Could fungus save the human race?
Professor Duncan Cameron believes it could. His address to the World Climate Change Conference in Paris last year carried a stark warning: our planet is becoming infertile. But his message was optimistic and, at Sheffield’s Festival of the Mind this month, sculpture, photography, film, sounds and performance will be used to explain exactly how fungus could be used to re-engineer the planet’s soil and save humanity.
And that’s not all. The 11-day festival, now in its third year, has a jam-packed schedule which will attempt to immerse the city’s residents deeper than ever before into the revolutionary science and innovative art which is set to shape our future.
Ever wondered what it would be like to dance with robots? Would you like to sneak a peek at our world ten years into the future? All this, and more, is possible when the world’s only festival of academic-city collaboration opens its doors on September 15.
Festival director, Professor Vanessa Toulmin, director of city and cultural engagement at the University of Sheffield, said: “Festival of the Mind is a unique collaboration between our world-leading academic expertise and the creative and cultural talent of our wonderful city – there is nothing else like it in the world.
“The festival offers an opportunity for people who are curious about research to learn and engage in the most innovative ways. It also introduces our students to Sheffield’s unique creative individuals and businesses and offers them a fantastic opportunity to volunteer in public engagement.”
This year’s events have been designed around six themes: Making, Journeys, Virtual, Local and Global, Activism and Utopia/Placemaking.
A highlight of this year’s festival will be ‘Futurecade,’ a utopian vision of future realities in the digital sphere. The 15 intriguing projects will invite visitors to step into a world of virtual reality and get a glimpse of what life and art will look like in 2025.
The Local and Global theme reflects the University of Sheffield’s proud heritage as a truly global university with students from over 140 different countries.
Festival of the Mind has grown immensely since its launch in 2012, after receiving a 50 per cent increase in external funding with grants from Arts Council England and the Royal Society. Sheffield City Council is also a partner providing venues at no cost. This year, 46-academic-city partnerships will produce over 100 performances, exhibitions, virtual reality experiences and interactive events - transforming the way in which Sheffield’s communities learn about the University’s vital research.
The University’s deputy vice-chancellor, Professor Shearer West, said: “Festival of the Mind not only showcases the ground-breaking research developed at the University, but it also highlights the vibrancy of the city of Sheffield.
“This inspiring series of events brings our international research to life in an inventive and engaging way for the whole community to enjoy.
“The festival is a great opportunity for our students from across the globe to make a difference in the city which becomes their adopted home.”
Other highlights include performances from Sheffield Robotics, who study the way humans work in order to make better robots. The performance, which features robots alongside human dancers, promises an entertaining glimpse of the future.
‘Sounds of the Birds’ will provide a fusion of science, music, nature and imaginations when it comes to Firth Hall mid-way through the festival.
Leading bird expert Professor Tim Birkhead provided the research that inspired the visuals for this performance, by Noah Kang, which reproduces the songs and calls of 77 species of bird.
Enterprising University of Sheffield graduates will also be giving festival-goers the opportunity to take part in a unique communal dining experience. Louis Pohl and Jamie Wilde launched their Freecycle food network to trial new ways of engaging the wider community through shared food. Now, their Eyre Street Cafe in the centre of Sheffield is a place where people are invited to cook or dine communally on a pay as you feel basis. The menu changes daily and the fridge is always stocked with food that may have otherwise been thrown away.
Visit www.festivalofthemind.group.shef.ac.uk for further details of the event, which starts on September 15 and runs until September 25. All events are free.