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Press release: Families and children spoilt for choice at the Cambridge Festival

Virtual escape rooms, jaw-dropping science demos, mini explosions, gory guts, interactive games with zombies and aliens, brain-tingling quizzes, gripping stories, talks about poo and ice cream, masterclasses, and even a talkaoke…

With over 100 free online events aimed at the whole family, choosing which to highlight is no easy feat. Starting with the under 12’s, here are just a few events that can be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere in the world:

The Institute of Astronomy is teaming up with the Department of Engineering to host a series of fun activities all about our closest cosmic neighbour, the Moon. In Project MoonBase: Habitation (26 March, 9am), the task is to create a habitable place where people can live on the Moon. In Project MoonBase: Transportation (3 April, 2-3pm) kids get to build a model Lunar Rover and see what kind of experiments astronauts carry out on the Moon. In Project MoonBase: Data and Communications (26 March - 4 April all day), they get to use bits and bobs from around the home to investigate how rovers can gather information and send it back to Earth. 

There are several fun, interactive workshops, including The Magic Touch (26 March, 10.30-11.30am and 1pm-2pm), which offers 3–5-year-olds and their adults an opportunity to explore the Fitzwilliam Museum’s ‘The Human Touch’ exhibition. In Atoms All Around Me (27 March, 2-4pm), children aged 7-10 can explore what atoms are and how they combine to create the incredible world we see around us. During an afternoon of creative activities, they can make a recipe book to explore the structure of some of the most common types of atoms and learn how these come together to make some familiar objects. In Lots and lots of light bulbs (3 April, 10am), kids discover where the energy that powers our lights comes from, why some light bulbs waste lots of energy, the different materials used to make bulbs and they get to make a special spinning toy that shows how energy is wasted in the home.

A favourite for families who visited the Cambridge Science Festival in previous years, CHaOS comes to the Cambridge Festival between 27_28 March and 3 April. In CHaOS Talks at Crash, Bang, Squelch! enthusiastic CHaOS volunteers reveal some jaw-dropping science during a series of live stream talks on everything from seeing, spies and seaweed, to the physics of rollercoasters and the lives of stars. In CHaOS: Scientific Stories at Crash, Bang, Squelch! the team share some of their favourite experiments, such as chemicals that go bang, contraptions that defy gravity, or medical facts that blow your mind. Expect gory guts, icky insides and mini explosions. In The Experiment Files at Crash, Bang, Squelch! children get to complete two weird and wonderful experiments in real time – from using ketchup to clean coppers and making mini explosions, to creating their own sunset.  

Who said that science and literacy don’t mix?  Science Storytime! (26 March, 11-11.30am; 29 March, 11-11.30am; 2 April, 11-11.30am) is a series of events led by researchers and staff members at the Babraham Institute, children are introduced to scientific ideas and people through fun stories, including: ‘Battle Robots of the Blood’ an engaging story about our immune system; the inspiring ‘Little People, Big Dreams: Jane Goodall’ based on the work of real-life scientist Dame Jane Goodall; and ‘The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch’, about a lighthouse keeper whose lunch keeps being stolen by seagulls and his wife must come up with a way to stop this (this story introduces the scientific method of creating ideas and then testing them).

Further events for young children include A Virtual Exploration of the Botanic Garden (26 March-4 April, all day), and the very first Polar Museum’s Little Explorers Quiz (26 March-4 April, all day).

The Festival programme is teeming with events for teenagers. Highlights include a host of games including one about stopping a pandemic, Pathogen: 2020 Lockdown version (3 April, 2pm-4.30pm). The game puts players in the heart of the World Health Organisation where they must investigate reports of an emerging pandemic. It is played in real time and requires each player to make fast moral decisions and solve science-based puzzles. In Battle of the Beasts (26 March, 7pm-7.45pm), an interactive fun game show from the Museum of Zoology, experts compete for votes for the best adaptation in the animal kingdom, most creative tool use and more. And in Zombie Virus: Can you save Cambridge? (26 March-4 April, all day) players must identify the origin of a mysterious virus spreading in Cambridge and turning everyone into zombies and work out how it is transmitting.

There are also several engaging talks such as Ask the Experts: Aliens! (28 March, 5pm) during which evolutionary biologist, Wallace Arthur, takes on all things alien, answering questions about extra-terrestrial life. In Ask the Experts: The Cosmic Edition (26 March, 11am), cosmologists Geraint F. Lewis and Luke A. Barnes have a go at answering a series of mind-blowing questions about the big bang, space, time, and just what it is that goes on out there.

English words such as ‘shenanigans’, ‘smithereens’ and ‘whiskey’, are commonly thought of as borrowings from Irish. In Craic and Shenanigans in Search of English Words Borrowed from Irish (1 April, 7pm-7.30pm), find out exactly which are, which are not, and which might be during this talk that promises a plentiful supply of both craic and shenanigans at every stage.

In Bringing buildings to life: Smart infrastructure at the Civil Engineering Building (3 April 2pm-3pm), curious minds can virtually visit the Civil Engineering Building – home to the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC). During the visit, they get to see how smart infrastructure literally brings a building to life by engaging with platforms that collect and visualise rich streams of data coming from sensors deployed across the structure that let researchers know if the building is performing as designed. Researchers at CSIC also explain the importance and capabilities of smart buildings, as well as share ideas about the fascinating future of our built environment.

In University Herbarium Hack workshop - learn how you can take part! (26 March, 2.30-3.30pm) teenagers learn how to become a virtual volunteer for this exciting and new-for-Cambridge citizen science project that will help us unlock our amazing biodiversity data for global conservation, science, and heritage research efforts.

There are further events specifically aimed at high school students, including:

  • Complex Adventures: live online mathematical workshop for 15-17 year olds (27 March, 2pm-3pm) The University's NRICH team presents a live interactive online workshop exploring the world of complex numbers.  With a bit of mathematical bravery, we break the rules and delve into a new mathematical landscape.
  • Thinking Mathematically: live online workshop for 11-14 year olds (27 March, 12.15pm-1pm) The NRICH team present another interactive online workshop on some of their favourite mathematical problems. Be prepared to explore, explain and generalise, and discover that everyone can enjoy thinking mathematically!
  • The British Economy after Brexit (26 March, 9am-5pm; daily from 29 March - 31 March, 9am-5pm) An interactive digital event designed for Year 12 and Year 13 A-Level (and equivalent) students in Economics and the social sciences. It consists of an on-line streamed presentation on the British economy by Professor Tony Cockerill, followed by interactive Zoom-based live discussion webinars for School Teams.
  • Biological Sciences Masterclass (29 March-1 April, 6pm-7pm) Biological Science masterclasses for year 12 students interested in applying for Biological Sciences at university. Each masterclass includes a lecture, a practical demonstration and data interpretation led by scientists.
  • Medical Masterclass (29 March-1 April, 6pm-7pm) Medical masterclasses for year 12 students interested in applying for medicine at university. Each masterclass starts with a lecture by clinical academic pathologists and builds on A-level learning.

There are even more events to keep the entire family entertained, starting with two exciting, fun escape rooms. Can your family team defeat the Department of Pathology's Virtual Escape Room (27 March, 10am-10.45am, 11.30am-12.15pm, 1pm-1.45pm, 2.30pm-3.15pm)? Or how about becoming a Babraham Institute researcher and puzzling your way through a world of science in Breakout at BI: The Cell Escape (26 March-4 April, all day). These online escape room style events are fun for all the family with no specific expertise or prior knowledge needed (though puzzle solving skills definitely give you the edge!).  

Other family-centred games include 2050: A New World (28 March, 2pm-4pm and 4 April, 2pm-4pm), a policy-making boardgame where players develop strategies to move towards a future where climate change is mitigated. You’ll make tough decisions with limited resources, enact policies to reach your city's 2050 sustainability goals, and allocate local resources. What would you be willing to change for a sustainable, resilient life? And in Animal Adventurers (26 March-4 April, all day) players build a team of animals to help search for treasure in the Museum of Zoology.   

One unmissable event is the sure to be lively Talkaoke Asks... (27 March, 4.30pm-6pm and 3 April, 4.30pm-6pm) a pop-up talk show, enabling conversations between anyone. The Talkaoke experience is a journey from one unexpected subject to another. It can be topical, funny, deep, out-there, or all the above. Experts from the Wellcome Genome Campus, the University of Cambridge and other Cambridge institutes offer a fun-filled, often surprising, conversational adventure.

There is even more talking at the Mother Tongue Other Tongue Celebration Event (31 March, 2pm-5pm), with stars of the 2020 Mother Tongue Other Tongue competition performing their winning entries to a wider audience. Presented by Slam Poet champion, Joelle Taylor who also performs her poems. Led by Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, the Mother Tongue Other Tongue project has been rolled out nationally as a Laureate Education Project.

The Cambridge Festival would not be a festival without a fair and this year there are two to check out. The Serendipity Fair (26 March-4 April, all day) presents loads of games, activities, chats, videos and more from the Wellcome-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science. Ask questions or tell us what you think in chats with real scientists. There are also videos to watch, a competition to enter and giveaways to send off for if you’re quick! The Earth Optimism's Solutions Fair (26 March-4 April, all day) is a dynamic, interactive series of activities, providing information about the choices we can all make in our lives to take positive actions for the planet. Find out how to reduce your carbon footprint, increase biodiversity and live more sustainably. There are stalls from a wide range of people, from local eco-businesses to international conservation organisations covering everything from eating more sustainably and making our gardens wildlife friendly, to using our pensions to tackle the climate crisis and participating in citizen science.

In a related event, Citizen Science in Conservation (27 March, 10am-12pm) is an engaging and lively workshop where everyone can discover how to become an ambassador for biodiversity conservation and help conservation organisations collect data to monitor and protect wildlife.

A few other events that should get the whole family’s brain cells fizzing include the Wellcome Genome Campus Hackathon (29 March-1 April, all day) where everyone can have a go at coding, whether a skilled coder or a first timer. Throughout the Festival at noon every day, the Institute of Astronomy is also hosting live online crafty workshops, from making your own planet and galactic baking to exploding planets and a virtual exploration of the Universe, during Astronomy Crafting Activities (29 March-3 April, 12-1pm). Meanwhile, in Lets talk about poo! (26 March, 5pm-5.45pm) Professor Stephen Baker, Molecular Microbiologist and ‘the super sleuth of poop’, shares a fascinating view down his microscope to reveal ‘what’s in your poo’, ‘what can your poo tell us’ and why ‘a healthy gut means a healthy you’. And finally, Who doesn’t love ice cream? In The science of ice cream (26 March-4 April, all day) find out about the science behind why ice cream tastes so good.

Commenting on the programme of events for children and families, Festival Manager David Cain said: “We are extremely excited to be hosting such a huge range of online events for the whole family to enjoy at the very first Cambridge Festival. These events are designed to get people involved, to inspire, engage and enthuse everyone, alongside offering a large dose of fun and entertainment. What better way to learn about the wider world around us? I encourage everyone to dive in and browse through the programme. There’s bound to be something that grabs your attention!”

The Festival believes that it is never too early to begin investigating the world around us. That is why the team have created a magazine packed with exciting activities. Full of ‘try this at home’ activities, including hands-on experiments and knowledge-boosting quizzes, you can even try your hand at creating your own windowsill garden, giant sea-scorpion, or perfume. Or why not travel to the moon, write a secret message, and learn to tell the time with water? The ‘Festival Zine’ is available to download online.

A hard copy of the Festival Zine can be requested by emailing:

View the full programme of events at: Many events require pre-booking, please check the events listings on the Festival website. 

Keep up to date with the Festival on social media:

Instagram @Camunifestivals

Facebook: @CambridgeFestival

Twitter: @Cambridge_Fest

The Festival sponsors and partners are AstraZeneca and RAND Europe. The Festival media partners are BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and Cambridge Independent.