One of the most prestigious festivals involving Cardiff University academics is the Hay Festival at Hay on Wye. Last week, six presentations were made – known as the Cardiff Series – by representatives of Cardiff University including Cardiff Business School, the School of Geography and Planning, the School of Biosciences, the School of Medicine and the School of Physics and Astronomy. In a year of literary landmarks (Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday, 400 years since Shakespeare’s death), and on the eves of the EU referendum and US election, our team shared their platform with the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, Dame Jacqueline Wilson, Sir Tom Jones and Dara O’Briain.
- Dr Jon Anderson from the School of Geography and Planning invited us to rethink the relations between people, literature and land. It introduced a ‘new literary geography’ based on the assumption that novels and stories cannot be confined by the content of a book, but through the reader’s imagination become part of the lived experience of the world around us.
- Dr Simone Cuff from the School of Medicine took us on a journey of the Ecosystem Inside, explaining that most people think they are human but in fact, they are only partially correct. We have within us more cells that are not human than are: from bacteria that help you digest your food, to fungi that help to keep your skin healthy.
- Professor Haley Gomez, School of Physics and Astronomy led a panel of Cardiff University scientists heavily involved in the LIGO project (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) that discussed the incredible science and fascinating personal stories behind the detection of gravitational waves and what it means for the future of our understanding of the universe.
- Dr Joe O’Mahoney from Cardiff Business School enthralled an audience with a student-led role play about tax avoidance and provoked a lively debate about whether multinational companies such as Facebook should pay tax at all.
- Dr Kelly Berube from the School of Biosciences dispelled myths about air pollution and brought along a range of simple and not so simple equipment to demonstrate how evidence is collected. Her photos of the 1952 London smog left a lasting impression.
- Dr Paul Roche from the School of Physics and Astronomy, also known as the Space Ambassador for Wales, explained in graphic detail how asteroids wiped out the dinosaurs and might cause a future mass extinction. His asteroid samples were the stars of the show and his closing statement of “squashed, buried, fried, broiled, melted, frozen, suffocated” particularly appealed to younger members of the audience.
Early feedback from audiences at the events included:
- “A natural speaker- I can see why his students love him”
- “Very, very, very, very good”
- “The talk was illuminating- a really hot topic”
- “I’ve seen an asteroid and now I know what it was”
- “We’ll come back next year to see the Cardiff Series”
As we reflect on this year’s Hay Festival, we are pleased to hear from academics involved that there have already been a number of follow up activities. These will undoubtedly lead to wider collaborations, better quality research, impact and potentially additional research funding. This is yet another example of how the Cardiff University team successfully highlights research findings and actively contributes to debates at a national and international level. Thank you to the academics that made this possible and I look forward to hearing more about how research from Cardiff University continues to benefit the economy and society.