Polar Week: Reflections on UKPN Festivals

Background to festivals

The last 2 years have been somewhat uncertain with the pandemic, but the UK Polar Network (UKPN) festivals team have been busy as ever organising online events, as well as gradually returning to in-person ones. There are multiple reasons for UKPN hosting festivals, including delivering scientific communication to the general public and providing a platform to early career researchers to develop their networks and experience.  

UKPN at the National Maritime Museum

In October 2021, coordinators Chloe and Connor organised a festival facilitated by the National Maritime Museum (NMM) in Greenwich, London, with around 10 UKPN volunteers delivering science talks, hosting workshops and guessing where the Titanic sank over a 4-day period. The talks included the volunteers discussing their career as a researcher and polar impacts in a changing climate, with workshops incorporating polar adaptions, glacier flow (cornflour and water!) and dressing up as a polar scientist in field kit. 


Each day started at around 9 am and ended at 4 pm with events running simultaneously. At any one time, the UKPNs 3D polar maps were being adored on the ‘Great Map’ section of the museum, while downstairs talks were taking place, glaciers constructed and animals were being forged by children with some rather interesting adaptions! Seeing the children engaged with the events left us with a ‘this is why we do this’ kind of moment and hopefully, some will remember their experience and be encouraged to continue the passion we saw over the 4 days.

This was our first in-person event since the pandemic struck and we received fantastic feedback from the museum saying visitors returned each day for our activities, bolstering their numbers as well as increasing our visibility to the general public. It would be remiss of us to highlight this event without a mention of our fantastic volunteers who developed materials and ideas prior to the event, as well as delivering the content. We had a range of people, including undergraduate and postgraduate students, PhD and postdoctoral researchers and teachers. For a lot of our volunteers, it was their first experience delivering outreach and they took to it like a duck to water! The reason we’re mentioning this is because we offer volunteering positions all year round to help with science festivals and if you’re interested, please do get in touch and/or keep an eye out on our mailing list for opportunities.

Upcoming festivals for UKPN

Just recently, we hosted 3 online events over 2 days at the Cardiff Science Festival in February 2022. In June of this year, we’re headed down to the Cheltenham Science Festival to deliver 5 polar workshops to both school and home-schooled children, including albedo experiments, Antarctic food webs and a changing Arctic.

Due to the success of the NMM event, we are currently working on making the event an annual one where UKPN can utilise the fantastic space of the museum and have a permeant base for delivering outreach, so stay tuned!

Some of the previous events we have hosted activities at:

  • British Science Festivals (Birmingham, Aberdeen Newcastle)
  • Regional Science Festivals (Dundee, Southampton, Cardiff, Edinburgh)
  • Blue Dot Festival
  • World of Music Arts and Dance

Get in touch

We strongly encourage organisations who are interested in UKPN delivering outreach to their audience to get in touch with us (festivals@polarnetwork.org). As said previously, our volunteers are often the highlight for both the festival and the general public delivering superb scientific communication, so if you are interested in any opportunities, once again get in touch with us, we would love to hear from you!