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Barnaby 2014

This weekend has been amazing. The Cheshire town of Macclesfield has, historically, had an annual festival (and holiday, up until fairly recently) honouring St Barnabus. After a hiatus, the festival was reborn five years ago, and Barnaby is now a regular feature in the town's calendar once again. This year I was involved in more ways than one.

On Friday night I went to see a concert in Christ Church. After being entertained by the support act, The Christophers, we enjoyed a surprisingly energetic set from the Blockheads (as in Ian Dury and the). Quite a performance! On Saturday I was back in the market place in the morning to catch a show by David Price, aka the Science Busker, who wowed the crowd with numerous science demos before the finale where, to much laughter from the crowd, he blew up his head!

The samba band on Chestergate mid-parade. Credit: Megan

Then came the parade. Having only had two rehearsals with the band, totalling less than two hours, I led the samba band through the streets of the town, pumping out batucada and samba reggae rhythms to an enthusiastic crowd of onlookers. Despite the band's lack of time playing with me acting as whistle-blower (in the Brazilian sense), we pulled it off rather well. The band played brilliantly, despite my occasional mistakes, and we were joined in the market square at the end by a trio of urban gypsies who danced along to the beat of our drums with incredible amounts of enthusiasm. Switching from playing repinique to cavaquinho in a matter of seconds, in time for the grand finale, was a challenge, but I made it, just! After a brief post-gig pint with my Mum in a local bar, I returned to Christ Church to find some food for dinner, and spent a pleasant couple of hours sitting in the sunshine on the grass with friends from the band.

Running balloon-rocket races in the Science Pod. Credit: Wendy Moss

Sunday involved less music, more science. I returned to the market place to do a performance slot in the Science Pod, part of the Hive of Industry event. In my 45-minute slot I wowed kids (of all ages) with example rockets, ranging from ready-built A-class rockets available from model shops, up to my home-built J-class 1/4-scale Patriot missile; flight-ready and capable of reaching 2 kilometres with the right engine. Then we built simple rockets from balloons, using string as a guidance system, and raced them across the church yard! Following me in the Science Pod were a couple of guys from the Kings School, who delighted the crowd with numerous explosions, liquid nitrogen, and noxious smells. I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering round the market place with my rocket, talking to anyone who asked about it and explaining the mechanics of a model rocket flight. The rocket and I also had some amusing encounters with a full-size Dalek, built by Tytherington high school from the BBC plans! A thoroughly enjoyable festival all-round, topped off slightly bizarrely by a request to build a rocket for a local bar... :-)

Posted by Megan on Sunday 22nd Jun 2014 (22:04 UTC) | Add a comment | Permalink

Time flies

It's been quite some time since I posted here, for a number of reasons. One is that I've changed jobs again (the joys of being an itinerant scientist in today's highly insecure job market), another is that I've been meaning to sort out a new system for the blog so that comments can return, but without the rampant spam.

Anyway. What have I been up to? Well, I've moved back to the UK, published some pretty cool science, played a bunch of gigs on a variety of instruments with several different bands in two countries, indulged my creative side by writing songs and designing tactile astronomy art, had my first op-ed piece published, waited over three weeks for estates to fix a waterfall coming through my office roof (I wish I was joking), written some new talks, appear to have joined the council of the Society for Popular Astronomy, and done heaps of public outreach. Life is far from quiet.

My latest talk, "When Galaxies Collide!", premièred at ArtSpace in May and went down a storm. I also gave the main lecture at an event organised by Macclesfield Astronomical Society for the science programme of Bollington Festival (also part of the new Cheshire science festival), and the whole evening had great reviews from what I hear, including from one of my old primary school teachers! Next up are two appearances at Macclesfield's annual Barnaby Festival: I'll be leading the samba band in the festival parade on Saturday June 21st, and then doing some rocketry games and astronomy demos as part of the Hive of Industry event on Sunday June 22nd. Come find me in the market square - my five-foot rocket and solar system on a string will be hard to miss!

Posted by Megan on Tuesday 17th Jun 2014 (21:29 UTC) | Add a comment | Permalink

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Last updated: Sunday, 22-Jun-2014 23:32:13 BST