Barker’s Pool Spiegeltent is all in the mind

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A 1920s cabaret-style Spiegeltent – a circular marquee decorated with mirrors and stained glass, one of the few left in the world – will go up in Barker’s Pool next week.

It will be a focalpoint for the University of Sheffield’s free 11-day Festival of the Mind, starting next Thursday, that brings together world-leading academics and some of the UK’s most famous artists and musicians for performances, exhibitions and other events

In total, 150 activities are being designed around the themes change, chaos, global, joy, resilience and urban, spreading to streets, galleries and disused buildings as well as the Spiegeltent.

Attractions include:

*A live musical performance by 150 musicians of Gustav Holst’s symphonic suite in a pop-up planetarium in the Octagon, led by the world’s leading astronomers and using imagery provided by NASA;

*Transformation of the University’s Arts Tower into a 225ft art installation using light waves to simulate natural chemical reactions;

*Biblical murals on the side of buildings by graffiti artist, Kid Acne,

*‘Pop-up’ gardens around the city centre created by Olympic Park designer and University academic Nigel Dunnett;

*An exhibition of residents’ Letters to Sheffield sharing what their city means to them.

The Spiegeltent will be one of the most high profile locations for the festival, which runs from September 11 to 28. It will host lectures and talks, some linked to the Off The Shelf Festival, as well as having a cafe and bar.

Meanwhile, Castle House, the former Co-op department store in Angel Street, will become the Sheffield Bazaar, with 20 art installations.

Festival director Prof Vanessa Toulmin, who is head of the University’s National Fairground Archive, said: “Festival of the Mind is all about being creative in order to make complicated subjects accessible to the public. We want people to witness how captivating knowledge and learning can be.

“However, none of our projects will over-simplify or ‘dumb-down’ complex thinking and processes – we would never patronise the public by assuming a level of ignorance. Instead, we want to educate and celebrate exploring the unknown.”

The University is working with Sheffield City Council, Arts Council England and the Wellcome Trust, and “this could easily become a template for other universities, both in the UK and abroad”, said Prof Toulmin.