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Beakerhead to celebrate a decade of weird, wonderful art and science

Jul 19, 2023

July 19, 2023 | LiveWire Calgary
By Aryn Toombs

Beakerhead, the festival of everything science, engineering, and art, is returning this September to celebrate its 10th anniversary in Calgary.

The festival is back on from Sept. 14 to 17, with activations and activities at Contemporary Calgary (the original home of the Calgary Science Centre), Telus Spark Science Centre, and at Millennium Park.

“What I think is really incredible about Beakerhead is how community-driven it is. Everything we’re doing is cross-sectoral collaboration,” said Parker Chapple, Executive Director of Beakerhead.

This year will feature more than 50 different activations from different organizations, non-profits, and small businesses that are centred around the promotion of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

“When it comes to Beakerhead, we create opportunities to amplify the narrative of STEM through creative and artistic experiences,” said Chapple.

“The idea is, is that when you come to Beakerhead, you’re so immersed in the experience, and enjoying it, it’s so much fun you don’t realize you’re learning.”

Last year, Heather Shaw, the now former director of communications for Beakerhead, said that the festival had big plans to mark its anniversary.

“Everybody who turns 10 should have a really great party,” she told LWC.

Reflecting on that year, Chapple said that it had really come together as a result of how dedicated the community was. This year, they said, would be even bigger.

“I was born and raised here. Calgary is known for its entrepreneurial grit and its innovation, and we as a city are on the precipice of really seeing that flourish,” Chapple said.

“Beakerhead is really a calling card to local and national and international communities.”

This year’s festival is expected to have 50,000 visitors.

Big activations to mark anniversary

Some of the bigger activations this year include Academy Skateboard Showcase’s adaptive skateboarding for blind and mobility-impaired skaters at Millennium Park, a roller rink skate through Contemporary Calgary, and the Beaker Bar, which features an exclusive Beakerhead beer from Cold Garden Brewing.

Beakerhead will also be the first time that BODY, an audio-visual-smell experience by Walk the Plank from the United Kingdom, will be shown in Canada. It’s the first time the show will be free for the public.

“We’re very excited to be bringing in Walk the Plank from the UK, and we think that is everything that Beakerhead is known for,” said Chapple.

“It was hosted at three different science festivals in the UK, and I spoke with the executive directors of those organizations and they said that they could have sold tickets for a month straight for that exhibit.”

It was previously shown at Northern Ireland’s Science Festival and Ireland’s National Science Week.

“BODY is a fully immersive multi-sensory experience that evokes curiosity and wonder. It is a true display of the mashup of art, science, and engineering and we can’t think of a better festival than Beakerhead for its North American debut,” said Charlie Morrison, Executive Director for Walk the Plank.

That show is being made free of charge for visitors thanks to the sponsorship of Suncor and APEGA.

Battle of big ideas

Jay Ingram, former Discovery Channel Canada broadcaster and co-founder of Beakerhead, will be hosting scientists and sci-fi fans in a talk show format program called Cosmic Canvas: Unmasking the Alien Enigma.

“They’re going to talk about if aliens really existed what would they look like, but we will also have a sketch artist sketching live for the audience eye’s only, what it is they’re interpreting these academic things,” said Chapple.

That event, which is likely to be completely filled out, happens only on the evening of September 15.

Academics from the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University will also be battling it out in the Thesis Thunder Clash on September 16.

Audience members will be treated to five-minute presentations of some of the research done by top scholars at both institutions to vie for the Thesis Thunder Champion title.

“We’re bringing the best of the best from both institutions to compete with each other,” Chapple said.

For a full list of Beakerhead events, and how to take part in some of the activities, see beakerhead.com/festival.