Science in the City is Malta’s national science and arts festival. This year, the festival will be held with pre-festival events starting from the 2nd September and the main festival on 24th-25th September. All of this is to provide a memorable platform for citizens to engage with scientists, researchers, artists and performers.
The festival that graced the streets of Valletta on an annual basis is moving into theatres around the city, while retaining the virtual presence it established in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The activities will be spread out throughout the city in St Dominic Theatre, St George Preca Primary, City Theatre (General Workers Union building), Museum of Archeology, Spazju Kreattiv and St Magdalene Church. While the live-virtual festival will be live from Valletta Design Cluster.
This year, the theme is “Sowing Seeds”, emphasising how important knowledge, research and the arts are in everyday life and in active, responsible citizenship, especially in a world which is undergoing monumental changes.
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 30,000 in 2018 — 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 400 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 centre. The 2015 edition focused on the Rosetta Comet, with St George’s square transformed into the Rosetta Satellite Space Mission, along with 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 centred 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. In 2018, we worked with the Valletta 2018 Foundation to feature ‘Pushing The Mouse’: a giant computer mouse that was pushed around the Triton Fountain by visitors, as well as a high-tech augmented reality experience called The Fourth Triton. Meanwhile, St Georges square was transformed by ReFraming Carbon, an artwork inspired by Malta’s rich heritage.
The latest festival 2020 was held digitally to more than 20, 000 unique online users. We converted all physical performances, music, theatre, experiments and other content to live or pre-recorded sessions streamed from a studio. It was challenging but incredibly rewarding with engagement by people from Turkey to Ireland, motivating us to run hybrid festivals from 2021 onwards!
European Researchers' Night
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. Malta’s proposal always ranks highly amongst over 100 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 Valletta and the web to engage with research. For European Researchers’ 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 recognised 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.
Besides the festival, 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 15 minutes on the box to talk about new projects or ideas over a drink at a bar.
Tiskopri goes to Maltese schools with creative STEAM activities for students. The activities are run by University of Malta students, staff and researchers.
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 January of 2021 in Malta.