On stage at Bestival

Written by Josie Pegg

I love festivals; I’d love to have been a rock star, the only problem being that I have minimal musical talent. However I do know a lot about parasites, and this was enough to get me a gig at this year’s Bestival.

Though not quite as rock and roll as the main stage, I was speaking in the Bestiversity tent, in the Tomorrow World area of Bestival. My talk “The parasite saga – a tale of horror, love and mystery” was a fun pop-science look at parasites and how big a part they play in our lives.  The Bestiversity tent was rather fabulous. My audience were able to lounge on sofas and giant beanbags, while my retro-styled stage comprised a comfortable armchair and PA system – I’m sure we’d get a few bonus points in the student satisfaction survey, if all lectures were like this. Furthermore I was handed a cold beer as I walked on stage – perhaps maybe something to consider to enhance staff satisfaction!

The experience was a nice break from my less rock-and-roll PhD life, where I am presently trying to write my transfer document concurrent to surviving the busiest period of my field season. Although my Bestival talk was designed to be fun and accessible to anyone it was essentially a version of one of the chapters of my PhD, so writing it proved to be a very useful exercise for me; as Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”. It was also a gentle reminder that my PhD is actually really interesting and cool, and more than just a never-ending stream of tissue samples and spreadsheets.

Above all taking part in Bestival was simply a whole lot of fun – there aren’t many chances to use a powerpoint presentation containing slides of Santa, George Clooney and the alien chest-burster. And much to the fulfilment of my rockstar fantasy I was classed as an Artist so I got to walk around with an Artist wristband and travel on the Artist shuttle. Plus I could camp in the Artist campsite with hot showers and real flushing toilets! And I got two tickets so I was also able to enjoy the rest of the festival with my friends once my talk was over.

The best bit of the whole experience for me was late on Thursday night as my friends and I were dancing to some gypsy punk in the polka tent when I was approached by a stranger. “I saw your talk today”, she said, “I didn’t do science but that parasites can do all that is brilliant, thanks for telling me”.

Does that count as a fan? If so, could this have been my best moment ever?!

I’d encourage anyone to apply for next years Bestiversity. If you’d like to know more speak to your agent or Becca Edwards.