News Story

From the cosmos to the countryside, Cheltenham Science Festival (4-9 June) embarked on a tour of the universe during six days of explosive demos, talks, debates and creative workshops. The six-day event inspired the next generation of thinkers to consider and engage with the biggest issues of our time, while being home to familiar faces including space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock, award-winning physicist Brian Cox and
Deadly 60 presenter Steve Backshall.

236 speakers across more than 100 events and three Interactive Zones brought the best of groundbreaking science sharply into focus for over 68,000 Festival-goers, offering curious minds the chance to delve into everything from mental health, neurodiversity and clean air to predicting the outcome of the upcoming election with comedian and host Dara Ó Briain. 

Speaking to BBC Radio Gloucestershire before his event, Dara said: ‘Cheltenham Science Festival is an excellent Science Festival; it's without a doubt one of the best in the country, with a broad range of topics and lots of interactive stuff for all ages.’

Science inspired songs, quizzes and bingo nights brought joy to the Festival town, demonstrating the power of bringing the arts and science together in helping us to understand the world around us. 

Campaigning for Change 

The Festival began with ChelTechne, a roundtable that aimed to identify policy responses to the UK's digital skills gap supported by National Grid Electricity Distribution. The first known gathering of central figures from government, academia, education, the cultural sector and industry, the event arrived at a key set of policy recommendations that will appear in a joint report address to the incoming government. The report will be co-produced in the coming weeks by Cheltenham Festivals and tech training leaders QA.

As part of the Festivals' commitment to developing and showcasing the thought leaders of tomorrow, the Festival programme spotlighted its Young Changemakers cohort in a series of events including activist Charli Clement, chair of Bite Back Tasha Mhakayakora, recipient of Dark Sky Defender award Dani Robertson, and STEM Ambassador Tosin Sonubi.

Cheltenham Science Festival’s year-round outreach programme, FameLab UK – aimed at nurturing the UK’s best science communicators – was also celebrated on stage, with eight finalists delving into everything from blackholes and gravitational pull, to the future of brain imaging. FameLab alumni and astrophysicist Maggie Aderin-Pocock was among the judging panel, highlighting the extensive role the Festival plays in creating an international, life-long community of science-related researchers and communicators. 

Joni Wildman, FameLab UK finalist and winner of this year’s competition, said: “Sharing what I’m passionate about with such an enthusiastic audience was exhilarating – I’m so happy people found fungi as interesting as I do. Being surrounded by the amazing energy and talent of everyone involved and supported by a community of like-minded, welcoming people means so much to me. I’m excited to continue talking about the science that I love!’ 

In its first year, DataFace – the trailblazing data interrogation, analysis and visualisation project powered by Cheltenham Festivals, and in collaboration with CyberFirst and the Jean Golding Institute – exhibited the work of more than 60 students from 14 Gloucestershire schools in the Discover Zone, while 20 schools participated in the project overall. Thousands of school children and families explored the creations which visualised contemporary issues including environmental protection, the cost-of-living crisis and gender equality, highlighting the importance data ethics and integrity has to play in the role of education. 

Joyful Discoveries and Festival Firsts 

In a Cheltenham Science Festival and world first, Brian Cox and Robin Ince debuted a roaring Infinite Monkey Cage Family Special with special guests Adam Kay and Steve Backshall. Other family events included a goal-smashing demo, nature photography and space-inspired baking with Netflix’s Baking Impossible expert, Andrew Smyth. 

Reaffirming its place as a world leader in showcasing cutting-edge technologies, discoveries made during the week included the unearthing of a brand-new species of plant by taxonomist Tammy Horton and a revelatory insight into microplastics from MarkLythgoe. The Festival also played host to two astronauts, Tim Peake and Meganne Christian, who revealed what the future of space could look like. 

Marieke Navin is Head of Science Programming for Cheltenham Festivals, the charity which organises the Science Festival each year alongside its Literature, Music and Jazz Festivals. “Science truly is for everyone and it’s a part of everything we do. Every year we’re so proud to be able to bring the very best of science and technology to as wide an audience as possible, while uncovering brand-new scientific discoveries for the very first time” she said. 

“Each year, our speakers and Festival-goers come to Cheltenham from all over to connect with like-minded thinkers and curious minds to showcase science in its widest possible forms, while inspiring the next generation to interrogate and question the world around them in creative and joyful ways. We can’t wait till 2025!”

Science for Everyone 
Across the week, 8,000 school children from 85 Gloucestershire schools explored the Festival Village as part of the Science for Schools programme, embarking on a journey through the Interactive Zones where they were encouraged to be curious, creative and dive into the science of the everyday. 

Nearly 29,000 Festival goers dropped into three Interactive Zones which were free to explore: The Arcade, MakerShack and Discover Zone, which posed a series of creative and cryptic challenges to show how new technologies will shape our culture in the future.

F2 powerboat pilot Mette Bjerknes and her JRM Racing team allowed visitors the opportunity to sit in the cockpit of her carbon fibre raceboat, while Travelling Light Circus brought a mesmerising Pendulum Wave Machine to illustrate the ideas of philosopher Ernst March as part of its ...around town programme in association with Cheltenham BID.

Ali Mawle, co-CEO of Cheltenham Festivals, said: “In a world that is ever-evolving and fast-changing, science sits at the heart of helping us understand the world around us, while showing us how we can all make a positive difference, no matter how big or small. Each year, Cheltenham Science Festival is made possible thanks to our fantastic speakers, volunteers, creators, Partners and supporters, who come together to celebrate the innovation of science and technology, while widening access to science for everyone.”


Notes for Editors 

For more details visit:  
For more information contact:  
#CheltSciFest @cheltscifest   

With thanks to our Partners

Festival Partners        
Cheltenham Festivals is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation

Principal Partner: Arts Council England, Cheltenham Borough Council, EDF, GE Aerospace, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology

Major Partners: Cell & Gene Therapy Catapult, CGI, Cheltenham BID, Department for Science, Innovation & Technology, Innovation Hubs for Gene Therapies, Lockheed Martin, Loughborough University, Mira Showers, National Grid, Northrop Grumman, Safran, Spirax Group, Tarren Production, The James Dyson Foundation, The Jason Robson Trust, University of Gloucestershire, Waterstones, Woodland Trust

Festival Partners: Amiosec, Birmingham City University, CyNam, Cyber First, Dean Close Schools, Discover Materials, Duracell Energy, GCHQ, Gemba Advantage, Gloucestershire College, Henry Royce Institute, IMechE, L3Harris, North Green, Renishaw, The Kavali Prize, The PA Foundation, UWE Bristol, University of Bristol, University of Liverpool, University of Sheffield, University of Warwick

In-Kind Partners: Circle 2 Success, Fews, Hotel du Vin & Bistro, Leaf Creative, The Queens Hotel, Willans LLP Solicitors 

Media Partners: Visitorplus 

About Cheltenham Festivals: Cheltenham Festivals is an arts and culture charity that creates experiences which bring joy, spark curiosity, connect communities and inspire change. Its year-round learning and participation and talent development programmes culminate in four world-class Festivals, offering everyone an opportunity to explore and create culture. Over 225,000 visitors a year are inspired by its Literature, Science, Jazz and Music Festivals.  

The annual Cheltenham Science Festival is for people of all ages who are curious about the wonders of the everyday world, mysteries of the universe and cutting-edge technology. The Festival hosts hundreds of free family-friendly activities, while the UK’s science community gathers to share their latest ideas in thought-provoking and entertaining ways.   

DataFace is supported by funding from Cheltenham Borough Council as part of their UK Shared Prosperity Fund grant, funded by HM Government; and by the Department for Science Innovation and Technology. 

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is a central pillar of the UK government’s Levelling Up agenda and provides £2.6 billion of funding for local investment by March 2025. The Fund aims to improve pride in place and increase life chances across the UK investing in communities and place, supporting local business, and people and skills. For more information, visit