University festival offers a feast of marvel and magic to stimulate the mind

  • Free 11-day festival showcases the incredible possibilities when academic excellence combines with local talent
  • Performances, exhibitions and events held at venues across the city, including former Co-op department store Castle House and a Spiegeltent at Barkers Pool

Spectacular collaborations between world-leading academics and some of the UK’s most famous artists and musicians will entertain and enlighten at the University of Sheffield’s Festival of the Mind 2014.

From 18-28 September 2014, 100 academics and more than 150 artistic collaborators will stage 150 city-wide performances, exhibitions and events designed around the themes: change, chaos, global, joy, resilience and urban.

The unique festival, which was the world’s first academic-city collaboration when it launched two years ago, is the brainchild of Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Head of Engagement at the University of Sheffield and director of the National Fairground Archive.

This year’s event will take place across the city centre, with an array of projects being staged in Sheffield’s once thriving Co-operative department store at Castle House, which will open its doors to the public for the first time in more than six years for the festival.

A stunning 1920s cabaret-style Spiegeltent– a large travelling tent decorated with mirrors and stained glass, one of the few left in the world following their 19th century heyday – will also host a series of stimulating events at Barkers Pool.

The festival will feature:

  • Huge, biblical murals painted onto the side of buildings by well-known graffiti artist, Kid Acne, who has worked with brands from Prada to Mercedes Benz, to explore the use of the bible in modern culture
  • The world’s first telescope made by 3D printing, which allows the public to photograph and tweet pictures of the night sky
  • A real life Cinderella slipper, made of fibre glass in 1943 for a bride to wear down the aisle, will go on display in the University’s Turner Museum of Glass
  • An interactive video game art gallery, which displays the University’s best-kept treasures and will allow people to ‘walk’ round and view the artworks and artefacts as if they were there
  • A unique audio-visual installation, which tricks the brain into revealing the evolution of human vision by shocking audience members into ‘gaze-shifting’ – catching sight of something potentially dangerous on the periphery and moving the head to focus on it; an ancient early warning system developed by our reptilian ancestors
  • A live musical performance by 150 musicians of Gustav Holst’s symphonic suite in a pop-up planetarium, led by the world’s leading astronomers and using imagery provided by NASA
  • An adults-only series of four lectures by University experts revealing the secrets of fertility, reproduction and the impact of robotics on human evolution

Other projects will see the University’s Arts Tower transformed into a 225ft art installation using light waves to simulate natural chemical reactions, ‘pop up gardens in a bag’ by Olympic Park designer and University academic Nigel Dunnett spring up across the city and an exhibition of residents’ Letters to Sheffield sharing what their city means to them.

Festival Director Professor Vanessa Toulmin said: “Festival of the Mind is all about being creative in order to make complicated subjects accessible to the public. We want people to witness how captivating knowledge and learning can be.

“However, none of our projects will over-simplify or ‘dumb-down’ complex thinking and processes – we would never patronise the public by assuming a level of ignorance. Instead, we want to educate and celebrate exploring the unknown.

“It’s fantastic that both the University of Sheffield and our partners, Sheffield City Council, Arts Council England and the Wellcome Trust, understand the importance of allowing knowledge to flow out of the University and into the city it inhabits and vice versa.

“This could easily become a template for other universities, both in the UK and abroad.”

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, added: “I am delighted that the Festival of the Mind will once again bring to the city of Sheffield a superb feast of ideas expressed in ways which will delight local people.

“Under the direction of Professor Vanessa Toulmin, academic colleagues and hundreds of volunteers from across the University are working with the city's artists and performances to create artworks, public lectures, films and concerts.

“These will be held on our city's streets, in galleries and disused buildings and in a beautiful Spiegeltent in the city centre.

“All are welcome to learn and wonder at this marvellous free festival which celebrates the spirit of creativity which is Sheffield's heritage and a key to its future.”

Additional information

Festival of the Mind

The 11-day long Festival of the Mind (18th- 28th September 2014) will see the University of Sheffield team its leading academics with the UK’s most famous artists and musicians in order to bring academia to the streets.

Events take place between 18–28 September 2014. For further information and the full programme, visit:
Follow Festival of the Mind on Twitter @FestivalMind #FestivalMind or visit our Facebook page.

The University of Sheffield

With almost 25,000 of the brightest students from around 120 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

In 2014 it was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education and in the last decade has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

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For further information please contact:

Hannah Postles
Media Relations Officer
University of Sheffield
0114 222 1046