be inherited. Prof. Ruth Jarrett’s group at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research is using DNA sequencing to try to find when and where this has happened in the past - including in Orkney.
FANTASTIC LIGHT – INCREDIBLE INDUSTRIES
September 12 → 3:30 pm ─ 4:30 pm
Photonics – the optical equivalent of electronics – underpins modern society. It includes the optical fibres of the internet, high-power lasers that cut and weld, and solar panels. Prof. Robert R. Thomson of Heriot-Watt University describes some remarkable state-of-the-art applications for photonic technologies.
GREEN SPACE AND BLUE SPACE AND ISLAND WELLBEING
September 12 → 4:00 pm ─ 5:00 pm
How can creative activities – including those drawing on Orkney's green and blue space – help fortify community bonds and enhance collective wellbeing? Louise McQuaid of the North Isles Natural Wellbeing Project reports on its 'green health' initiatives, joined by Lewis Hou of Science Ceilidh which supports The Ideas Fund.
THE LOST FLOCK OF ST KILDA
September 12 → 7:30 pm ─ 8:30 pm
Jane Cooper’s interest in knitting brought her to Orkney to set up a Boreray flock with the last few sheep from the Highlands – and she was astonished to find she was the sole custodian of this flock in the world. She began tracking down the origins of the Boreray breed and tonight tells the story.
A HYDROGEN SHIP FOR THE ABERDEEN RUN
September 12 → 7:30 pm ─ 9:00 pm
A new type of ship for smaller payloads will be demonstrated next year from Aberdeen to Orkney and Shetland. It’ll be a world first, powered by liquid hydrogen and uncrewed, with AI and robot systems. Mike Tinmouth, chief operating officer of the company leading the project, describes the technology and potential.
WE’LL MAKE OUR MALT: THE ART AND THE SCIENCE
September 12 → 9:00 pm ─ 10:00 pm
The start of brewing and distilling is making the malt: getting the grain to sprout and convert insoluble starch into fermentable sugars. It’s mostly done today in large maltings but, says Hugh Alexander, micro-malting opens the way to try different types of grain, and for smaller-scale specialist brewing at community-sized levels.
MAKE IT WITH OATS, AND TRY IT WITH BERE
September 13 → 10:00 am ─ 11:00 am
Oats and bere were for centuries Orkney’s staple diet; survival depended on the annual harvest. In the 20th century modern convenience foods came in, often based around wheat; and the harvest fields gradually vanished. But now there’s a new interest in oats and bere, with a growing body of research that shows that they’re healthier for us – as Prof. Karen Scott of Aberdeen University’s Rowett Institute explains.
CELLAR, KITCHEN, AND FIRESIDE TALES
September 13 → 11:30 am ─ 12:30 pm
The writer F. Marian McNeill, born in Holm in 1885, worked through times that were sometimes hard to save a heritage in books like The Scots Kitchen and The Scots Cellar, and the four-volume folklore and customs study The Silver Bough. Fifty years on from her death, her work is coming to the fore again amidst rising food prices and the need to maximise nutrition from the food available around us. Moray food writer Liz Ashworth tells the story of a life of warmth, resilience and determination, with readings by AB and CD; and Douglas Montgomery plays his march F. Marian McNeill from Holm.
STROMNESS DAYS OF SAIL
September 13 → 2:00 pm ─ 3:00 pm
In the days of sail and wooden ships, Stromness harbour welcomed tall ships from many far places including those bound for the Hudson’s Bay, Greenland whalers and Moravian Mission ships, as well as visitors like Captain Cook’s ships on their return from Hawaii and Sir John Franklin about to commence his search for the Northwest Passage. Stromness-built ships also lay at anchor in the harbour with a few berthed alongside merchants' piers. Len Wilson, former boatbuilder, tells the story of the tall ships and the men who sailed them while naval architect Dennis Davidson of Murray Cormack Design talks about Stanger’s and Copland’s shipyards in Stromness and some of the ships they built.
VOYAGE WITH THE ICE QUEEN
September 13 → 3:30 pm ─ 4:30 pm
The Northwest Passage was for so long the Holy Grail of exploration. Maps of the area are littered with the names of those who came back, and those that did not. Today more ships are making the journey and last year Maiwenn Beadle became the first professional female captain to take a vessel through the 4,500-mile passage, from Davis Strait to Bering Strait. Now living in Orkney, she tells the story of the journey and shows spectacular images of sea, ice and wildlife – and some Orkney names along the route.