Science in the City is Malta’s national science and arts festival held in Valletta, a UNESCO World Heritage site and this year’s European City of Culture. On the night (27 September—European Researchers’ Night), the city is transformed by a fusion of science and art with interactive installations, exhibitions, music, shadow puppet shows, theatre, live experiments, talks, tech areas, and much more.
Among the many activities, this year’s highlights are the Science Fair, STEAM Squared, Digital Area, water-inspired artworks, and the science theatre acts by Get Your Act Together. This memorable night provides a platform for citizens to engage with scientists and their research. It also involves some of Malta’s leading artists and entertainers, including Malcolm and Angele Galea, Matthew Attard, Guadalupe Aldrete, Daniela Brill Estrada, Michael Bachhofer, Stefan Resch, Simone Ellul, and Lizzie Eldridge amongst others.
This year, Science in the City is working with the Valletta 2018 Foundation to feature new, larger than life installations such as ‘Pushing The Mouse’ a giant computer mouse that will be pushed around the Triton Fountain by visitors; a high-tech augmented reality experience called The Fourth Triton, and St Georges square will be transformed by ReFraming Carbon, an artwork inspired by Malta’s rich heritage. To mark the European Year of Cultural Heritage and Valletta’s European Capital of Culture celebrations, the theme for this year is “Science is Culture”, which aims to highlight how science shapes all aspects of culture, from communication to the different art forms, health, food and of course technology.
This European Researchers’ Night project is funded by the European Commission under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions.
The Science in the City Festival was first held way back in 2012. It was the first science and arts festival to be brought to Malta’s shores and has been growing in scale and vision ever since. The number of attendees has more than doubled from 12,000 in 2012 to 28,000 in 2017 – reaching over 6% of the total population of the Maltese Islands. The number of activities has more than tripled as has the number of partners, researchers, and volunteers involved, with over 300 students and 80 researchers involved.
In 2012 the main event was You Are The Staircase, an art installation by Norbert Attard inspired by the work of geneticist Prof. Alex Felice. In 2013 there were the Humanised fruit flies – human-sized and depicted engaging in human activities – and Light up my house, an interactive installation. The 2014 edition included AMaze² – a huge maze which threw in wide-ranging fields in science: from the CERN particle accelerator, creating music with plants to X-Ray Crystallography; with a planetarium at its center.
The 2015 edition focused on the Rosetta Comet, with St George’s square transformed into the Rosetta Satellite Space Mission, along with the 3D printing of the same satellite, the Hubble telescope and more. In 2016 the festival was themed ‘The Brain’, with exhibitions like Brain Square (inspired by comparison of different mammalian brains) and Anthropomorphic Sculptures (showing the evolution of the nervous system), along with discussions centered around mental health.
2017 saw the festival reach new heights and focused on how today’s research is shaping our future with highlights including Light Pushes Stuff (an interactive moving sculpture powered by light), virtual reality demonstrations, a large Hologram installation (the first of its kind in Malta!) bringing the human body to life in 3D and the music-science fusion “Jazz for the Brain” where lights and music displayed the complexity of a stroke, and the technology being used to treat the condition.
Science in the City is part of the EU-wide event: ‘European Researchers’ Night’, which takes place in over 30 countries and 300 cities simultaneously. This year Malta’s proposal ranked 7th from 128 applicants. Every country has a unique approach to European Researchers’ Night, including opening research facilities (laboratories, research centres, museum collections), letting the public use the most recent technologies and instruments with the guidance of scientists, participation in experiments, competitions and quizzes, science demonstrations and simulations, engage in debates, and to chat with researchers. In Malta, we transform the capital city, Valletta to engage with research. For one night, everyone can be a scientist!
Science in the City is proudly funded by the European Commission’s Research and Innovation Framework Programme H2020 (2014-2020) by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions. Directorate-General for Education and Culture. European Commission.
Science in the City is recognized as a festival by ‘Europe for Festivals and Festivals for Europe’ (EFFE). EFFE is a platform, set up by the European Festivals Association, which serves as a stamp of quality given to those festivals which meet certain criteria. Namely, they must show artistic dedication, be involved in the local scene, and their outlook must reflect a European and global approach.
We are proud to be considered one of those festivals.
Other than on European Researchers’ Night, there are several other activities you may be interested in. Science in the house is an exhibition that includes some of the most recent research carried out at the University of Malta, from all fields and disciplines. The event brings Members of Parliament and researchers together to discuss research on the eve of European Researchers’ Night. The exhibition in the foyer of the Parliament Building will then be open to the public during Science in the City (28 September), and in the week leading up to, and including, Notte Bianca (6 October). We also participate in Notte Bianca with several of our installations and stands.
Brand new for 2018, from 9-14 October, Science in the City will at Esplora Interactive Science Centre for week-long activities showcasing some of the highlights from the festival and giving you a chance to experience artworks and hands-on experiments, and talk to some of your favourite researchers from the night itself.
There are also events throughout the year. Malta Cafe Scientifique is another way of bringing researchers’ work to the general public, through a small talk followed by dialogue. CineXjenza uses film as a medium to discuss advances in science. A film is first screened and followed by discourse with researchers on how these findings are affecting our society and the science behind the film. Kids Dig Science hold workshops throughout the year in which children from the age of seven can learn about science through theatre and hands-on experiments.
Alongside the release of each issue of the University of Malta’s research magazine, THINK, there is a SoapBox event where researchers get 5 minutes on the box to talk about new projects or ideas over a drink at a bar.
STEAM School Malta goes to Maltese schools with creative STEAM activities for students. The activities are run by University of Malta students, staff and researchers.
The 2nd edition of Escape Malta, by the STEAM project, will take place just before this year’s festival from 5-9 September at Esplora, where teams will need to complete science puzzles to solve the mystery of what happened on a space mission gone wrong and escape the spaceship alive!
The team (with international trainers) run STEAM Summer School which offers a transcultural science communication intensive course to people from all over the world. It will be held in July of 2019 in Malta.