People at the Festival in 2019

Be part of the Festival

Let us know that you'd like to be a part of the Great Exhibition Road Festival: Trailblazers, coming back to South Kensington in summer 2022 for a huge celebration of trailblazing ideas and everyday heroes in science and the arts.

Submit your proposalRegister to join a Festival clinic

Call for proposals - Be part of the Great Exhibition Road Festival in summer 2022!

Do you want to engage thousands of people with your research? Do you want to develop skills, have fun and be part of something spectacular? Now is your opportunity to be part of the Great Exhibition Road Festival 2022! 

Next year’s Great Exhibition Road Festival will be returning to the scale of the 2019 Festival and we want you to be a part of it! Over 60,000 visitors engaged with this annual celebration of science and the arts in 2019, and in summer 2022 Imperial and our iconic cultural partners, including the Royal Albert Hall, Science Museum, V&A and Natural History Museum will take over large swathes of Exhibition Road and our South Kensington campus to engage the public in creative ways and showcase the amazing cutting-edge research happening here at Imperial.  

Programmes like the Festival are key to our vision to empower society through STEM. Working alongside partners and local communities, the Festival gives you the chance to bring your work to new audiences and connects us with the public to tackle shared challenges. 

The theme for next year is Trailblazers, as the Great Exhibition Road Festival will explore the pioneering ideas, people and communities that are changing our world with a packed weekend of free events for all ages. The Festival will bring people together to celebrate the everyday heroes whose contributions to their communities have inspired us all as well as the incredible pioneers who are leading the way in their fields. 

Anyone at Imperial can be involved in the Festival, even if you're new to public engagement, and we are looking for inspiring ideas for exciting activities from our community to showcase and celebrate our work with a wide range of audiences

Fully formed ideas are great but so are more general declarations of interest. There are lots of new ways to take part in the Festival next year, whether in South Kensington or through our online programme, community family activity packs or engagement with schools.

Want to know more? See more detailed guidance below for more information on the Festival themes and the type of content we are looking for in 2022. You can also download a copy of the Festival proposals questions (PDF) before submitting your ideas or letting us know that you'd like to be part of the Festival.

Finally, if you want to take part in next year’s Festival but aren't sure if your ideas will work or how to make them happen, we are hosting a Festival Proposal Clinic online on 11 November with the Festival organising team. Register for a clinic.

The deadline for submissions is Sunday 28 November 2021.  We aim to reply to all proposals with individual feedback in January 2022.

SUBMIT YOUR PROPOSAL

Guidance for taking part in the Festival

Who can take part?

Anyone from across the Imperial community – research staff, postgraduate and undergraduate students, professional staff and alumni – can take part in the Festival. We also welcome Imperial people’s collaborators or partners to deliver activities if they have an Imperial element to them.

Why take part?

  • Be part of something amazing - The Festival welcomes tens of thousands of visitors to Exhibition Road to enjoy an extraordinary programme of talks, workshops, exhibitions and experiences from some of the most exciting cultural institutions in the world.
  • Meaningful dialogue with the public - The Festival attracts a diverse audience, whether its adults, families, or anyone in between, you can have meaningful dialogue with different members of the public and learn things yourself, as well as inspiring our audiences with unique insights and experiences.
  • Explore research in creative ways - The Festival’s core ethos is to bring art and science together so there is a myriad of opportunities to get creative, collaborate with artists, and try something new.
  • For fun! - Above all, taking part in the Festival is a fun and unforgettable experience that will give you a great sense of achievement and community.

Of the staff taking part in 2019:
93% rated their overall experience of the Festival as excellent or good
95% felt participating in the Festival was a rewarding and motivating experience
88% felt they gained new ideas for developing future public engagement work from taking part

What are the Great Exhibition Road Festival's aims?

  • To create a unique festival that connects some of the world’s most iconic institutions in an inspirational fusion of the arts and sciences.
  • To deliver a dynamic range of participatory visitor experiences that generate curiosity and a pioneering spirit among our audiences and among our institutions.
  • To engage 60,000 people through events taking place on Exhibition Road and across partner institutions over the three days of the Festival.
  • To engage communities and audiences who do not usually access our institutions through co-created projects that are part of the Festival weekend.
  • To celebrate diversity – the diversity of our communities, and that within art and science.

Who are the Festival's audiences?

The Festival attracts a varied audience of all ages, with different levels of knowledge and interest in science. Families are a key audience for us, with parents wanting their children to feel inspired with science through fun, hands-on creative activities. Many of our Festival museum and cultural partners will create family-friendly events for their contribution to the Festival so we are also keen to ensure that the adult audience is well catered for through performance and interactive content as well as talks.

Primary target audience segments:

  • Expression – highly culturally active and seek inspiration and opportunities for self-expression through their engagement. Open and receptive to new ideas, they pursue challenge, entertainment and intellectual stimulation. They also like the opportunity to express their own creativity. Their cultural activity reflects their wide range of interests and hobbies and they are therefore a natural audience for the Festival as they will be interested in the variety of events and activities, though they will favour more hands-on or immersive experiences.
  • Affirmation families – consciously committed to increasing its cultural intake. They believe culture improves their lives and have a strong interest in self-development. They tend to look for larger, well endorsed, non-specialist events and activities, provided by trusted names, as this offers a low risk means of satisfying their needs. Affirmation families were very important to the Festival in 2019, with 81% of groups with children under 16 putting their main motivation for the visit as ‘to inspire young people about science’.
  • Essence - The Essence segment tends to be well-educated professionals who are highly-active cultural consumers and creators. They are leaders rather than followers and confident in their own tastes. High-quality culture is their primary concern. They can be dismissive of things they believe to be too mainstream or unsophisticated but enjoy opportunities to engage with experts, whether curators or researchers, to get additional insight into topics.

Read more about these Culture Segments and their motivations on the MHM website.

Local underserved audiences:

In additional to our Culture Segment audiences, a major priority for the Festival in 2022 will be engaging our local communities, particularly underserved and underrepresented family audiences. We want to provide entertaining and inclusive experiences to engage local people with the arts and sciences in an accessible way for audiences who wouldn’t normally choose to step inside a museum or come to an Imperial talk.

What are we looking for in the 2022 Festival proposals?

Each year we evaluate the Festival and collect feedback from exhibitors, visitors and volunteers, to find out what they most valued. Based on this, and the Festival aims listed above, we have the following suggestions for teams wanting to take part in 2022. Whilst we are not expecting each proposal to include all of the elements below, we recommend at least considering how you might incorporate each into what you are submitting:

Ideas linked to a trailblazing theme

Returning in summer 2022, the Great Exhibition Road Festival will explore the pioneering ideas, people and communities that are changing our world. The Festival will bring people together to celebrate the everyday heroes whose contribution to their communities has inspired us all and kept our world moving forward, as well as those incredible individuals and groups who are leading the way in their fields. We also want to invite visitors to join us to explore the extraordinary, discover the power of ideas and celebrate curiosity at an uplifting and joyful weekend for all, showcasing the best of science and the arts in South Kensington.

Diverse voices and ideas

We are keen to ensure the Festival showcases the full range of people who make up our Imperial community. As a result, we particularly welcome proposals from Imperial staff and students from underrepresented communities or proposals that will give a platform to these communities to tell their story – either of their research or of their particular experience as part of an underrepresented community in modern science. If a proposal also aims to celebrate a scientist or academic (imperial affiliated or external) from an underrepresented group who greatly influenced them and / or their field that would also be a great addition to next year's programme.

Interactive fun on Exhibition Road

The ability to close the iconic Exhibition Road is a unique opportunity for the Festival, and in 2019 the public loved being able to explore this road in a new way without cars and buses going up and down. The popularity of this area for the public and its open space create opportunities for large-scale hands-on workshops and making areas that can engage large numbers of people with a fun activity for all the family. The road does present some challenges in terms of securing expensive equipment and meeting complex power requirements so if you would like to take advantage of this busiest of Festival locations, low tech proposals that don’t require huge amounts of power would be most welcome.

Adult specific content

One piece of feedback we often receive from Festival attendees, particularly from adult visitors, is a difficulty in finding activities or parts of the Festival that are particularly aimed at them. As a result, for 2022 we are asking for proposals to specify which audience groups their activity would be most suitable for, so we can help our visitors to access this. We would particularly welcome activities that are specifically aimed at adults, either because of the subject matter or because it is workshops that is too advanced for younger Festival attendees.

Science and art collaborations

In the surveys of Great Exhibition Road Festival attendees, our visitors loved the mixture of science and art-based content. However, a common comment in the feedback was a request for greater interaction between those two disciplines. If you think a collaboration with an artist or creative / craft workshop developer could help tell the story of your research we would love to hear from you. If you already have a collaborator in mind, even better! In addition to art exhibition installations and workshops, the festival will also feature talks programmes celebrating projects that bring together perspectives of scientists and the creative sectors so there will be multiple opportunities to showcase these collaborations across the weekend.

Research involvement

The Festival aims to create a platform for two-way connections around Imperial’s work. As a result, we welcome proposals that include creative ways to elicit, record and/or display public ideas or opinions on issues related to a research topic. Alternatively, we know the public really enjoy getting actively involved in research. While we understand it is not possible for every research discipline to collect data at a public event like a Festival, if you are interested in exploring the possibility of running a live experiment across the weekend, we can advise on best practice and put you in touch with teams who have published data collected at the Festival.

Science themed music and dance performances

We aim to provide a range of ways to engage the public with our research, and often music and dance can be a memorable and fun way to do this. As a Festival organising team we are in contact with numerous musicians, dancers and choreographers who have expressed an interest in working with our researchers. So if you are interested, we can introduce you to professionals to work with.

Longer term co-creation projects

As well as on the day exhibits, workshops or talks, the Festival also supports long term projects that bring our Imperial community together with local, young people to create something over several weeks or months that appears at the Festival but has long term benefits for all well beyond that one weekend. Opportunities include partnerships with local schools and young people from the White City area. If you are interested, let us know in your proposal.

Creative approaches to our online Festival programme

The 2022 Festival will further develop the online programme of events and resources that were available the week following this year’s in person Festival weekend. We found traditional types of Festival content such as talks, discussion panels, creative workshops and quizzes translated very well as online events and help the Festival reach new audience. We would be very keen to look at new types of events and experiences we could offer our online community around the Festival. From escape rooms and murder mystery games, public lockdowns over the last 18 months saw many people show creativity to recreate familiar experiences or formulate brand new ones for their new online audiences. It would be great to see some of those ideas or creative approaches applied to our own online Festival programme.

What questions do you ask in the proposal submission form?

You can download a copy of all the questions we'll ask ahead of submitting your idea below. Even if you don't have a clear idea of what you'd like to bring to the Festival but you know that you'd like to be involved please fill in as much detail as you can on the digital form or email the Festival team at festival@imperial.ac.uk if you have any questions or concerns ahead of submitting your proposal.

Festival proposals questions (PDF)

What type of contribution could I have at the Festival?

The Festival proposals form lists eight different types of experiences that we could offer visitors in 2022 as well as another option for ideas that don’t fit into these categories. Here we describe each in a bit more detail.

Type of contribution 
 1. Interactive Exhibit / Hands-on demonstration This is a permanent activity that occupies a space within a Festival site throughout the weekend. These are staffed by the teams who create them, and bring visual and/or interactive components that will help to tell the story of an area of research. This could be a demonstration related to a specific area of research, or something creative or attention-grabbing, aimed at drawing people in to find out more. Having members of the teams staffing the exhibits over the weekend means that the public can ask questions and meet the people carrying out the research.
 2. Installation / Exhibition Similar to an exhibit, an installation is a permanent feature of the Festival but doesn’t need to be constantly staffed and often takes a more artistic or creative approach to introducing the research topic. Installations might include immersive experiences, interactive sculptures, art or photography displays linked to Imperial research.
 3. Talk / Discussion The Festival delivers talks programmes hosted in the largest lecture theatres around Exhibition Road. They give a predominantly adult audience (16+) a chance to hear about a particular subject in a bit more depth. Talks are generally 20-30 minutes in length with additional time for discussion and questions. They must be developed and delivered in a style that will be interesting and engaging for non-experts with a publicly appealing title. As well as individual speakers, we are always interested in panel sessions that bring speakers from different backgrounds and sectors together to discuss a single topic. Discussion panels need to be diverse in as many ways as possible, including incorporating speakers from various Festival partners where possible. They can also feature external speakers, particularly if they are high profile or can bring a different type of perspective. 
 4. Workshops Giving members of the public a chance to get involved in making, creating or contributing to something led by guidance from a workshop facilitator and your team. Workshops work best when the research team is present to have conversations about the research linked to the workshop. If you have a workshop in mind, then great. If not, but like the idea, let us know in your proposal and the Festival organising team will support you to create your workshop and put you in contact with creative professionals to help develop and/or deliver the activity with you.
 5. Tours Our visitors really enjoy behind-the-scenes tours of our facilities and/or laboratories. We will be responsible for registrations and bringing groups of people over at agreed times, so all you will need to do is prepare exciting hands-on demos and presentations that can be delivered within the facility and be repeated easily throughout the weekend.
 6. Stage performance The Festival has numerous stages and tents which are open to proposals from both professional and amateur performers. We are keen for ideas that include audience interaction, and / or where music or dance can be used to illustrate areas of Imperial research.
 7. Roaming performance We are keen to bring Exhibition Road to life wherever possible across that weekend, and one of the best ways to do this is organising mobile demos or exhibits that can move up and down the road and go to where the public are rather than waiting for the people to come to us. Roaming performers will be given a wet weather back up location so your involvement in the Festival won't be a soggy one even if the elements are against us!
 8. Activity packs In 2021 the Festival arranged for a series of art-science activity packs to be sent to hundreds of underserved local families with limited digital access so they could enjoy art-making activities and home science experiments even if they couldn’t make it over to us in South Kensington. If you have an existing resource you have developed for young people or schools that could be adapted, it would be great to hear about it. Alternatively, if you have an idea for such an activity pack contribution, we would be delighted to work with you in turning that into something that can go out in the 2022 packs.
Type of contributions

What time commitment should I expect?

Time commitment will vary depending on the type of activity you want to run. Our team are able to advise you on what you might be able to achieve with the time you have available.

For a talk / discussion / performance

  • 2 hours correspondence and briefings with public engagement team
  • Anything from 4 hours to 2 months preparation! If you are putting together a short talk with some slides, you may only need a few hours to prepare and rehearse but if you’re writing a script and producing a play or choreographing a dance, the prep time can be longer.
  • 1 hour delivery (or more if you’re repeating your performance throughout the weekend or need time to set up if you have a set!)

For an exhibit / workshop / installation

  • 2 hours correspondence and briefings with public engagement team
  • Anything from 1–30 days preparation. Remember if running a hands-on activity to test it well ahead of the big event, ideally with members of your target audience.
  • 2 ½ days delivery (½ day set up on Friday, 2 delivery on Saturday and Sunday)

Can I discuss my idea with the Festival team ahead of submitting my proposal?

If you would like to discuss the development of your ideas, please contact James Romero, Public Engagement Programmes Manager, at j.romero@imperial.ac.uk or 020 7594 8198, or attend one of two Festival Proposals Clinics taking place on:

  • 10:00-11:30, Friday 5 November 2021 (in South Kensington)
  • 15:00-16:30, Thursday 11 November 2021 (online)

Register to join a clinic >

Case studies

The Sensorium

An immersive installation at the 2016 Imperial Festival:
Read more about this project >

Energy Futures Lab contribution to the 2019 festival

Energy Futures Lab held 10 tours of its newly commissioned ABB-Imperial Digital Energy Demonstrator, where visitors were able to hear about ways that the electricity grid can be controlled and managed in the near future, as the UK energy system moves towards a more integrated and decarbonised future.
Read more about this project >

"With all the families having fun and feeling welcomed in the university space, as a scientist I rarely think about the impact science has in society. I could observe that this weekend." - Imperial researcher
"The presenters were just brilliant - enthusiastic, knowledgeable, friendly, and made every one of every age very welcome." - Festival attendee
"I am more comfortable with speaking to the public about the research we carry out and have become quite good at explaining it in simple terms. It also helped me re-discover how much I like science!” - Imperial researcher

Great Exhibition Road Festival 2019

Great Exhibition Road Festival 2019

Great Exhibition Road Festival 2021

Great Exhibition Road Festival 2021

Great Exhibition Road Festival 2021

Great Exhibition Road Festival 2021

Volunteering

If you're a member of staff or student at Imperial, there are lots of ways to get involved in the Great Exhibition Road Festival and other public engagement activities. Volunteer recruitment will start in spring 2022, be the first to hear about these opportunities and more by signing up to the Societal Engagement newsletter.