Town and gown festival returns

Philippa Hanna performing at the gig
Philippa Hanna performing at the gig

THE University of Sheffield’s Festival of the Mind is set to be repeated after the success of the first event this year which attracted more than 16,000 visitors in 11 days.

It will return to the city firstly as a mini-festival next September and then as a full festival in autumn 2014 creating new projects, ideas and collaborations to inspire Sheffield again.
As part of its public engagement programme the university has committed funding aimed at making it even bigger and better than this year. Events will again take place across the city and centre around the 1920s cabaret spiegeltent that captivated audiences in Barkers Pool this year.

The first Festival of the Mind in September was the brainchild of Prof Vanessa Toulmin, the university’s Head of Cultural Engagement, and showman sculptor Anthony Bennett. The 11 day experience featured 56 city-wide events, including tours of the University’s ‘secret’ Alfred Denny Museum, a poem being launched into space and an army of robots creating art, to name but a few of the weird and wonderful highlights.
As the first of its kind it achieved international media coverage.

Prof Vanessa Toulmin said: “We were blown away by the success of Festival of the Mind. Everyone worked so hard, but we never could have anticipated 16,000 visitors, it was fantastic. I knew the people of Sheffield would have a real appetite to engage with our research if we presented in the right way, and this just shows how much potential this kind of activity has.”
“We’ve got big ambitions for the next one,” she continued. “This year’s festival was a great opportunity to learn what works really well and has given us some brilliant ideas for next time around. I want more next time. I want more projects, more collaboration, more interaction with the parts of Sheffield that we need to reach out to most. I think what was most rewarding about the whole thing was hearing feedback from members of the public. People saying that they thought they couldn’t afford university, but it came to them. Academic colleagues have been really inspired by this to go out into the community and make their research count to the people of Sheffield.”
Prof Keith Burnett, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: “The Festival of the Mind was a wonderful success and a real tribute to the combined energy and talent of the University and Sheffield’s creative community. From science to poetry, from philosophy to computer design, we shared our ideas and 16,000 people joined us. We saw the excitement and inspiration which results when ideas are shared and we want to do more.
“Over the next year we will continue to welcome the public to events in the University and take the University out into the city and beyond as well as holding another Festival in 2014,”

Prof Toulmin, who established the National Fairground Archive at the University of Sheffield has been Head of Cultural Engagement for 18 months with a brief to break down the barriers between the general public and academia through cultural activities, making the university, its staff, students and research more accessible and appealing to the people of Sheffield and beyond.
The public engagement team has been expanded with the recruitment of Amy Carter, previously Head of Arts for Sheffield City Council, and the appointment of Greg Oldfield, university external relations manager.

Other plans include a science festival in March and partnerships with city organisations such as Sheffield Children’s Festival, Off the Shelf and Tramlines, building on collaborations which have already taken place with the National Fairground Archive.
“We want to capitalise on the success of Festival of the Mind and keep the momentum going, reach out further and engage even more. Our University was founded by the people of Sheffield, so it’s only right that we put them at the heart of what we do.

“I’m a schlepper,” says the academic who emerged from a Lancashire fairground family, “and I like to be involved in many different areas and not be bound by academia.”