Edinburgh Science Festival – the largest science festival in Europe – will focus this year on the global climate crisis.

“Elementary” – the theme of the event – will use the ancient classification of Earth, Air, Fire and Water to explore global environmental challenges and opportunities.

Organisers launched the 32nd programme today, presenting 250 family and adult events at 34 venues between 4 and 19 April.

Striking a balance between urgency and optimism it highlights the roles that creative thinking, science, technology, engineering and related disciplines play in helping to secure a successful and sustainable future.  

From biodiversity, ecology and food security (Earth) and clean air (Air) to energy and climate policy (Fire) and marine biodiversity (Water), the Festival places its focus firmly on our environment.  As some of the ancients did, the Festival adds a fifth element, with a special focus on the digital world (Aether), exploring how to merge creative technology with live events to create new experiences for Festival audiences and on delivering more content online, taking science and culture to wider and more diverse audiences.

Amanda Tyndall, Festival and Creative Director at Edinburgh Science, said: “We share our planet with almost eight billion people and the collective environmental challenges we face have never been greater or more complex. As the custodians of planet Earth we have responsibility to ourselves and to future generations. The climate crisis is the defining local and global challenge of our age and as will be one of the great disruptors of the 21st century, radically reshaping how we live, work and play. But with disruption and uncertainty comes possibility….and with possibility comes hope… THIS hope is the elementary message at the heart of our 2020 Science Festival programme.”

Some of this year’s Festival highlights include:

  • Pale Blue Dot at the National Museum of Scotland: an interactive exhibition aimed at audiences of all ages, it explores the essential and life-giving nature of our oceans, with a focus on their important biodiversity and their role as providers of energy, transport, food and opportunities for leisure and pleasure. This large-scale exhibition is part of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 (YCW2020).
  • Into the Blue on Portobello Promenade: also part of YCW2020, this large-scale outdoor photography exhibition takes its audiences on a fascinating journey around Scottish coastlines, highlighting their biodiversity and potential, our relationships with our coasts and waters as well as the threats they face. Opens on 18 March.
  • Elemental at Summerhall: Bright Side Studios create a new digital immersive experience combining magic, alchemy and science. This art piece has been commissioned by Edinburgh Science and supported by the Scottish Government’s Festivals Expo Fund.
  • Edinburgh Medal Address in Council Chambers: the prestigious Edinburgh Medal is awarded to Sunita Narain, the Indian environmentalist and political activist who, as a member of the Prime Minister’s Council for Climate Change between 2007 and 2014, played a major role in Indian and global environment and development policy formulation. Her Medal address and a linked event from the Scottish Parliament will explore climate justice, equity and the links between climate and development.
  • City Art Centre: The Festival’s flagship family venue is a unique 5-floor science playground filled with exciting hands-on science activities for young minds, including the all-time favourites Blood Bar and ER as well as two new activities including Ocean Constructors (part of YCW2020), where little explorers build an underwater landscape, and Creative Coding with Marty the Robot. The building will also house three digital artworks supported by the Scottish Government’s Festivals Expo Fund.
  • Experimentarium at the Pleasance: a five-day celebration of hands-on science for all ages, where keen young minds will get a chance to dance with molecules, meet Scotland’s largest pests and prove that maths is anything but boring! 
  • Gastrofest, various venues: the ever-so-popular gastro-science strand takes inspiration from the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 as it tickles the taste buds with events on coastal cocktails, seaweeds and seasonings, whisky and cheese.
  • European Stone Stacking Championships, Dunbar: returning for the fourth year but its first time as part of the Science Festival, the Championship merge art and science, celebrating land art and taking materials found in nature and working with Earth’s gravity to create sculptural towers, archways and other awe-inspiring structures from rocks and stones.