Celebrating the people, stories and ideas at the heart of science.
The British Science Festival is Europe’s longest standing science Festival, travelling to a different place in the United Kingdom each year. Our Festival aims to connect people with scientists, engineers, technologists and social scientists.
Each year, we bring an inspiring programme of free events to the public over four or five days, bursting with exciting opportunities to get involved in. Our talks, workshops and drop-in events span a diverse range of subjects that encompass science in the broadest sense, promising something for everyone.
In 2019, the Festival brought over 100 free events to Coventry & Warwickshire with our host, the University of Warwick. We broke a sweat at our sports hub takeover, had exciting debates across scientific disciplines and ended the Festival grooving to a holographic light show.
The British Science Festival 2020 was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has now been rescheduled to take place in Chelmsford from 7 – 11 September 2021, hosted by Anglia Ruskin University.
Working in partnership with the University and other organisations in the region, the Festival will celebrate the world-leading research taking place at Anglia Ruskin University and more broadly across Essex and East Anglia. It will shine a spotlight on areas such as energy, transport, healthcare and digital innovation, by celebrating the people, stories and ideas behind the science.
To get a flavour of the Festival, check our highlights reel from the 2018 Festival below:
Each year, the British Science Association provides grants of £500 to community groups/organisations in the host Festival city that work directly with audiences who are traditionally underrepresented and currently not engaged in science activity. We want to empower and support community groups to run their own science activities as part of the British Science Festival, enabling new local audiences to engage with science.
The history of the Festival
The British Science Festival is the longest-standing science Festival in the UK. Organised by the British Science Association, it grew out of the tradition of the annual meetings of the Association – first held in York in 1831, and annually at cities across the UK, and further afield, ever since – bringing scientists together to discuss their ground-breaking work with one another, across scientific disciplines, and, crucially, with the general public.
It was at these annual meetings that major scientific advances were announced: Joule’s experiments on the mechanical equivalent of heat in the 1840s; Bessemer’s steel process (1856); the discovery of the first of the inert gases, Argon, by Rayleigh and Ramsay (1894); the first public demonstration of wireless transmission over a few hundred yards by Sir Oliver Lodge (1894); and J.J. Thomson’s discovery of the electron (1899). It was at these meetings that the term ‘scientist’ was coined, and the ‘dinosaur’ named.
The annual meetings were designed to engender discussion and debate. Perhaps the best remembered of all was at Oxford in 1860: Darwin’s ‘The Origin of Species’ had been published in 1859, but his health was not good enough to allow him to go to the Oxford meeting. Darwin’s ‘bulldog’, T.H. Huxley, was there, though, and brilliantly debated Darwinism with Samuel Wilberforce, Lord Bishop of Oxford who was Vice President of the Association at the time.
The British Science Festival has inspired the growth of countless other science festivals – from large and established ones (Cheltenham, Edinburgh and Manchester) to smaller and newer events (Aberdeen, Brighton and Winchester).
The British Science Association’s Scientific Sections play a crucial role in both developing content for the Festival programme and advising on the latest developments within their fields. The British Science Association has 17 Scientific Sections, encompassing all aspects of physical and social sciences.