Date of release: Thursday, December 15, 2016

Smashfest UKAn innovative arts, tech and science festival, co-produced by the University of Greenwich, has won a prestigious national award.

SMASHfestUK, a collaboration with the University of Middlesex, is a festival held in Deptford, which uses a virtual natural disaster scenario to get young people interested in science. It uses exhibitions, arts events and experiments linked to an impending earth-destroying natural event as its central theme.

The festival is the brainchild of Dr Lindsay Keith, a Creative Research Fellow at Greenwich. Last year's event included aliens, robots, steam power, a "Mutation Generation Unit" and a planetarium building session.

It was awarded the top prize in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) category of the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement's bi-annual Engage Awards.

Lindsay says: "SMASHfestUK is a great way of getting kids interested in science and to win this award is a wonderful endorsement of the hard work by everyone involved. The first SMASHfest, in 2015, saw over 1,000 people attend and last year's was even bigger.

"Next year's festival takes place in February with the theme that a 'super volcano' has been lying dormant under Lewisham and is about to erupt. It promises to be another exciting event and we're all working really hard towards putting on a great show."

The NCCPE judging panel said "This team took a concept that lots of people talk about, and turned it on its head. They challenged concepts of hard to reach, and worked with young people to create a festival everyone wanted to be part of. Disaster-led, this project was far from it."

SMASHfestUK's mission is to widen participation and build diversity in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) through the Arts. As award winners, the team received £1,500 to go towards further public engagement work, and will be supported by the NCCPE to share their work across the UK.

NCCPE launched the Engage Competition in 2014 to provide a UK-wide opportunity to recognise and celebrate some of the effective public engagement with research activity that universities are involved in. The competition is biannual and received over 180 entries in six categories, each with three finalists: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences; Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM); Health & Wellbeing; Engaging With Young People; Working In Partnership; and Individual-led Projects.

Story by Public Relations