Festival of the Mind: Sounds of the Cosmos

As part of the 2014 Festival of the Mind, I co-organised a public event at the Octagon Centre on 18 Sept 2014 with Stewart Campbell (Dept of Music) that involved a live performance of Gustav Holst's Planets Suite by the Sheffield Rep. Orchestra (conductor George Morton), interspersed with short astronomy talks, plus original visuals by local design agency Human.

A post-performance survey was completed by 175 respondents (760 attended), of whom 98% rated the event either very good (19%) or excellent (79%), and 97% learnt a bit (39%) or a lot (58%). Individual comments included:

It was wonderful to combine the live performance by the orchestra with the statistics and visuals and to remind us of the scale and diversity of the stars and planets. The kids loved it too!
The depth and breadth of astronomical knowledge presented by Paul Crowther
My 8 year old son was fascinated by the university buildings and started a big discussion on what made people want to study, how you choose what to study, where you live and 'is university like school?' Great experience in the concert but also fab for opening up my sons mind to future possibilities
The nature of presenting research information through art and music. also the shear scale of the cosmos
The way that astrophysics - something that hasn't been a particular interest before - was so interesting and evolving all the time. Also, the way that two parts of the university (physics and music) could collaborate to provide such a wonderful evening!
The combination of music and astronomy - together they combined to make an event that was so much more than either of them alone - the event attracted the very young, and held their attention, as well as the more mature - observing people leaving afterwards there was a more thoughtful atmosphere than is usual after a concert
The event was amazing, something really unique
The visuals were amazing and matched the information given extremely well. A good way of helping to retain information
The talks between movements were very interesting (especially the final thought!) and the visuals helped greatly. I also much enjouyed the orchestra's playing
Sheffield Rep Orchestra. Courtesy Gary Hewitt

Pillars in Carina. Courtesy Gary Hewitt

Orchestra. Courtesy Gary Hewitt

Globular Cluster. Courtesy Gary Hewitt

Conductor George Roberts. Courtesy Gary Hewitt

Paul Crowther. Courtesy Gary Hewitt

Sheffield Rep Orchestra. Courtesy Gary Hewitt

Paul Crowther and Orchestra. Courtesy Gary Hewitt

Sheffield Rep Orchestra. Courtesy Gary Hewitt

In addition, a dedicated schools matinee performance was held, plus astronomy-themed activities for local schools and the STFC Seeing the Universe in all its light roadshow. 65 percent of respondents to a questioonaire from the University WP Research and Evaluation team stated that the event increased their interest in physics. Feedback from respondents' questionnaires included the following:

I was really fascinated in the end and I would like to say well done for this amazing day
I love Sheffield University and I'd like to go there when I'm older
I want to go again!

The Solar System film is available above, with other films available via iTunesU.

STFC roadshow. Courtesy Gary Hewitt

Telescope at STFC roadshow. Courtesy Gary Hewitt

ALMA model at STFC roadshow. Courtesy Gary Hewitt

Thermal imaging camera at schools workshop. Courtesy Gary 

Making comets at schools workshop. Courtesy Gary 

Sounds of the Cosmos poster on bus. Courtesy Nick Bax

Sounds of the Cosmos poster. Courtesy Nick Bax

Images are courtesy of Human Studio, Gary Hewitt and Nick Bax.