Scifest Africa 2017
Well I’m safely back from another hectic couple of weeks at Scifest Africa, the South African National Science Festival. In addition to Scifest itself I was involved in outreach at schools in Uitenhage and Grahamstwon, the iRhini township festival, the Department of Education in Port Elizabeth and also did some work with Johnson Matthey in Germiston. The highlight had to be my spot at the opening ceremony for the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, and the other visiting VIPs.
I had a packed schedule during the week of the festival. Every day I ran a workshop for up to thirty making and testing slime:
Not content with the “slime” workshop we used the Spectroscopy in a Suitcase kit, which was donated to South Africa by the Royal Society of Chemistry after my three month sabbatical in 2013, for another workshop every day. Not only did the participants see a spectrometer in action they were able to build their own spectroscope and take it away with them.
To raise awareness of Scifest some of the presenters took turns busking in Church Square, and at the Science Picnic in the Botanical Gardens.
Most days there were one or two science shows to do. Either “Kitchen Chemistry: Seconds” or “The Sound of Science”. Not only were they staged in the Guy Butler Theatre in the 1820 Settlers Monument, but also in the township as part of the iRhini festival, and in the Limekhaya High School in Uitenhage.
The highlight of the week, however, wasn’t the murder mystery (where I played the criminal whose catch phrase about nuclear energy was “safe, cheap and reliable”) nor was it the Sunset Shows or the Star Party. The highlight was definitely the short clip I was asked to perform at the Opening Ceremony. On a previous trip I managed to get the then Minister for Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom, involved in the Kitchen Chemistry show (and have pictures to prove it) but the current Minister, Naledi Pandor, politely declined the opportunity to join me on stage. She did, however, thank me in her opening address.
Once the Festival was over I moved my base of operations to Port Elizabeth. There I put on shows for the Department of Education, who brought schoolchildren to their headquarters to see both Kitchen Chemistry: Seconds, and The Sound of Science. I was also able put on a Kitchen Chemistry workshop for a group of local teachers.
My final stop was in Germiston, a suburb of Johannesburg. There I was able to work with Johnson Matthey and put on shows for schools in the vicinity of their chemical plant. I staged three Kitchen Chemistry (not “Seconds”) shows for different schools which proved to be very different audiences. It is the first time I was aware that the whole audience had a police escort, as the first group was announced by police sirens.
Now all that is left is to make sure that I am able to take part again next year!