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Manchester Science Festival returns to explore our changing climate and ideas for a better world

Manchester Science Festival, a highlight of the city's cultural calendar and one of the most popular science festivals in the UK, is returning in 2021 with a jam-packed programme. 

The festival, produced by the Science and Industry Museum, is now planned to take place from Friday 12 – Sunday 21 February 2021. The first details have been unveiled, revealing a programme that will explore the role of science, technology and communities in finding solutions to our changing climate, one of the world’s most urgent challenges. It will include a wealth of inspiring, entertaining and playful experiences for all ages, kicking off with the opportunity to become the Royal Photographic Society's next Science Photographer of the Year.  

As the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Manchester was the catalyst for scientific innovation and unprecedented change all over the world. Now, with Greater Manchester’s vision of becoming carbon neutral by 2038, the city is uniquely placed to influence future progress across the globe once again.

Visitors will witness some of science's most cutting-edge developments in the fight against climate change. They will be treated to an unmissable line-up, including premieres and immersive arts, fashion, food, theatre and sustainable living experiences, as well as the chance to talk to leading scientists and climate campaigners during a series of special events and debates. Due to take place over February half term, the festival will offer something for everyone, including a host of fun family activities.

All activities will inform, engage and ignite curiosity about our changing climate. Most will take place across the Science and Industry Museum’s city-centre site, where visitors have been safely returning since August.

The Science and Industry Museum is collaborating with a wealth of contributors to deliver the exciting programme, more details of which will be announced later this autumn. The first key partner to be unveiled is The Royal Photographic Society (RPS), whose mission of 'promoting the art and science of photography' has formed the basis of its work since 1853.

In support of the festival, The RPS has, for the first time, introduced a 'climate change' subcategory to its prestigious Science Photographer of the Year competition. The inclusive competition encourages photographers of all ages and abilities from across the world to capture images that show science in action, depict its impact on our everyday lives and illustrate how photography helps to record scientific events. The additional category of climate change will also welcome submissions that tell the global story of climate change, showcase how science, technology and engineering are addressing this urgent issue and reveal its effects on our natural world.

The shortlisted photographs will be used to create an exhibition for Manchester Science Festival, bringing together science, climate and art in a stunning showcase of images. After its first showing at the museum, which will continue beyond the festival’s closing date, it will tour the UK and internationally.

The competition is now open for entries until 4 December 2020. Anyone aged 17 and under can enter the Young Science Photographer of the Year category, and those aged 18 and over into Science Photographer of the Year. More information can be found on the RPS website

Sally MacDonald, Director of the Science and Industry Museum, said:

"Our museum is home to ideas that change the world and continues to reflect and inspire innovators of the future through our exhibitions, activities and events. Manchester Science Festival is a major part of this, supporting citizens, scientists and activists to come together to explore and advance ideas for a better world.

"As we all continue to navigate the ongoing pandemic, Manchester Science Festival may look and feel a little different this year, but we are working closely with partners across the city and the UK to create a compelling  public programme that will deliver memorable experiences to visitors, whatever their interests. We are delighted to be working with The Royal Photographic Society to co-curate and display an exhibition created from the prestigious Science Photographer of the Year competition. It will provide an original and authentic snapshot of the immense effect both science and climate have on our world." 

Dr Michael Pritchard, Director, Education and Public Affairs at the RPS, said:

"Whether you are studying science or climate change at school, or working at the cutting edge of science or environmental research, this competition provides an opportunity to draw attention to your work and see it exhibited at one of the UK’s leading science museums. With science and the impact of climate change so much a part of our modern world, we encourage students and researchers to share their images in this year's competition."

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said:

"We are proud of our long tradition of scientific innovation in this city and Manchester Science Festival is one of the boldest, most creative and thought-provoking festivals in the country. What better way to explore the theme of climate than bring together artists, scientists, citizens, businesses and visitors to the city to play, talk and make the future together."

Jonny Sadler, Programme Director at Manchester Climate Change Agency, said:

"Manchester has set its targets in line with the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the latest science. Our priority now is getting on track to meet them, including reducing our CO2 emissions by 50% over the next five years, on the way to becoming one of the world's first zero carbon cities.

"This year's festival will showcase the many practical actions visitors can take right now, adding to the growing number of people already working hard to make Manchester a leading city for urgent climate action."  

The Science and Industry Museum is part of the Science Museum Group, the world's leading group of science museums. At the start of the year, the Group announced a major public programme focused on climate. Manchester Science Festival will be a cornerstone of this, showcasing some of science's most cutting-edge developments in the fight against climate change, introducing new technologies and connecting visitors to leading voices who are helping to shape our future. The Science Museum in London will also host the UK's first significant exhibition exploring carbon capture technologies, opening on 31 March 2021 to coincide with COP26, the 26th United Nations Convention on Climate Change in Glasgow in November 2021.

The last festival was held in 2018. It was originally due to take place again in October this year, but the decision was made to reschedule for February 2021. It will be the first in a series of major events and exhibitions planned to take place at the Science and Industry Museum next year, further details of which will be announced later this autumn. 

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For more information, please contact communications manager, Alex Urmston, on 0161 606 0160/



The Science and Industry Museum tells the story of where science met industry and the modern world began. Manchester was one of the first global industrial cities, and its epic rise, decline and resurrection has been echoed in countless other cities around the world.

From textiles to computers, the objects and documents on display in the museum tell stories of everyday life over the last 200 years, from light bulbs to locomotives.  The museum's mission is to inspire all its visitors, including future scientists and inventors, with the story of how ideas can change the world, from the industrial revolution to today and beyond.

The Science and Industry Museum site is on the site of the Liverpool Road Station terminus of the Liverpool Manchester Railway, the world's first purpose-built passenger railway. Among its internationally significant buildings are the world's first passenger railway station and the oldest existing railway goods warehouse. In total there are two Grade I listed buildings and four Grade II listed buildings on the site.

The site reopened on 14 August following a closure of almost five months during the COVID-19 lockdown. A safe and enjoyable experience is the museum's top priority. Visitors are being asked to observe social distancing, wear face coverings, follow one-way routes and book online in advance.

The Science and Industry Museum is part of the Science Museum Group, a family of museums which also includes the Science Museum in London; the National Railway Museum in York and Shildon; and the Science and Media Museum in Bradford. The Science Museum Group is devoted to the history and contemporary practice of science, medicine, technology, industry and media. With five million visitors each year and an unrivalled collection, it is the most significant group of museums of science and innovation worldwide.

About Manchester Science Festival

Manchester Science Festival immerses visitors in the fascinating world of contemporary innovations and shines a light on future developments that have the potential to change our world. it attracts visitors from across the country, welcoming over 1 million people over the last decade.

This year, the theme is climate. MSF will offer the people of Greater Manchester and beyond opportunities to witness some of science’s most cutting-edge developments in the fight against climate change and involve them in innovative, playful and meaningful experiences around this global issue.

Manchester Science Festival is produced by the Science and Industry Museum, part of the Science Museum Group. The Group aims to lead public engagement in the UK on the science of climate change and the technological challenges and opportunities around energy transition by providing a compelling public programme. It also aims to be a leader in the sector in reducing the environmental impacts of its work. 

The Science Museum Group and sustainability

The Science Museum Group (SMG) has been a leader in raising climate awareness through its public programme while the Group’s approach to sustainability has transformed its working practices and collections care. Highlights from the past decade include:

  • Since 2011/12, SMG has cut energy usage by 25% and carbon emissions by 69%, despite increasing floor area by 24% as a result of mergers and Masterplan developments;
  • The National Collections Centre site at Wroughton hosts a solar farm business that generates almost four times the total amount of energy used by the whole of SMG;
  • The Atmosphere gallery exploring the science of climate change, which opened in 2010, has been seen by more than 5 million people;
  • In 2019, the Science Museum Group announced fresh commitments to biodiversity including planting at least 1,000 trees a year on its own land throughout this decade;
  • In 2005, the Science Museum became the first national museum to install solar panels on its roof;
  • Climate change has been a recurrent theme in SMG’s public programme, with exhibitions including: Unlocking Lovelock; The Rubbish Collection, an art installation made of waste; Luke Jerram’s spectacular artwork Gaia, as part of the National Science and Media Museum’s Hello Universe exhibition; and the Lovelock Art Commissons for Manchester Science Festival: The Sounds of Others: A Biophonic Line with artist Marcus Coates and Cape Farewell (2014); Evaporation with artist Tania Kovats and Cape Farewell (2015) and Cloud Crash with Nerc/Cape Farewell and artists HeHe (2016/17).

For more information about Sustainability and the Science Museum Group: