Leading cultural venues are joining forces to recreate the spirit of the Great Exhibition of 1851 for the 21st century.
Over one weekend this summer, South Kensington’s Exhibition Road will host a celebration of curiosity and discovery, with a new, free festival of art, science and culture.
Running from 28-30 June, the Great Exhibition Road Festival will see the area transformed, with an array of interactive workshops, behind-the-scenes tours, exciting talks and dynamic performances to inspire all ages.
The festival – a collaboration between Imperial College London, the Natural History Museum, the V&A, the Royal Albert Hall, the Science Museum, the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 and others – marks the bicentenary of the births of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, taking inspiration from their vision for the Great Exhibition of 1851, which showcased the latest innovations in British industry and culture, and was visited by six million people.
Something for everyone
From robot air hockey to sculpture workshops inspired by the wonder material graphene there is something for everyone among the hundreds of events planned. The iconic road will be closed off to traffic for two days, as activities spill out into the surrounding streets and scientists and curators escape their offices to meet the public.
- Young scientists can experiment in the Slime Lab, design their own earthquakes and use crystals to create new medicines. Bigger kids can get hands on with a set design workshop recreating the Apollo 11 moon landings to mark the 50th anniversary of that ‘one small step for man’, plus there will be a science-inspired Victorian fairground of the heart.
- There will be an opportunity to explore Albert’s Germany, including an interactive exhibition of surprisingly passionate love letters between Victoria and Albert.
- Visitors will have the chance to experience dark matter, the mysterious missing stuff of the universe inside a multi-sensory, immersive installation, or play games with friendly robots and check out the latest developments in drones and AI.
- Food, and its future, will come under the spotlight with demonstrations and displays about freeganism, farming, edible water bottles to save on plastic, and the nutritional properties of bugs in our insect kitchen. For those who fancy a more traditional snack, two food markets will be serving up street fare from around the world.
- There will be live music throughout the weekend, with a special performance of Holst’s The Planets – reimagined with the help of modern planetary scientists – and musical brunch at the V&A. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra will be performing Peter and the Wolf at the Royal Albert Hall, and children will have the chance to get involved in a jazz band.
Alongside the activities, there will be a wide-ranging programme of talks from leading figures in science and the arts. Highlights include:
- Professor Lord Robert Winston will discuss how music affects the brain as part of a series of talks hosted by the Royal College of Music exploring how science is creative and how art can be scientific
- Helen Sharman, the first British astronaut, discussing what it is like living and working in zero gravity 100s of km above our heads
- The physicist Melanie Windridge, who climbed Everest last year, on how her scientific training has informed her adventures
- Sir Christopher Frayling, the former Rector of the Royal College of Art discussing the creation of the V&A from the Great Exhibition and the attempt of the Museum’s first director to define good design
- A panel discussion on the future of cities featuring experts on architecture and air pollution from the Royal College of Art, the V&A and Imperial College London
- Maja Pantic, professor of behavioural computing at Imperial, on the nature of trust in the internet age
“An incredible weekend”
The Great Exhibition Road Festival builds on the success of the Imperial Festival, which is now in its eighth year, and has led to collaboration between scientists, artists and other creative partners. It aims to highlight Prince Albert’s role in organising the Great Exhibition and, with the funds it generated, establishing Exhibition Road as a world-leading centre of interdisciplinary study and research.
Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London, said:
“Ever since the Great Exhibition of 1851, the extraordinary cultural quarter where we and our partners are located has been the site of tremendous scientific discovery and artistic expression.
“Join us as we throw open our doors, welcome people in, and showcase our great community of scientists, artists, engineers and musicians. This Great Exhibition Road Festival promises to be an incredible weekend and I look forward to welcoming our many visitors to join us on a journey of curiosity, discovery and exploration.”
Register for free
To attend the Festival, please make sure to register for free. Registering is the only way to receive the latest Festival updates, a first-look at the full programme, and exclusive opportunities to book onto popular talks and behind-the-scenes tours.
Disclaimer: All events are subject to confirmation.
Article text (excluding photos or graphics) © Imperial College London.
Photos and graphics subject to third party copyright used with permission or © Imperial College London.
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