Imperial Festival 2017

Imperial Festival took place on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 May 2017. The free annual festival took place at the College’s South Kensington campus, and gave the public an opportunity to go behind-the-scenes and explore the latest research. It was a great chance for us to showcase the Centre's research, and we had two exhibits in the Energy and Environment zone:

Healthy Environments

This exhibit covered several of the key areas within the Centre. We organised a range of activities designed to help people understand what small changes they can make to make a big change to their own health and the environment too. We had a very impressive (and heavy!) spinning quiz wheel, and quizzed the public on air pollution and ways in which they could breathe cleaner air. There was a lot of interest in our Heathrow noise maps, and noise monitoring over the weekend with our hand-held sensors showed an average level of about 80 dB in the room, not an exposure level that we would recommend long-term! It was also a great chance to do some more outreach on exposomics, and discuss with people how we are trying to unravel the way in which the effects of the environment on health actually happen – we went through over 5kg of modelling clay as we got children (and some adults) to model their exposome and think about the marks that environmental exposures leave on you.

“The festival is an incredibly exciting event, which allows us to engage with members of the community on a level that is not easily achieved by other means! The participants to the fair can ask us questions, do exciting activities based on science and see some of the results we have achieved through hard work! It was definitely worth doing because we were able to showcase the Centre’s varied research work and achievements on topics like air pollution, exposome, noise, green spaces and so much more.” Michaela Dijmarescu, Research Coordinator

Are greener spaces healthier spaces?

Led by Susan Hodgson, this exhibit created a wonderful oasis of green space in the festival to set the scene for our interactions, and over the two days more than 500 people stuck a leaf on our ‘pathways tree’ to indicate how they valued their local green space. This (very unscientific) poll indicated that approximately 40% of adults valued this space to enjoy for clean air and quietness (versus as space for exercising, de-stressing or socialising), which likely reflects the recent news coverage of air pollution issues in London, and indicates that public opinion is in line with the Centre’s focus. A large plasma screen showing the Treepedia website from MIT (http://senseable.mit.edu/treepedia) was a great way to get people talking about local green space provision, and inequalities in exposure, and people were very happy to sit on our park bench and peruse our ‘True or False’ game. Taking part in the festival was great fun, and very rewarding -  we were interacting with ~50 people per hour during the 11 hours of festival, so it was very intensive, but wonderful to talk to parents, children, school teachers, housing developers, local council workers, etc, all of whom had a unique and interesting perspective on the topic and our work. We’re looking forward to next year already!

Best moment of the Festival: Imperial President Alice Gast sticking her leaf on our ‘pathways tree’!

"For PhD students, like myself, the festival provides an excellent opportunity to home in on those all-important communication and public engagement skills. It's important to be able to present research in an accessible and inclusive manner. On this year's stall, we used personalised and interactive activities suitable for all ages, which were very successful in opening up discussion about the association of health with local green space." Charlie Roscoe, PhD student