The 6-day Cheltenham Science Festival takes place at the beginning of June and aims to challenge and inspire the 40,000 visitors that come each year. The first festival was held back in 2002 and it has now become an important date in the science calendar. As with the other Cheltenham festivals, the Cheltenham Science Festival features a guest director and a festival theme. Both free and ticketed events provide a good mix of informative and interactive opportunities to gain a further understanding and appreciation of the fascinating world of science.
The Cheltenham Science Festival has its main hub in the Town Hall and Imperial Gardens, both of which are in the heart of Cheltenham’s town centre. Further events take place in various locations throughout Cheltenham, including the Cheltenham Ladies College.
There are several car parks within the centre of Cheltenham for festival goers to use. Additionally, there are two park and ride facilities that offer free parking just outside of town that also has a regular bus service that goes from the park and ride locations to the town centre. This is a great stress-free way to park and avoid the busy Cheltenham streets!
Cheltenham Spa Rail Station is located on the eastern edge of town and offers regular train services to and from cities, such as London, Birmingham, Manchester, amongst others.
Tickets for the individual events normally go on sale in March and are available online, by phone or at the Cheltenham Festival Box Office in the city centre. Ticket prices differ for every event; however, there are a good range of free events and exhibitions, particularly for children. Discounts are also offered for most events for those under the age of 25, students, the unemployed and for groups that include 10 patrons or more.
The Cheltenham Science Festival aims to get people excited and inspired about science, and does this successfully each year through a series of talks, presentations and interactive displays. Guest directors work with the festival organisers to put on numerous events that relate to a specific theme. Past guest directors have included Lord Robert Winston, Carol Vorderman and Brian Cox.
During the festival, Cheltenham Town Hall becomes a “Discover Zone,” which is a free exhibition open every day intended for children. This zone features interactive stands giving visitors the chance to view a range of experiments and new technologies. Visitors may be able to control the latest in robotic technology or play simple games that are designed to develop your understanding of complex scientific concepts. Furthermore, for very young minds, a mini “Discover Zone” (usually held in Cheltenham Ladies College), provides practical displays aimed at children under the age of seven.
For adults, the “Explore Zone” is home to numerous interactive stands in a child-free area where visitors can learn more about everything from human anatomy to cutting edge technologies. Throughout the festival, there are ticketed talks, presentations and workshops on a host of different topics, including biology, meteorology and chemistry. Previous speakers have included expedition leader, Steve Backshall, as well as comedian, Robin Ince.
Other Festival Highlights Include:
- BBC Science Zone – This zone allows visitors to meet the production teams behind some of the BBC’s most popular science programmes and learn a bit about how these shows are actually made
- The FameLab Competition – This is an international competition where young competitors deliver a 3-minute presentation on a Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics topic that they have been studying in a manner that is accessible to members of the public
- Exhibitions – These are large scale educational displays that are presented by organisations working in science and technology, such as EDF and HP