9 June 2009

Cheltenham Science Festival 2009

So, quickly and in no particular order - it's my birthday and I'm not really supposed to be working - some highlights from The Times Cheltenham Science Festival last week...

As editor of the festival newsletter, I was proud to sign off a stomache-achingly silly caption for a Carol Vorderman image advertising her event 'Magic Numbers'. The caption was - wait for it - 'Counting down to number fun'. We pointed it out to her but she wasn't overly impressed.

On Saturday, I interviewed a very tired and slightly grumpy Dara O'Briain. I think he may have been annoyed by the hoards of loud and excitable kids in the Discover Zone. The whole thing was completely unplanned; I wasn't too keen on doing it at all, but I'd been badgered into it by two photographers desperate to take his picture. (Their other suggestion was for me to interview Dara and Ben Goldacre both at the same time. This, I flatly refused - I would have crumbled under the weight of their collective wit.)

Anyway, I raced quickly to the end of the Dara interview, having asked the three questions I'd prepared in the 10 seconds I had to spare beforehand - who knew, by the way, that he studied for a degree in theoretical physics? - and said, "Well, I won't keep you any longer." Dara, being on the ball despite his tiredness, saw through my niceties: "You just haven't got any more questions, have you?" To which I answered, "No, I've got better things to do, to be honest." I think I won him over...

That night, still looking tired and grumpy, Dara took to the stage for 'Not Rocket Science' - a scientific panel game hosted by Timandra Harkness. I wouldn't want to say he was upstaged, but... well, he was upstaged by FameLab Coordinator Chris Dunford posing as the score-keeping nerd. It wouldn't do Chris justice to post his quips here, but the look on his face during the body part identification round, when Vivienne Parry unzipped his flies and tried to stick a label on his... well, you know, was priceless.

Chris, by the way, has already been booked for our new Comical Flask stage/tent for Geek Pop '10. And now I've published that, he's not getting out of it.

There are honestly too many great moments to recall in one blog post (e.g. the moment I spotted a mound of carrot cake in the green room on Sunday afternoon, the moment sexy scientist Alice Roberts dropped all her paintbrushes and Chris swooped in to pick them all up like a fumbling school kid) but I'll just put in a more serious mention for Fenner Curtis and the press team who did a grand job "getting the Twitter ball rolling". Having convinced them that Twitter was the new Facebook, they diligently tweeted, retweeted and hashtagged all week, stimulating a stream of Cheltenham-based sciencey goodness.

My favourite tweet from @Cheltfestivals: Cool Pfizer robot in the festival foyer: "What do you think robots eat?" Small child: "Humans!!"

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