Revealed: Full line-up for British Science Festival 2021

Published: 8 July 2021 at 13:00

British Science Festival talk

Headline events include ‘in conversation’ with Sir Patrick Vallance and Dr Jenny Harries

The British Science Association (BSA) has today (8 July) unveiled the full programme and opened bookings for the British Science Festival 2021. The rescheduled event is set to be one of the most ambitious science festivals in the UK since the start of the pandemic, with over 100 free events taking place during the five days of the Festival.

Held in partnership with the Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), the Festival will transform the city of Chelmsford into a celebration of science and culture from Tuesday 7 – Saturday 11 September.

This year’s programme has been specially curated to highlight the region’s strength in sustainability, healthcare and social sciences. The British Science Festival will offer a mix of outdoor talks, immersive installations, and socially distanced indoor events that delve into the stories, ideas and the people behind science and innovation.

Highlights of this year’s programme include:

Events to challenge and provoke

Hear from the Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance, and Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the new UK Health Security Agency, in a special in-conversation style event where they will discuss the learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on trust in science.

Join neuroscientist Gina Rippon and computer scientist Robert Elliot Smith as they share their unique insights on the misinformation that threatens the state of our climate, public health and more in Fake news fighters.

Neuroscientist Jane Aspell, from ARU, will discuss her latest research into out of body experiences and other related neurological conditions in which the self is fundamentally altered at her event, Out of body, in the mind.

Immersive and interactive experiences

Experience the world premiere of BODY, an outdoor immersive installation created by world-renowned artists, WALK THE PLANK, that takes you on a journey through six different zones of the body, mixing human biology with light, special effects, sound and fire. Discover The Peregrine, a book by Essex born J.A. Baker, on The Peregrination, by embarking on a solo audio nature tour on a 1.5mile circuit of the Chelmer Valley Nature Reserve, voiced by Sir David Attenborough.

Showcasing local places, spaces and people Come along to our extra-special British Science Festival takeover event at Bell Meadows and A Canteen in Chelmsford city centre on the first day, with short talks on topics as diverse as the evolution of speech, when sci-fi has become a reality, and what we can learn about sustainable gardening from ancient farming methods. Take part in an interactive music making workshop – Your brain on music therapy – to discover the role that sound can have on our brains.

And for something a bit different…

Join social psychologist, Viren Swami from ARU, as he explores the ways that nature has an impact on our wellbeing at Nature for wellbeing. Get stuck in with ARU artists and researchers, Sarah Strachan and Sally Stenton, as they guide you through a clay workshop incorporating clay from Chelmsford, Cambridge and Iraq at Stories from the earth: clay workshop.

These great events are among 100 free others from top scientists, artists, performers, academics and local community groups.

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 local stories, issues of international relevance and celebrates 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 programme covers topics one may not usually associate with science, demonstrating the breadth of science and the impact it has on everyone’s life. The organisers have put special emphasis on the fun, thought-provoking, and societal aspects of science, to show that it’s not just confined to laboratories, but something that’s all around us.

Professor Roderick Watkins, Vice Chancellor of ARU, said: 

“It is a huge honour to be working with the British Science Association and to be the host university for the British Science Festival. The Festival will be the biggest science event that Chelmsford has ever hosted, and our academics are putting on more than 30 fascinating talks, workshops and events on a wide range of subjects.

“We are very much looking forward to welcoming people back to our campus, and seeing the excitement generated by this festival all around our city. It has been a long wait, but we know it will be worth it.”


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 for families across the campus. Aimed at families from Chelmsford with children up to the age of 11, the event will be a jam-packed day of discovery and exploration. The university’s campus will be overtaken with dozens of stalls, workshops, talks, performances and much more.

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: