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bluedot 2018 | the music/science/arts festival that needs to be on your radar

If I were to start this post saying ‘I went to a science festival and loved it!‘ then I fear many of you may think it’s not your cup of tea.  Not everybody is a bona fide physics geek, after all.  If I said ‘I went to a festival and had a fab time with my friends and listened to cool music and saw fascinating talks and drank gin in the sun‘ instead, then I’m pretty sure more ears would be pricked.   However both are absolutely true, as I headed to Bluedot festival for my second time and enjoyed it even more than last year.  Rather than give a lengthy introduction to what is bound to be a lengthy post I’ll just jump straight in, so if festivals/music/science/fun in the sun are your thing, read on.

On Saturday morning I went for a wee wander and took a few snaps whilst I waited for Erin to arrive, then headed to the first talk on our list – ‘Is Life Quantum Mechanical?’ with Jim Al-Khalili.  Short answer – absolutely yes.  Long answer – read ‘Life on the Edge’ (already ticked that one off the list).  The first talk I saw from Jim was actually years ago at a school science event in Manchester, and I distinctly remember finding it fascinating and being one of the moments that made me certain I wanted to pursue physics in some way or another.  Still deciding what ‘some way or another’ actually is, but I’m on that route now!

After refueling on paella and iced coffee because it was hot in that tent, we headed back in what we thought would be plenty of time for Richard Dawkins and Jim Al-Khalili’s discussion/talk… only to find the queue was already the length of the field.  Literally my only bugbear with the whole festival was that I think the organisers underestimated the popularity of the talks – a lotta people wanted to see ‘Science in the Soul’ thrashed out and the tent couldn’t cope!  Scientists on the main stage whilst the musicians take the tents for a wee while next year yeah?  I really really really wanted to see this one and thankfully having a press pass meant I got in, but it was a real shame for those who queued and didn’t.  I guess that just goes to show how popular it was.  Soooo many people queueing to learn about physics just makes me happy.  All kinds of people were in that queue and in the audience – all ages!  All genders!  All backgrounds!  Exactly what I love about this festival.  Like I said on Instagram, I’m pretty sure they can’t all be of the physics student variety like me, but there they were regardless because this stuff is interesting for everyone.  If you don’t find debates on free will or heaven and hell even slightly interesting, what’s wrong with you huh?

I’ve spoken openly about my views on religion on the blog before and let’s just say I agree with the Dawkins way of thinking, by which I mean I couldn’t really be more atheist.  So naturally I was amongst those in the audience (the vast majority) chuckling at the jibes at religion.  To quote Dawkins, ‘Have you actually read the Bible?  Because if you have, don’t get your morals from there’, is a pretty good summary of my thoughts on the topic, but I’ll save those for another time.  After I’ve read my (signed) copy of Science in The Soul, maybe.

Glad I could experience Bluedot with my fave fellow science-y gal again!  Erin will be sharing all things sustainability from Bluedot over on her blog so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Said it last year and I’ll say it again – who needs a Coachella ferris wheel when you have a rather large telescope?

Somehow I found myself at the book stall approximately 28 times over the weekend but with a selection like this, can you blame me?  Don’t get me wrong, I love a novel, but find ‘popular science’ books addictive too.  Was a good job my bag wouldn’t hold any more or I’d have probably come home carrying half the shop.   Richard Dawkins ‘Science in the Soul’ (obviously), ‘Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong’, and ‘Selfie: How We Became so Self-Obsessed’ formed my little book haul, and I then arrived home on Sunday to find my mum had bought the last one too.  Great minds or what?

Mixed it up by heading over to the comedy tent on Saturday evening, and had a good old chuckle at Robin Ince.

Somehow I managed to miss the globe on my way into the festival so the first time I saw it was lit up at night, which I have to say was pretty impressive!

Alice Roberts was another speaker on my ‘must see’ hit list and her talk on ‘Species that Changed Our World’ didn’t disappoint, with stories of research trips to the Arctic (apparently killing time shooting Danish biscuits with rifles played a part), cool facts about how animals have influenced our lives, and annoying geneticists changing their mind and ‘science’ changing every 3 months.  Where else but Bluedot festival would you be learning to tell the difference between dog and wolf skulls whilst a brass band plays Lady Gaga tunes outside, too?

How I’ve made it this far into a post without mentioning food I’m not sure, but yes, food.  Lots of very yummy food, to be precise.  My diet is of the ‘I eat anything but especially halloumi‘ variety, but I’m pretty sure most diets were catered for, from vegan to gluten free to meat lover to veggie.  A van with ‘We love meat’ emblazoned on the side was parked next to a vegan stall which I found mildy amusing but yes, all the food for all the people.  I won’t lie, it wasn’t exactly cheap (more so for snacks than main meals), but that’s standard fare with festival food I guess!

After a pretty drizzly start to the day the clouds finally cleared for a wee while on Sunday, and blue sky never hurts as a backdrop.  As you can see the festival was pretty busy and tickets sold out, but other than aforementioned mad queues for the talks, it didn’t feel overwhelmingly crowded.

Next up, a gin masterclass with Portobello Road Gin.  Learnt that gin is actually vodka until it’s botanically flavoured (only me who just realised this?), what defines a London Dry Gin, and that liquorice root does not taste nice to chew.  Drank several samples of the classic gin too of course!  Ft. bobble on wrist because how else could one possibly accessorise.  Also, how the hell people keep festival wristbands on for months (or years) I do not know.  Drove me mad sleeping with it just for one night.

Was mildly entertaining watching people take Leaning Tower of Pisa style ‘holding the Earth’ photos.  Why not eh?

Not the most ~festival~ of outfits but there you go.  Given that the weather forecast changed a good 6 times throughout the week I had literally no idea what to pack, so had a cute dress for day 1 and this rather boring culottes and shirt combo for day 2.  Sunday morning was pretty grey and rainy so wearing my short playsuit seemed risky, but lo and behold the sun came out and with it came sticky Lily.  But if others are wearing sequined catsuits and tassel bras (and spacesuits… and hotpants) without batting an eyelid then I’m sure getting my bralette out to cool off for 5 minutes isn’t a disaster.

I stopped by the Women of Science stand a couple of times, and loved the messages written on these cards.  Damn right brains and vaginas are not mutually exclusive.

My Sunday was rounded off with another talk from Jim Al-Khalili, who stepped in and whipped up a few words on quantum entanglement when Anna Scaife unfortunately couldn’t make it due to a shoulder injury.  My fave line – ‘Physics is just a bit of common sense and a bit of algebra, that’s all there is to it’ – HA.  Please sit my exams for me Jim ok?  I think the gin beforehand made quantum entanglement slightly easier to follow tbh, might employ that tactic in future.

Whilst killing a bit of time before my dad picked me up I noseyed into some of the smaller areas of the festival I hadn’t yet checked out, and found myself watching 8 (maybe 9?) year old Evan absolutely belting out Blondie like a lil superstar.  What a guy.

Thanks for having me again, Bluedot!  I’ll be recommending this festival to anyone who’ll listen to me and will 100% be back next year.  Until next time, pale blue dot.

Lily Kate x

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My tickets to Bluedot were complimentary, however all opinions and geeking out 100% my own.

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