May 23, 2012, by David Greenaway
May Fest 2012
Our first May Fest was four years ago. It began as an experiment, to see whether we could bring the broader community on to our Campuses and find ways of interesting and stimulating them. Our first experience was a good one. Staff and students gave up time over a weekend to present a range of exhibitions, demonstrations, talks and tours. More than 2,000 visitors attended, the feedback was uniformly positive and that persuaded me it should be an annual event. It has grown somewhat since then and the 2011 event attracted more than 4,000 visitors.
May Fest 2012 was on Saturday May 19th. In scale and participation it was our biggest and most successful so far. Almost all Schools in the University and many of our Professional Services offered something of interest under themes like ‘Ingenious Engineering’, ‘Science Rocks’ and ‘Cultural Classics’. Events took place at nine sites across University Park and one on Jubilee Campus.
There were numerous hands on experiments, compelling demonstrations of the capabilities of new technology, fun with foreign languages and poetry, and good old puzzles and brain teasers. There were also guided tours of the gardens of University Park and visits to our Eco Houses.
The range of activities was quite breathtaking and the care which had gone in to thinking about how to engage the interests of a diverse range of visitors, particularly young children, was truly admirable. Most impressive of all was the infectious enthusiasm of staff and students in explaining, demonstrating and surprising those they were engaging with.
It is very important to open up what we do in the University in this way (whilst simultaneously showcasing activity for our own University community). It gives a real insight to a broader audience into what excites researchers and how research and scholarship can illuminate and transform the world around us. Seeing so many children on University Park and observing their sense of wonder at what they saw, or their satisfaction at having solved a new puzzle, was a real pleasure.
On visits to Schools and Research Centres, I regularly gain insights into the breadth and depth of activity across the full spectrum of disciplines we support. In wandering around on Saturday I felt a genuine sense of pride in how expertly complex concepts and ideas were being explained, how the purpose of experiments was made so transparent and above all, just how many staff and students had given up their Saturday to be involved.
May Fest 2012 lived up to its promise of being ‘a fun filled interactive day for all ages’. In itself that made it worthwhile. Moreover, most of the 5,000 visitors would not normally visit the University. For them it opened a window on our world, hopefully revealing a place that is not as mysterious or forbidding as is sometimes thought.
I am very grateful to all colleagues who participated in and contributed to this outstanding day, and to our Events Team for doing such a great job in organising it.
Professor David Greenaway