Preparations hot up for second-ever Sussex Community Festival

Dr Stephen Wilkins his warming up his routine for the University of Sussex Community Festival

It’s beginning to hot up for the University of Sussex’s second-ever Community Festival.

Dr Stephen Wilkins, Senior Lecturer in Astronomy, is among more than 30 academics as well as staff and students preparing to extend a warm welcome to visitors to the festival, held at the beautifully green University of Sussex campus on the outskirts of Brighton & Hove next Sunday (24 June).

Among the new attractions added to the line-up, festival goers will be given the chance to see a glowing copy of themselves, like Dr Wilkins, by stepping in front of infra-red cameras.

Also newly added to the event line-up is a chance to see a single-seat race car  built by engineering students for an international competition, an inflatable planetarium, a special musical performance celebrating a Sussex beauty spot and an augmented reality tour of the University.

Professor Alison Pike, University of Sussex psychologist and scientific expert on Channel 4’s ‘The Secret Lives of 4/5/6 Year Olds’, will be offering invaluable insights for parents on how to put themselves first without feeling guilty, manipulate their child’s behaviour and stop sibling squabbles.

Meanwhile the BBC’s ‘Rough Science’ presenter Dr Jonathan Hare will explain the wonder of ’buckyballs’, the carbon structure discovered at the University of Sussex that led to a Nobel Prize for the late Professor Sir Harry Kroto.

More than 2,500 residents have already registered their interest for the festival and the University is encouraging interested parties to sign up for their free tickets.

As well as engaging and interactive sessions with academics, the festival also offers visitors the chance to try their hand at circus skills, enjoy classic fairground competitions including hook-a-duck and the coconut shy, test their ability in up to ten sport taster sessions, chill out to the relaxing tunes of a steel band or satisfy their hunger at a host of food stalls.

A host of other community groups and organisations will be taking part in the day, with information stalls including Sussex Police, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Sustainable Sussex,  Brighton Peace and Environment Centre, and Sussex Learning Network. Central South Sussex Citizens Advice will be sharing information about volunteering, Scams Awareness Month and its partnership with the University’s Law Department  which has helped more than 720 people since September.

As well as a fun-packed programme of events, organisers are hopeful the festival will inspire and reignite a passion for study and learning among visitors of all ages.

Dr Wilkins said: “The great thing about astronomy is that it is accessible to everybody. There are things that we study, such as Saturn’s eclipse of the Sun or images of distant galaxies, that are beautiful. Seeing something like that at an early age can be the starting point for a lifetime’s fascination and passion for the subject and hopefully visitors to the festival will get a sense of that on the day.”

Infra-red camera technology is key to the James Webb Space Telescope, the $9 billion scientific successor to Hubble which is set to launch in 2020, as it will be able to peer through dust in space and reveal new discoveries about parts of space not visible to the human eye.

Dr Wilkins and his team at the University of Sussex will be among the first to see images beamed back from the telescope in around two-and-a-half-years’ time.

He said: “By learning about the Webb Telescope now I really hope that festival goers and the British public in general will take ownership of the project. The Hubble was largely built by NASA but Webb has been a collaboration between NASA and Canadian and European space agencies. The UK has played a prominent role in its construction and we should be really proud of that fact.”

To sign up for the Community Festival or for more information, visit the University’s website.

By: Neil Vowles
Last updated: Monday, 18 June 2018