by David Price and Jacek Nowak

For the first time ever, the Silesian Science Festival in Katowice was organised as an outdoor event, followed by a week-long program of online activites, and even though this shift of format was a challenge in many ways, the 5th annual festival was hugely successful! Over 30,000 participants visited the live science city events on the Rawa river; lectures, workshops and performances performed over 14 stages. The online events were also very popular, with aprroximatly 25,000 attendees taking part online. In this blog we hear from one of the festival organisers, Jacek Nowak from the University of Silesia, and a festival contributor, David Price from Science Made Simple, about their experience of the festival, and how EUSEA played a key role in the two coming together.

David Price

Both Jacek and myself were delighted to write a piece about our collaboration for the wonderful Silesian Science Festival Katowice this year. But how did our collaboration begin? Where did 1+1 start on a process that ended up being 2? Well a really important catalyst to all of this was EUSEA.

We had started bumping into eachother at EUSEA online events, without really knowing who we both were, but as we attended the HOT POT series of discussions, I realised Jacek was connected to the science festival and he realised my connection with Science Made Simple. Last time around, we had both also stood for the EUSEA board and we both got to hear each others agendas. And before you know it, I am flying to Katowice to participate in the festival. EUSEA is way more than a talking shop, with EUSEA things happen!

And what a festival Jacek and his colleagues run! Full of science / art and science / history and local science issues. The similarities between Katowice and the industrial northwest of England (where I live) are many, particularly with regard to industrial pollution particularly with regard to polluted rivers (I am a fanatical fisherman!). The festival took place on the banks of the Rawa river, and as such this river was a major theme for many of the events. The festival even had a session on my favourite science fiction author Stanislav Lem. It seemed like this festival was made with me in mind.

But best of all, any festival where you can bump into such lovely committed people as Russel Arnott, Pedro Russo and Bernedette Murphy just has to be worth going to!

Jacek Nowak

One of our dreams, regarding further development of our Festival, is to make it a hub for foreign science communication and outreach in Poland, and this wish has already partly come true, with the meeting of David Price and Russell Arnott (they both are British, visited the same places, know the same people, but needed to go to Katowice to meet each other). Another example is Pedro Russo from Leiden University, who was very happy to meet David, whose work and the work of Science Made Simple he much admires. The world is small and even smaller at the SSF.

Another novelty of the 5th SSF was seeing David perform his Science Busking in the city’s market square a day before the official start of the Festival. I must be honest: we hadn’t known what exactly what science busking was. But now we have seen it, our whole team is fascinated with David’s approach to engaging with strangers about science. He knows no bounds, inviting people of every age to join in with his experiments. An excellent example is when David reached out to a crowd of shouting and screaming young football fans, who had gather there before going to a football match. I had to admit, they were slightly intimidating, but David knows his audiences and without hesitation he was over there, talking to all of them and showing them a couple of quick experiments, and soon they all were wanting to participate. As if by magic, but – as David often underlines – it is not magic, it is science! Science busking is about using the skills of street performers to go anywhere and engage with anyone and convince them that anyone can do it!

The 5th edition of the Silesian Science Festival is over now, but we are already starting the preparations for the next one. We already know that we are going back indoors to the International Congress Centre in Katowice and that will be from 4th to 5th of December 2022 . Anyone willing to take part is, of course, warmly welcomed!