Writtle University College and ARU have merged. Writtle’s full range of college, degree, postgraduate and short courses will still be delivered on the Writtle campus. See our guide to finding Writtle information on this site.

Chelmsford hosts national science festival for first time

Published: 4 August 2021 at 14:00

British Science Festival logo

Free festival brings world's most prominent scientific minds to Essex

Astronomers, birds of prey, athletes, chefs, artists, comedians, and musicians from all over the world will descend on the streets of Chelmsford from Tuesday 7 – Saturday 11 September for the British Science Festival 2021.

With over 100 free events – covering everything from local wildlife to space, and robotics to food – the British Science Festival will present some of the most prominent scientific minds, thought-leading academics, and captivating authors.

Held in partnership with Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), this year’s programme has been specially curated to highlight Chelmsford’s strengths, particularly in sustainability, healthcare, and social sciences.

The programme highlights include a takeover of Bell Meadow on the first day of the Festival, which will include a range of talks and hands-on workshops throughout the afternoon. Whether you're keen to try your hand at some ancient Egyptian gardening practices, or discover how conservationists 'track and trace' endangered species, these al-fresco events can be enjoyed by everyone – whilst sipping a delicious coffee from the nearby Acanteen or unwinding in picturesque surroundings.

Want to see your city reimagined? The Industry in Chelmsford walking tour to be held on Tuesday 7 September, will shed light on the city’s rich industrial heritage. It will be a great opportunity to explore the city on foot whilst unravelling its hidden history, ranging from WW2 espionage technology to pioneering electric streetlights and even space travel.

Or would you rather escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a solo walk through nature? The Peregrine - audio escape trail will take visitors on an audio tour of a 1.5 mile stretch of the Chelmer Valley Nature Reserve, narrated by the one and only Sir David Attenborough. A world-renowned nature book, The Peregrine brings the fastest bird on Earth – the magnificent migrating peregrine falcon, that visits the Essex countryside each autumn – to life. 

Before Mary Shelley, there was Margaret Cavendish – a prominent, early science writer originally from Colchester. Join The Margaret Cavendish poetry club on Tuesday 7 September to discover this fascinating figure and her imaginative scientific practice. This one-of-a-kind reading club will allow visitors to immerse themselves in the world and works of Margaret and learn how poetry and science go hand in hand. 

Why not take a seat on the Listening bench? Situated in the peaceful Bell Meadow Park in Chelmsford, this special bench will be open to the public throughout the Festival, offering a chance to listen to a collection of recordings of Essex women's stories of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’ll be a space to reflect on the lows, highs and everything in between, of the past 18 months. So, sit back, relax and hear the stories held within.

Brighten up Chelmsford by Creating your own mini meadow. Along with our friends at the Eden Project, this unique workshop will offer Chelmsford residents a chance to craft their own unique, special blend of ‘technosol’, a sustainable type of soil, using a mix of recycled materials. Find out what each ingredient adds to the mix and, once complete, take home wildflower seeds and watch them flourish. 

The Civic Theatre, situated in the heart of Chelmsford, will host Pandemic reflections with Sir Patrick Vallance (Chief Scientific Advisor) and Dr Jenny Harries OBE (Chief Executive, UK Health Security Agency) as they answer Chelmsford’s questions about the COVID-19 pandemic. Also at the Civic Theatre, you could be part of the audience at a recording of the BBC’s The Sky at Night, taking a journey through the fascinating world of space and astronomy. 

Come along to our extra special takeover on Friday night at Hot Box Live Events, Chelmsford’s only venue that solely puts on local and emerging acts. You can talk about sex, as historian Kate Lister discusses the history of human sexuality and challenges notions of shame in Sex, Shame and Stigma. Or experience the unique and wonderful world of Yellowstone's geothermal features in a completely new way in Yellowstone's geysers in concert

There’s plenty for young audiences too. On the last day of this year’s Festival – Saturday 11 September – Anglia Ruskin University will be hosting an extra special day of events and activities aimed at families. The event will be a jam-packed day of discovery and exploration, with the campus taken over with dozens of stalls, workshops, talks, and performances.  

These thought-provoking events are among a lineup of 100 free outdoor talks, immersive installations, and socially distanced indoor events that delve into the stories, ideas and the people behind science and innovation in Chelmsford and beyond. 

Antonio Benitez, Director of the British Science Festival said:

“Given the challenges of the past sixteen months for people and communities, and the difficulties faced by the festivals and live events sector, we feel incredibly pleased and proud to be presenting this ambitious and inspiring programme with Anglia Ruskin University.  

“We have curated a range of events that highlight both local stories and issues of international relevance, and celebrate the breadth and creativity of the cutting-edge research taking place in Chelmsford and across the UK. There will be opportunities to explore issues relating to the pandemic and other pressing concerns such as climate change, or alternatively to get as far away from the day-to-day as possible with interactive and immersive installations and experiences. 

“We are looking forward to welcoming audiences to Chelmsford and seeing the programme come to life in September, and the team are of course working hard behind the scenes to ensure that the Festival is delivered in a safe and COVID-secure way.”


The first British Science Festival meeting took place in York in 1831 and is one of the British Science Association’s leading engagement programmes. This is the first time in the Festival’s history that the event will be hosted in the city of Chelmsford, and its first visit to the county of Essex as well. 

Be it online, in person or a mixture of both, #BSF21 is not to be missed!

All tickets for the British Science Festival are completely free, but booking is essential. More information about each event and ticket bookings can be found at: www.britishsciencefestival.org.