Category / Festival of Learning

Festival of Learning 2015- Thinking outside the box? Maybe try thinking outside of BU for your events.

When thinking about running an event at the Festival of Learning it is common to assume this has to be on campus, however you may have not considered the greater appeal you may be able to get at a different location. Here are some ideas about places that may add that unique selling point which will draw in greater numbers of the public and improve your overall engagement.


The Aquarium

Bournemouth’s Aquarium is an instantly recognisable symbol for what people associate with great venues in Bournemouth.  This would be a great place to , hold an event especially if your area of research is marine based, although this isn’t necessarily essential. An idea which could possibly be built on is to hold ‘A night at’ themed event at this location. So get your creative caps on and see what you can come up with for this fantastic venue.

Afc Bournemouth

Bournemouth University and Afc Bournemouth have an incredibly strong working relationship and there is always the possibility to run events from this location. This could be a great venue for sports related research topics, imagine the instant appeal if your event could be held at the Championship high flyers ground!

Shelley Theatre (Boscombe)

The Shelley Theatre is in a great location for when the Festival takes place. It is close to the town centre, creates a great atmosphere and provides audience members with a memorable experience. This venue would work well for a variety of event ideas and has played host to brilliant Festival of Learning events in the past.


If any of these locations seem to inspire you to submit an event, or you have a general event inquiry. Please email Naomi Kay and she will be happy to help you in the proposal process of making that event idea you have a reality. The deadline for proposals is fast approaching (19th December at noon) so don’t hesitate to get involved!


Festival of Learning- event ideas to inspire the younger generation

Thinking of a fantastic event idea aimed at the younger generation can be challenging. It can often be very helpful when the audience we are aiming at can give us inspiration, a great event idea for the younger generation came from an audience member at the last Café Scientifque.

Have you thought about running a child friendly forensics event at the 2015 Festival of Learning? This idea will create a hands on, entertaining and memorable day for children attending the festival and has also worked extremely well in previous years.

Incidentally, if you wish to gain inspiration in running this event idea, the next Café Scientifique will be looking at ‘Who Stole Christmas’ with a forensic themed talk in store on the 2nd December so be sure to mark the date in your diary.

Or perhaps you may be inspired to run a child friendly event in storytelling. Events with this theme have worked well in previous years with strong turn outs and positive feedback from attendees. This could really get a child’s imagination going and inspire them to improve their storytelling skills.

Now is a great time to start thinking about your event in order to get your proposal in for the 19th December deadline.

If you would like to get involved in the Festival of Learning in 2015, you can submit your proposal here or contact Naomi Kay to discuss how your research can translate into a memorable Festival of Learning event.

Festival of Learning – what could you do? Be part of something special this July…

The Festival of Learning is back for the third year between 11th -17th July.

This year will build of the fantastic success of the Festival in 2013 and 2014. Over the past two years the Festival of Learning has had circa 9,000 visits with an average event rating of 9 out of 10 and 96% of evaluated attendees stating that they would be very likely or likely to attend another event.

To further this success in 2015, we need you to host lectures, workshops and debates (or whatever type of engaging activity you can think of) showcasing the fantastic knowledge base of BU.

But why get involved?

  • It is a great opportunity to celebrate life at BU and share your passion with a different audience.
  • It can add fresh perspective to your research. Read this article about how public engagement can help you think about your research from a fresh perspective.
  • It can change people’s lives. Here in the Festival office we have been moved by members of the public telling us about how the Festival has helped reignite a passion for learning, helped support the growth of the charity and even helped people to walk for the first time in years.
  • It is a great networking opportunity. Colleagues involved in the Festival in previous years have developed partnerships which have, for example, led to collaborative PhD studentships.
  • It is fantastic for skills development. Especially for early career researchers, the Festival offers an unprecedented opportunity to develop communication techniques which engage members of the public and builds confidence in communicating complex ideas (essential for a future lecturing career!)
  • It helps to meet the expectation of funders and policy makers. The European Commission, HEFCE and our Research Councils (amongst others) expect researchers to demonstrate to the public the value of their research. The Festival provides of a great vehicle to do this as you will receive central support (e.g. for marketing) rather than going it alone.
  • It can support student recruitment. And not just undergraduates, but those looking for postgraduate courses and short courses who have never before considered BU as a potential place to study.

What you need to know

  • The call for proposals is now open and closes on 19th December at 12noon.
  • You don’t have to run a long event. Many members of the public actually prefer to attend an event which only lasts an hour or so, rather than for a whole day.
  • The Festival runs from 11-17th July 2015. Eager Festival followers will note that the Festival of Learning is being held slightly later this year. This is in order to ensure that our local schools and colleges are able to participate more fully in the Festival and to avoid clashes with examinations (both those being held by schools and Universities).

What to do next

Research Cluster Conflict, Rule of Law and Society is holding a Workshop on ‘Contemporary Issues in International Law’ on Tuesday 28th October 2014, 10-13.00 in EB206



The commitment and role of the international community in fighting Islamic State (IS/ISIL) are a daily item on the news. Therefore the Cluster for Conflict, Rule of Law and Society is holding a Workshop on ‘Contemporary Issues in International Law’ on Tuesday 28th October 2014, 10-13.00 in EB206.
The workshop brings together Undergraduate and Postgraduate students studying International Law and those interested in the issues of terrorism and the use of force in general. It will be a forum for discussion and debate on

  • the situation in Ukraine/Russia (including the annexation of Crimea and the downing of Malaysia Airline MH17)
  • the situation involving IS/Iraq/Syria, and
  • will ask what the status quo of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) doctrine is.


The workshop will be led by Dr. Melanie Klinkner and Sascha Dov Bachmann, Associate Professor in International Law.

There will be tea, coffee and biscuits and interested staff and students are very welcome to join.

Festival Fever – Inspiration for your Festival of Learning 2015 event!

Stuck for event ideas for the Festival of learning in 2015!?

Well don’t worry! In this blog post Festival Fever will take over and show you events which have worked well in the past and possibly a few stand-out ideas you may wish to build upon for this year.

Let us take you through a countdown of ‘Hit’ topics and stand out events of last year’s festival as well as eye catching events at the British Science Festival and stand out events you could run in the future!

Hits at last year’s Festival of Learning

5. Marketing and business skills

Have you thought of creating a business event which focuses on marketing? Well if last year’s attendance at this event is anything to go by you will attract a very strong turnout. This event was fully booked last year and is a safe bet to draw in business professionals and members of the public alike! If you can use group discussions in your event this will also enhance the experience for individuals who are attending.

4. Gaming, computers and coding

These topics proved highly popular throughout the festival. Key examples of this success were ‘Is gaming the new reading?’ and ‘Hour of code.’ It really does seem that computers are becoming vital organs in modern life; this means the potential to interest large numbers will always be there when choosing an event of this genre.

3. Everyday professional skills

Teamwork,time management, or the magic of mailbox management.  Is there an event you could run that would tap into helping people develop these skills? If you have a clever way to engage the audience in a workshop that can enrich their professional development your event will be in high demand as well as an interesting way to give back to the community.

2. Health and fitness

Health related topics have shown to be popular both in the past at the festival, but also at other UK science festivals. Fitness is something that is at the forefront of many of our minds and if you’ve got an interesting take on this you’ll be sure to get the public onside.

1. Topics involving real-world current issues

Tying your event into current issues can help inspire debate in panel sessions, as well as draw in big audiences.  They are also more likely to be picked up for press coverage and could help to boost your event numbers even further.


Eye catching events at the British Science Festival

As you may have seen in an earlier series of blog posts, we recently attended the British Science Festival to get some inspiration on what to include in our own Festival of Learning.  You can read the full post of hot events from the festival here, but these were two of our favorites:

-The Huxley debate (As seen at the British Science Festival)

A debate which puts the spotlight on the security flaws of companies such as Facebook and Google can really entice a large number of people, “why is this?” you may ask, the reason is that the companies Facebook and Google touch the lives of the majority of us. This in the media spotlight with recent scandals SnapChat and Icloud storage!

-Your Astonishing Liver/ Health related topics

A further hit from the British Science Festival was ‘Your Astonishing Liver’ this proved to have a very strong turnout, with an audience of varying demographics. The clear strength of all health related topics is their ability to create very strong debates with the audience. In “Your astonishing liver” the panel facilitated a health debate around the right for non-registered organ donors to receive donated organs through the use of electronic voting. By using the response pads and looking at the results on a screen this is an engaging way of illustrating the discussion and capturing data from your event.

Other ideas to set your event apart from the crowd


Take your event offsite to a unique venue – what about approaching the aquarium to find out if you could run your event there?

Run your activity as part of the Festival of Learning On Tour so people get a taster for it in advance?

In more general terms, what can really add to the experience for the general public are events that are uniquely wacky and involve free samples as well as hands on activity. By having a strong blend of these ideas in your event, you can really stand out from the crowd and get your event noticed.


For help and support in developing your event email Naomi Kay, Public Engagement Officer in R&KEO.

Helping you gain inspiration for the FOL from the events which were a ‘Not’ at this year’s British Science Festival in Birmingham


  • Carnival of the animal senses

Running between 6pm-7pm, this was one of the evening events on Tuesday which I attended. Unfortunately, it was a miss for a topic which had potential to be very interesting and engaging.

The talk was run by Helen Czerski, who some of you may know or recognise from a few animal programmes which were run on the BBC.

The key points to remember when creating your own talk learnt from this were to firstly, to keep to the topic your discussing and perhaps not to stray too far away from the point. Secondly, it may be advisable not to use too many complicated diagrams as over information can throw an audience.

A key positive which came from this talk was her use of short videos, which are always a safe bet to improve your talk.

  • Tackling  sport concussion

This event took place on the final day of the festival between 4:30-5:30pm, and was one I was really looking forward to seeing.

 The reason for this being a ‘not’ was a common theme which can be learnt from the festival, the advertising was misleading! By advertising the event to “all adults” it failed to correctly inform its audience that you needed a high level of knowledge before coming to the talk. What was discussed was very much geared towards professions in the sports coaching profession.

It was also a shame that the room that had been allocated for the talk was very small and didn’t create a great atmosphere for those of us that watched. There were some difficulties with videos that didn’t play, however this is an inconvenience which will inevitably occur at these events at some point.

A key learning point is the importance of targeting your audience correctly. Doing this poorly can lead toconfused audience members and an unsatisfactory experience.

On the positive side, the talk had four speakers which created a ‘dream team’ like panel. In addition, the calibre of the speakers was of a high quality.

  • Hypnosis: Therapy or Quackery

This was an evening event which cost £6 to attend.

The talk was quite entertaining; however the way in which it was organised was quite messy.

The major stick out which makes this ‘not’ from me was the timing issue as over-running events can really drag down the positive aspects of a talk. Some parts of hypnosis were spent longer on than others and the talk did over-run to the extent we had to leave. This was disappointing as the engagement for the audience was left until the end and as we had to leave for a train we never got to get involved!


  • The second 30 minutes of Explosions in the sky

The reason for this being a ‘not’ was that for an event which was advertised as being suitable for “all adults” it wasn’t  catered with the target audience in mind. By going into the complexity of different formulas and graphs with little explanation it can make an audience feel disconnected to the very interesting information that is being given.What stuck out for me was that you need to be very aware about the way in which you put across your research, in order for the general public to understand and engage with you. The only other notable ‘not event’ was ‘our dynamic sun’ for similar reasons to explosions in the sky.


Hopefully this will help you in gaining inspiration for your event at the Festival of Learning this year. One thing I noted  from attending the BSF was the popularity of health related topics and having a clear, simple PowerPoint with a variety of visual aids. In terms of negatives, It is great to have an in depth talk about Quantum Physics aimed at the quantum physicsists out there… but you probably lost average man.  


Helping you gain inspiration from what was ‘Hot’ at this years British Science Festival in Birmingham


  • The first 30 minutes of Explosions in the sky

Between 11am and 12 pm on Wednesday 10th October at the BSF Explosions in the sky attracted a large audience (including myself) who were eager to learn about the topic.

The talk was split into two halves, Louise Harra started the talk and Mike Lockwood conducted the second half.

Louise Harra conducted an engaging talk, which used visual representation very effectively to back up her clear, simple and well catered points which made the subject easily understandable for members of the audience.

  • The Huxley Debate

Also delivered on the Wednesday 10th October was The Huxley Debate between 6pm and 7pm. At £6 this was one of the priced events of the festival which delivered in repaying the audience with strong engagement and entertainment for the evening.

Delivered by Aral Baklan, the talk was based on exposing the security flaws of companies such as Facebook and Google and the way these ‘free’ apps make money. In short, the reason was by using your personal data which proved to get a great reaction from the audience.

Aral was an excellent speaker who had the ability to keep the audience hanging on his every word. As an American who could have been described as Steve jobs long lost twin in appearance and way of interaction, what he got so very right was showing his passion shine through in the talk. 

  • Frogs and Friends

A comedy based learning experience on the same night as the previous two was a light hearted, funny and memorable talk. This was also a worthwhile priced event at £6.

Simon Watt (the ugly Animal Preservation society’s professor of comedy) was the stand out of a triple act which took place between 7:30 pm and 9pm.

In this case, his dry comedic sense of humour was a hit with the audience and his likable engagement with us proved to make this the most memorable event of festival.

If you fancy yourself as the next Peter Kay, why not give comedy a go in making your Festival of learning event one to remember?


Very Hot

  • Your astonishing liver

On the last day of the festival it was incredibly clear that the health related topics were/are a real hit with the general public. Delivered by a team of scientists and surgeons, there was a packed audience which watched this talk. The event was delivered for all varying levels of knowledge in the field and with the use of visual aids worked very smoothly.

Having four speakers really seemed to work, by having a small section of the topic to comment on this kept the audience engaged throughout. Running between 2-3pm this was also a free event!

The interactive side saw electronic yes/no devices handed out to the audience, after asking really strong questions for debate we would answer the question with a yes/no/not sure answer and visual graphs with the data collected would appear on the board. This was the best way the public were engaged out of the events I had attended over the week.


Other notable ‘hot’ events were: A night at the museum (although overpriced), Greg and Alice Roberts and the concept of The X-Change (had good days/ bad days)