By Tracey Davies
He is set to deliver a special one-off talk at The Meres leisure centre on Saturday 22 September, which will include awe-inspiring images from the depths of the universe as well as his trademark infectious enthusiasm for his subject. He is best known to the public as the presenter of science programmes, especially the Wonders of... series and making science exciting and accessible to a new generation.
Arts Council England has confirmed grant funding for £89,500 for the festival this year, which kicks off on Wednesday, September 26 and runs until Sunday 30 September and is inspired by Issac Newton ‘Voyages of Discovery. and blends arts, culture, tourism and fireworks.’
It promises more than 100 events across many Grantham town centre venues including the churches, library, schools and colleges, during five days of world class events, speakers, exhibitions, music and a stunning Saturday evening outdoor spectaculor.
Brian will join an outstanding line-up of scientists and artists including the UK’s first astronaut Dame Helen Sharman, Gorilla Circus, Dizzy O’Dare. Kevin Quantum, Dr Ken and The Big Space Show by The Science Museum and much more.
Patrons, including Professor Valerie Gibson, Professor Rob Iliffe and TV presenter Dallas Campbell, will also be returning to host their own events during the five-day extravaganza.
This year’s festival, which attracted 68,000 people in 2016 and generated £724,424 for the local economy, takes the theme of Voyages of Discovery, which creates a link to Sir Joseph Banks, another Lincolnshire scientist, who helped change the world. Banks sailed with Captain Cook on HMS Endeavour, gathering specimens from their journey and bringing back new knowledge.
As well as the big names, there will be a three-day science exhibition in the Alive Church, as well as the traditional family science days in the George Centre.
Grantham Museum is again on board, with a beautiful exhibition of the drawings of William Stukely, which are rarely seen outside the Spalding Gentleman’s Society building. There will also be an exciting educational programme for schools and colleges with numerous community groups getting involved in the events.
South Kesteven District Council, which is part-funding the event, revealed some of the planned attractions and highlights at a launch event last Thursday in the Guildhall Arts Centre ballroom. It was a chance for community groups, schools and other interested parties to find out more about the festival and how they can be part of it.
West Grantham Academy St Hughs went along to demonstrate their new coding programme using Sphero robotic toys. Kelly Barfoot also showed off her anthotype photographic prints, which uses photosensitive plant material to produce the images. Kelly will be exhibiting some of the images during the festival.
Coun Adam Stokes said: “As a town, we are extremely lucky to have such strong links with our most famous son, Sir Isaac Newton. It’s a link that many towns would give their right arms to have.
“As a district council, we are delighted to be able to celebrate our links and his achievements with a science-based festival, which will again showcase some of the best contemporary talent from the UK and abroad. Of course, it’s not just about science – it’s also about celebrating the best of Grantham and our surrounding attractions. Gravity Fields really puts Grantham on the map and it’s great for our local economy, too.
“Funding from Arts Council England has allowed us to be bold and adventurous, staging spectacular world class outdoor arts events, the like of which had never been seen in Grantham before the festival began in 2012.
“This year’s theme allows us to take other fascinating voyages with our outstanding line-up of scientists and artists, exploring the latest science advances, space travel and exploration of our world. Thanks to Newton’s ties with Grantham and the surrounding area, we are to have such a rich reservoir of science-related material to tap into including his birthplace at Woolsthorpe Manor.”
Festival curator Rosemary Richards added: “The festival has been a work of partnership in which SKDC sits at the core but lots of people have been involved including a wide range of businesses, organisations, scientists and volunteers. It has been a privelege to bring everyone together. We think of the festival theme as a story and we have five days to tell it. We will be inviting lots of participation from the community.”
Creative producer Simon Hollingsworth was pleased to to announce some new participants.
He said: “I am really pleased that we will be able to work with Wyndham Park during the festival this year. There are plans to host some kind of community project on the boating lake.
“But there will be a huge range of ways that people can get involved and, in particular, young people. We will be looking for 100 young performers, dancers and actors to help tell the story of Joseph Banks and bring it to life.”
Coun Stokes added: “On behalf of SKDC, thank you to all of our partners, including the Arts Council England and the National Trust, and, in Grantham, our venues and hosts and the support of local business groups and participants. Gravity Fields is a truly collaborative effort.”
n Tickets for festival headline acts at Meres Live, including Professor Brian Cox with Robin Ince and Sun and Space, including Britain’s first astronaut Helen Sharman and other guests, are on sale at www.guildhallartscentre.com and Grantham Guildhall box office.
Tickets for all other festival events will go on sale mid-April. The festival website, www.gravityfields.co.uk will also go live in mid-April.