Last weekend saw the first Solarsphere festival, an extravaganza of music and astronomy hosted at Penmaenau Farm in Builth Wells, Wales. And what a weekend it was! The farm is well set up for hosting small festivals, with indoor stages, onsite catering, including a bar, and plenty of camping space. Even the ablutions were pretty good, by festival standards! Being the first, it was a bit of an experiment, but even so it attracted over 500 people, including many families, music fans, and a crowd of amateur astronomers.
With two stages, the entertainment was pretty evenly split across the two themes of the festival: one stage hosted the live music, the other was set up for talks on astronomy. The festival programme was arranged so that the music and talks did not overlap, so you could listen to Devonbird in one barn and then head over to the over stage to listen to Prof John Zarnecki talk about visiting the planets with spacecraft!
The music was excellent. Particular favourites of mine were Misty’s Big Adventure (suggested by Chris Lintott apparently), 3 Daft Monkeys, and The Higher Planes. There were some really good astronomy talks as well, covering all kinds of subjects at an introductory level. I gave a talk on Sunday, and felt slightly awed to be on the same bill as Lucie Green, John Zarnecki and Will Gater!
Around the site there were plenty of other things going on. The top camping field was set aside for night-time observing (and so restricted to red torches only!), with many people bringing their own equipment and happily showing other campers interesting celestial objects. We were fantastically lucky with the weather; having had torrential downpours across half the country on Thursday/Friday, it cleared up beautifully and we had three lovely clear nights for stargazing and Perseid-spotting.
There was also the Cosmos Planetarium, stands from the SPA and AstroCymru, custom t-shirt printing from Murgens Keep, rocketry workshops, solar observing, space art, face painting… plenty to keep festival goers (of all ages!) entertained.
And the best bit is… they’re doing it all again next year! I’m looking forward to it already.