The May Festival - or ‘May Fest’ - is an annual festival where the historic University of Aberdeen King’s College campus welcomes locals and not so locals to enjoy a packed programme of indoor and outdoor talks, workshops and activities. In 2019 over 11,000 attendees joined the festival.

 

From architectural digs to comedy cabaret, live music to Soapbox Science, serious debates to guided walks, and not forgetting the kids’ ‘Hall of Mayhem’, there is something for everyone. The festival showcases research from the University of Aberdeen and is a stage for high profile science communicators, broadcasters, authors and performers to share their work.  We also host a food festival, boast a range of refreshments - including a veggie zero waste cafe and BBQ - and, for the last few years, the sun has shone brightly on us. Last year, we extended our reach by doing ‘pop up’ events off campus, extending our reach to communities beyond those who come to campus, but who want to engage with the University within the city.

 

Our Aberdeen University researchers focus their work on addressing issues that face society at every turn - in health, education, law, engineering, data science, environment - and we share in celebrating inventions and advances driven by North East-based academics. As a health researcher with a passion for science

communication, my contributions over the years have been varied.

 

One year, when I was working on smoking research and family homes, with support from the Scottish Government, I  brought the ‘Take it right outside’ campaign house with virtual reality effects to the Elphinstone Hall. The following year, I dressed up as a mobile telephone in a Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas performance on the topic of digital health and the future of healthcare delivery, entitled ‘Every Step You Take… I’ll be Watching You’. I’ve also co-led a number of interactive walks through the sights and sounds of Aberdeen using our [M]apping app, which showcases some of Aberdeen’s best kept secrets in a Pokémon Go! style themed activity - we’ve done crime, car parks as well as campus! More recently, I’ve helped run randomisation stalls to demonstrate how clinical trials work and chaired serious conversations on head and neck cancer. All of these May Fest events have either enriched research activities through public stakeholder consultation and involvement or improved the reach of our research through sharing what we’re working on beyond our usual audiences. On a personal note, they definitely help with creative thinking and developing presentation skills.

 

We also invite renowned personalities, such as Brian Cox, Tony Robinson, Elaine C. Smith, Caroline Criado-Perez, Laura Main and Val McDermid. They bring perspectives from outside our University - and make us think about our service to others! In 2020 we want to invite attendees from the Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) conference to experience and participate in the 2020 festival which takes place on the Friday – Sunday following the conference  and we hope they will add new perspectives and content to our offerings, which will explore time, technology and transformation. If you are coming to PCST consider sharing your practice with us or simply come and see what the Aberdeen Sci Comm scene has to offer!

 

Dr Heather Morgan, Lecturer in Applied Health Sciences, University of Aberdeen