British Science Festival entices Sue Townsend, Tony Robinson and Ben Goldacre to Midlands

By Ben Miller | 25 August 2010
A photo of a man giving a presentation on a stage

(Above) Catch Bad Science author Ben Goldacre's words of warning, wit and wisdom as part of the British Science Festival. badscience.net

Festival: British Science Festival, various venues, Birmingham, September 14 – 19 2010

Last November, everyone’s favourite fictional angst-ridden geek, Adrian Mole, returned in The Prostrate Years, the latest episode in the long-running diary series dreamed up by the impish mind of writer Sue Townsend.

There is every chance it would have been the final instalment from Ashby-de-la-Zouch’s most troubled son had it not been for the dextrous work of doctors at Leicester General Hospital, who took two attempts to replace Townsend’s failing kidney with one donated by her son in an eight-hour operation the following month.

At the time, beyond admitting that her family had got together “behind my back” to come up with their life-saving plan, little was heard from Townsend about her experience, but the best-selling author will be breaking her silence to tell her story in an appearance hosted by the BBC’s Vivienne Parry at Aston University next month.

Along with a discussion of the discoveries which have afforded transplant patients real hope and a “challenging” debate on the ethical issues surrounding transplant science, the Medical Research Council-hosted talk forms part of a 2010 Science Festival programme veering from the more lighthearted – Johnny Ball’s prize-laden Blood, Guts and Gore rumble, award-winning stand-up and former science teacher Shazia Mirza – to well-known small screen faces such as Professor Iain Stewart and Kate Bellingham.

A photo of a woman gawping at a wall

Comedian Shazia Mirza. Image: shazia-mirza.com

Bad Science poster boy Ben Goldacre will be exposing all manner of skulduggery from pharmaceutical companies with his trademark breathlessness, and Tony Robinson’s love of archaeology and history should prove as infectious as ever when he looks back on his pre and post-Baldrick passion for excavation and exploration.

Townsend’s tale is a fitting starting point for a campaign with a theme of Better Lives Through Science this time around, positioning Birmingham as the innovative epicentre for hands-on activities throughout the week, as well as revelations on the part lab breakthroughs are playing in extending our old age or solving our genetic conundrums.

The programme is handily divided into attractions for targeted groups, allowing families, teenagers and adults with varying levels of knowledge to pick and choose the gigs they’re most likely to enjoy.

Amorous science festival fixture The Science of Pulling heads to Birmingham’s new-look Mac, Canadian rapper and board-treader Baba Brinkman gives a Rap Guide to Evolution at The Electric Cinema, the University of Leicester’s Dr Sally Horrocks explains why the interwar years were vital in bringing down the cost of chocolate and Jaguar roll up to reveal the ingenuity behind the Land Rover.

The closing weekend also sees a two-day grand finale in the city’s Centenary Square, complete with molecules trails, minibeasts on day release from the zoo and maths buskers. With an expected audience of more than 50,000 visitors, the latter group could be in for a particularly lucrative haul.

Weekly pass £120/£60, individual event tickets available. Visit the festival online or call 0207 019 4947 to book.

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