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Programme launched for 2021 Science Festival

The sea, sky and stars will take centre stage at the 31st Orkney International Science Festival this year.

Returning for the second time as an online festival, the full programme features more than 80 livestream events, with talks, workshops, concerts and more on offer, as well as daily guided ‘in-person’ walks in Orkney.

This year’s festival, which will be held between 2 – 8 September, will welcome contributions from as far afield as Canada, Greenland and Slovenia, and it’s hoped folk from around the world will join in.

“The online format has enabled us to bring in a range of additional speakers who would have been more difficult to get otherwise, and to develop some brand-new events specifically for this format,” says Festival Director, Howie Firth.

“We found that people were accessing events who had never been able to do so before, for reasons of health or travel or family commitments, and we’re looking forward to expanding further as the word gets around.”

The programme celebrates Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters by taking a look at the progress in tidal power, as well as the potential of offshore wind energy. A special event will also link the world’s islands to seek shared solutions for tackling marine and island waste.

Ahead of the COP26 United Nations Climate Conference taking place in Glasgow this November, the festival will look at new ideas for tackling climate change - including carbon capture and the use of hydrogen and batteries for transport.

There will also be a focus on the migration patterns of whales in the Arctic, walks through Rackwick and along Orkney’s sea-cliffs, 360-degree images of the island of Swona, its seals and feral cattle, and news of marine research at the new Orkney Research and Innovation Campus.

The Orkney Research and Innovation Campus


Astronomy events this year include an interview with Scotland’s new Astronomer Royal, Prof. Catherine Heymans of the University of Edinburgh, and news of the latest discoveries in gravitational waves.

There will also be workshops on navigating by the stars and on modelling small satellites, and the story of the first known inter-stellar object to enter the Solar System.

As always, archaeology talks will take place and the stories of Orcadians past and present will feature throughout the programme, including the naturalist Rev. George Low, to whom a plaque will be unveiled at his former manse in Birsay, and the great engraver Sir Robert Strange, born in Kirkwall 300 years ago.

And Orkney’s beautiful natural environment will be in the spotlight thanks to a series of daily guided walks with Orkney wildlife guide Megan Taylor. She will take small groups of people on coastal and hill walks, with locations ranging from Orphir and Yesnaby to Burwick and a day visit to Flotta. Early booking for the walks is recommended.

Yesnaby, Orkney


All the online presentations are free, apart from the workshops where a booking fee is needed.

The full festival programme and more information can be found on the official website. You can also find out more by following the festival on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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