As August comes to a close, many folk in Orkney begin to think about autumn. But before the seasons change there is the small matter of one of our most popular, and eclectic, events to focus on.
The Orkney International Science Festival - now in its 32nd year - has announced its programme this year, with a new hybrid format giving folk the chance to access events online wherever you are, and with the potential for community groups to set up their own screenings. It's all happening between 1st - 7th September at venues across the islands.
The festival is famous for its fascinating range of walks, talks, and activities. This year is will feature reports of development in fields such as renewable energy, with wave and tidal power and the use of hydrogen for transport. There is also news of applications of genetics to research on new vaccines, and of a new approach for social work and mental health in creating a climate of understanding by professionals.
There will be a look at new insights into the mystery of animal navigation and the homing ability of pigeons, and on the origins of Orkney’s ancient six-rowed bere barley, which could have been in the islands for more than 4,000 years. There will be new insight into a skill where the human brain can still shine above artificial intelligence – the ability to deal with uncertainty, and also the latest frontline information on climate change from a world expert on sea ice. A new approach to land regeneration will be highlighted, which brings environment and wildlife and people together.
It's a rich mix of events, including music created from recordings of renewable energy, from the sounds of wind turbines and underwater hydrophones. Two concerts in the 12th-century St Magnus Cathedral will bring together music, astronomy and history. A candlelight lecture in the 17th-century Earl’s Palace looks back at a time when modern science was taking shape amidst a European war.
There is the story of Arctic whalers and Antarctic rescues, a look back to the days of early radio and crystal sets, and the story of the Shetland salt fish industry and the cultural links that it opened across the north. There are stories of shipwrecks and marine salvage, and the life of the Caithness crofter’s son who invented the electric clock and the fax machine.
And for families , don’t miss out on the Family Day on 3rd September at the Kirkwall Town Hall, or the legendary Mr Boon who will be performing on the same day at Orkney Library. Last year’s previous performance of Mr. Boon can also be accessed online.
For people travelling to Orkney to attend in person, there are walks and outings as well, and workshops including making paper by the sea. For those not able to travel, a number of events are online, which opens up the possibility for community groups anywhere to livestream them for viewing in a social setting. All the online events are freely available on YouTube.