Headline talks announced for inaugural city-wide Norwich Science Festival

Mark Thompson at the Forum

Mark Thompson at the Forum - Credit: Archant

Over the course of two weeks this autumn the city will be exploring the wonders of science in the region through theatrics, talks and exhibitions for all ages.

Lord Winston

Lord Winston - Credit: Archant

The inaugural city-wide Norwich Science Festival has announced its first wave of headline speakers, from physicists and biologists to astronomers and campaigners.

One of the star talks will come from leading geneticist Professor Robert Winston, exploring the ethics of exploiting gene technology.

His topic: MODIFYING HUMANS: where does genetics stop?; will also unravel the politics of genetics with the rapid rise of far right movements across the world.

'This is about the history of genetics and how it has been used and misused, and what the risks might be,' said Prof Winston.

Sir Isaac Newton science pupils

Sir Isaac Newton science pupils - Credit: Archant


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'The Nazis are the most obvious example of that and there are numerous examples of people who have been massively abused by the misuse of genetics. 'The whole eugenics movement is an example of that. Genocides are largely based on genetics because they are waged against a different genetic population. The motivation for this is usually aggression, dominance and racial prejudice. At the moment in our society we are seeing a great deal of racial prejudice, and the rise of the right will certainly be a theme.

'The rise of people like Marine le Pen in France and Donald Trump, who could become president if we are not careful, are examples of people using that genetic message.'

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The presenter of TV shows including The Human Body and The Child in Time added there is a real need to bring science into public consciousness. 'If we do not talk about how science might be misused it is our failure, it is about the most important thing we can do,' he said. 'People need to know what the issues are to make wise decisions, and it is our job to be fair, lucid and some times entertaining.

'It is a question of telling it as it is and making sure you are trusted. Experts need to be talking about these subjects.'

The festival runs through 18 to 30 October and is being organised by The Forum with the support of partner organisations.

Tim Bishop, chief executive of The Forum said the ambition is to make the Norwich Science Festival a highlight of the social calendar across the country.

'Our aim is to celebrate science in Norwich,' he said. 'We have a brief around heritage but at the same time we have an interest in technology, jobs and employment. It feels science would reflect all of those things.

'Science in Norwich can be quite hidden from the public view, and while we all think of Norwich as a fantastic city for culture, the jobs of the future will come from a whole variety of other areas.

'What is great is that all the scientists involved in the festival realise all of that and are aware a lot of what they do needs to be explained to the public.'

The Forum is the hub venue for the Festival with events also planned at The Norwich Playhouse, OPEN and Norwich Arts Centre. Many of the Festival events are free to attend on a drop-in basis, with pre-book ticketed talks and lectures costing between £4 and £15 per ticket.

Tickets are now on sale for the following headline talks:

-Professor Robert Winston, renowned for his work in fertility and pioneer of new treatments to improve in vitro fertilisation (IVF), delivers a talk on genetics and its uses and misuses: Wednesday 19 October

-Helen Czerski, oceanographer and physicist, analyses the importance of oceans and their effect on our everyday lives: Thursday 20 October

-Tony Juniper, campaigner and government adviser, looks at the value of restoring nature and what can be done to achieve it in one generation: Friday 21 October

-Ben Garrod, Norfolk-born evolutionary biologist, presents evidence of the county's evolutionary past on a journey spanning nearly one million years: Saturday 22 October

-Mark Thompson, astronomer and Norfolk resident, presents two shows; a family spectacular science show and an evening event for space fans: Tuesday 25 October.

Ticket information can be found on the website: www.norwichsciencefestival.co.uk.

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