The Culture24/7: Science and Nature picks with a London Olympics twist for July 2012

By Ben Miller | 29 June 2012
A photo of an outdoor site ablaze with fire under a dark sky
Fiery fun at Stonehenge this month
© Boris Abalain
July isn't all about London 2012, although there's a lot to enjoy in Science and Nature because of it, not least in the form of a festival along the Exhibition Road home of the Science Museum. But across the country, as usual, there's plenty to look forward to. Here are a few we've spotted...

Royal Horticultural Society Flower Show, Hampton Court, Surrey, July 3-8

The RHS’s summer show at Hampton Court is a transcendentally relaxing, uplifting experience, as well as a return ticket to paradise for those with perennial green fingers.

Circling Long Water against the backdrop of the Palace, this year’s spectacular features garden styles from Switzerland, Russia, the Azores and Jordon, plus conceptual, show, summer and budget gardens, a Grow your Own marquee full of fruit, vegetables and herbs and a tent dedicated to the theme of Romance and Roses, inspired by Pre-Raphaelite art, sculpture, poetry and mythological characters.

Games Britannia – Replayed, Magna Science Adventure Centre, Rotherham, July 7-8

With Sheffield’s SUMO Digital giving a first glimpse of SEGA All Stars Racing, the Indie Zone unleashing adventures called Gunpoint and Girls Like Robots, and Nintendo presenting their Unleashed Tour of demos and exclusive, unreleased projects, this is a weekend ahead of the game for anyone into virtual perspiration.

Magna is aiming to cater for families, casual players and the hard-core, the latter of whom should be enthralled by talks from key figures behind the time-stealing Football Manager empire and the James Bond franchise.

Rhododendron Garden, Belsay Hall, Northumberland, reopening tour July 9

“There are surprises around every corner at Belsay,” reckons Jo Harrigan, the Head Gardener behind this project to restore and protect (via a fence, greenhouse and new paths) the century-old garden first planted by Sir Arthur Middleton within the glorious 30-acre Northumberland site.

You can enjoy the flowers, watch croquet on the sunken law or stroll through the enchanting nearby Quarry Gardens now. And if you missed the initial tour, a sequel takes place on the 9th.

Fire Garden, Stonehenge, Amesbury, July 10-12

Describing themselves as “French outdoor fire alchemists”, Compagnie Carabosse give Wiltshire’s finest stoneworks the fairytale look in a site-specific immersion of fire and music, with flaming fire pots and cascades of candles illuminating the henge as part of the London 2012 Festival.

Fire sculptures, concentric circles of flame you can walk through and huge fire balls marking calendar positions might sound scarily pyrotechnic, but the accomplished spark-starters have designed this to be suitable for all ages.

Superhuman, Wellcome Collection, London, from July 19

Do you strive to be stronger, bigger, better and faster? Aside from the obvious sense of shame for those who treat that question with faint timidity, this emphatic history of bravado runs from an ancient Egyptian prosthetic toe to sci-fi heroes, bidding to pin down the science and myths of current and past physical and chemical enhancement.

It begins playfully, with sex aids, iPhones, roller skates and height-doubling Vivienne Westwood shoes, before examining contraception, the attempts to “normalise” victims of Thalidomide more than 50 years ago and automated wheelchairs, explored through multi-disciplinary works from art pieces and photos to films and objects.

Make it in Great Britain, Science Museum, London, from July 24

British industry and innovation undoubtedly have a proud history – the creations our island can claim industrial responsibility for seem to set a seesaw swinging between lamenting the past and initiating a sense of defiant optimism for the future.

Make it in Great Britain, originally launched in 2011 by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, takes a look at the Formula 1 cars, jet planes, food, drink, pharmaceuticals and construction feats of our creative industries, adding a hopeful note by pointing out some of the career opportunities it still provides.

Exhibition Road Show, Exhibition Road, London, from July 28

The streetscape of a multitude of great museums will be turned into a “landscape of wonder” for the first nine days of the Olympics, welcoming new art commissions, short story readings, dancers, acrobats and live music, all held on pop-up stages aiming to show off the beauty of the buildings towering above them.

The programme is extensive, but science is at its core: you can explore the cosmos through a live meteor monitoring station, explore the role of the Polymath in the arts and sport, investigate patterns via honeycombs and see a particle accelerator and sci-related busking. This could be London’s road most travelled.
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