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Science and Industry Museum gears up to explore ideas for a better world as Manchester Science Festival line up is announced

Royal Photographic Society's Science Photographer of the Year. Brian Eno and ClientEarth. Manchester Science Festival Young People Panel. Royal Society. Zamzam Ibrahim. James Lovelock. Helen Czerski. Samira Ahmed. BBC Planet North and more.

MSF 2021 press release image

The Science and Industry Museum is preparing for 10 days of online scientific celebration as Manchester Science Festival goes digital between 12–21 February 2021. Further socially distanced, onsite activities, including UK premieres and a dedicated special event programme for families will also take place later in the year, supporting Manchester’s cultural, economic and skills recovery.  

Manchester Science Festival has been a key event in the city’s cultural calendar since 2007. This year’s event is a cornerstone of the Science Museum Group’s major public programme focused on climate and solutions to the urgent challenges facing the world ahead of COP26, the 26th United Nations Convention on Climate Change, happening in Glasgow this November, when world leaders and delegates will convene to develop an international response to the climate emergency.  

As the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Manchester was the catalyst for scientific innovation and unprecedented change worldwide. Now, with Greater Manchester’s vision of becoming carbon-neutral by 2038, the city is primed to influence future progress. The festival will support this through a programme that encourages communities, scientists and activists to advance ideas for a better world.

The museum has unveiled a programme of free online talks, exhibitions, debates and activities to enjoy from home this February while it remains temporarily closed.

Free online events this February 

An extensive programme of digital activities will include a range of engaging and thought-provoking events.  

Track the global story of climate change with the The Royal Photographic Society's Science Photographer of the Year competition, which will now be showcased digitally from Manchester for the first time in a captivating online exhibition that depicts how science, technology and engineering are addressing this urgent issue. It will exhibit stunning images, selected from over 1,000 entries taken by both expert and amateur photographers, including budding artists aged 17 and under, who submitted their photos as part of a specific competition for young people.

Hear from those at the forefront of the fight against our altering climate in Changing the system as renowned musician and climate campaigner, Brian Eno, joins ClientEarth founder, James Thornton, to discuss how to use the power of law to combat climate change, protect the environment and build a future in which people and the planet thrive together.
Join an expert panel in Earth, but not as we know it: Lovelock’s legacy and our future as they respond to specially-recorded provocations from Dr James Lovelock, the 101-year-old scientist who studied at The University of Manchester and created the influential yet controversial Gaia Hypothesis (the theory that organic and inorganic components of the Earth have evolved together as a single living, self-regulating system). The panel will be made up of a range of expert voices, each bringing a different perspective to the debate. This includes writer and broadcaster Gaia Vince, who has travelled the world extensively to research this unique time in Earth’s history, in which increasing human activities are changing the planet as never before; climate activist and scientist, Professor Chris Rapley, CBE, whose celebrated career has recently seen him focused on the role of climate scientists in delivering value to society through decision making, public policy and more effective communication; and Zamzam Ibrahim, who grew up in Greater Manchester and is now Vice President of European Students Union. Zamzam has led on a number of campaigns tackling social injustices, including climate justice specifically within the education system. 

Manchester born physicist, oceanographer and BBC broadcaster, Dr Helen Czerski, will ask the question, ‘How can I be a good citizen of the world?’ during a series of three lively discussions about transport, food and social justice with communities and campaigners who are making a difference. Helen will be joined by a  wide-ranging panel of local guests, including the Mayor of Salford, Paul Dennett, and Director of Open Kitchen MCR, Manchester’s leading sustainable catering company, Corin Bell. 

Manchester Science Festival’s Young People Panel are a team of budding Greater Manchester researchers and curators aged 14–24 who have been working across the festival to ensure the voices and interests of young people are represented. Join them at a special one-off online event, Let’s talk about eco-anxiety. Chaired by Nile Henry, founder and CEO of The Blair Project, the event will bring together the audience, a panel of young people and a number of climate enthusiasts, including Newsround presenter Martin Dougan, environmentalist Mya-Rose Craig and University of Bath Lecturer Caroline Hickman, for an insightful discussion about this contemporary challenge. 

Home audiences can also tune into a livestream of the Royal Society's You and the planet: air. Its expert panel will be tackling the important issue of air quality and how we can improve this and, subsequently, life on earth. Air pollution also has a major detrimental effect on our environment and without urgent action, global temperatures will continue to increase, as will extreme weather and damage to biodiversity. But what can be done to tackle the problem and how can clean, fresh steps forward be taken? The panel of expert academics and researchers will be attempting to clear the air by exploring solutions to this urgent issue, chaired by the Guardian’s North of England editor, Helen Pidd.

How can we stop fossil fuels from harming our planet? That’s the question Professor Myles Allen will be answering during The road to carbon zero online talk, alongside one of the museum's own expert Explainers. Find out more about what climate change means, hear about Professor Allen’s ideas for a Carbon Takeback Obligation and learn how his research could be used to help the UK achieve its net zero target by 2050. Viewers will also have the chance to ask their own question during a live Q&A session.

Our hydrogen future will help audiences to understand more about the universe’s most abundant element and how it holds the key to decarbonising our gas supply and achieving our carbon reduction targets. The event will be hosted by Cadent Gas, which bring gas to 11 million homes and businesses throughout the North West, West Midlands, East Midlands, South Yorkshire, East of England and North London. It is at forefront of developing the science and infrastructure that will enable low carbon hydrogen to heat our homes and power our transport.

There will also the opportunity to join Fazlun Khalid, author and founder of the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, in A liveable Earth: climate change and faith community, to discuss the consequences of our lifestyles, how we can leave a liveable Earth for future generations, and whether faith communities play the role of bystander or agent of change.

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

“The vital role museums play in providing fun, welcoming and engaging spaces, both physically and online, has never been more important. Although these are extremely tough times for everyone, we are taking the opportunity to create a digital offer that will continue to bring the joy of the museum directly into people’s homes.

“Our museum is home to ideas that change the world and continues to reflect and inspire innovators of the future and we’re working hard to find new ways of igniting curiosity while our doors remain closed. Manchester Science Festival is a major part of this, supporting communities, scientists and activists to explore and advance ideas for a better world.

“As we all continue to navigate the ongoing pandemic, Manchester Science Festival will look and feel different this year, but we have created a compelling digital programme that will deliver memorable experiences to audiences across the city and beyond.”

The Science and Industry Museum has also joined forces with local BBC radio stations from across the North of England to launch Planet North, an initiative that has been shining a spotlight on environmental issues. Look out for content from Planet North Champions, a team of young people from across the North of England who are passionate about the environment and challenges facing our planet, exploring how the actions of young people, and us all, can help towards a better future.

Events are now available to book with more activities including activities families can do at home being added in the coming weeks. All events are free, with donations welcome to support the museum’s work. To view the full line up and to book, visit

Changing the system: Brian Eno and James Thornton in conversation and Earth, but not as we know it: Lovelock’s legacy and our future form part of the Science Museum Group's year-long Climate Talks series, more of which can be viewed and booked online.  

Future events at the museum

The museum’s aspiration is to host more of the events that were due to take place onsite during February at a later date when its doors reopens. 

Family fun will be the focus of activities during the early summer months, when visitors of all ages will have the chance to experience a range of exciting, socially distanced, climate-themed activities. Whether it’s waving goodbye to fast fashion and embracing upcycling, taking away tips for a more sustainable diet, being entertained by shows and performances or exploring cutting-edge green technology, there will be something for everyone to enjoy.

In June, live audiences can join award-winning journalist, Samira Ahmed, for the through-provoking Future of fuel debate. The fuel we use to power our world is one of the biggest contributing factors affecting the UK’s carbon footprint. Samira will lead the conversation with a diverse panel of scientists, policy makers, energy supplier and campaigners to discuss how our society could use the most up-do-date fuel research and technology to reduce UK emissions and tackle the climate crisis. 

Manchester Science Festival’s programme will also extend to November, when events will be hosted at the museum to coincide with COP26, the 26th United Nations Convention on Climate Change being held in Glasgow. Visitors can get to grips with some of science’s most cutting-edge developments in the fight against climate change during a series of special events and performances. 

More details of the onsite activities will be revealed later this month. 

Manchester Science Festival has been generously supported by Chiesi Ltd (Major Sponsor), Waters Corporation (Major Sponsor), Electricity North West (Sponsor), Cadent Gas (Event Sponsor) and Renold (Supporter).

The Science and Industry Museum was required to close its doors once again in October following Government restrictions and looks forward to welcoming visitors back later in 2021.


For more information, please contact Communications Manager, Alex Urmston, on 0161 606 0160/

Supporting quotes

Sir David Attenborough, broadcaster and natural historian, said:

"The moment of climate crisis is with us and our planet needs us all to act now. The UN’s 26th Climate Change Conference in Glasgow is a critically important opportunity for governments to act decisively – we know what has to be done to cut carbon emissions, and we can’t afford to put off a decision again because each delay makes it so much harder to avert more damaging climate change. It is also important that we all do our bit.  . I …look forward to seeing how the Manchester Science Festival sparks discussion about how to protect our fragile planet."

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."  

Notes to editors

About Manchester Science Festival

 Manchester Science Festival, produced by the Science and Industry Museum from 12-21 February 2021, will present a programme of digital events that will explore our changing climate and ideas for a better world. As the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Manchester was the catalyst for scientific innovation and unprecedented change worldwide. Now, with Greater Manchester’s vision of becoming carbon-neutral by 2038, the city is primed to influence future progress. The festival will support this through a programme that encourages communities, scientists and activists to advance ideas for a better world. More information at:

About the Science and Industry Museum

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 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 Chiesi Ltd 

Chiesi Ltd is a global pharmaceutical company with certified B Corp status, awarded to businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.  Chiesi’s UK headquarters are based in Manchester. For further information please visit our website

About Waters Corporation

Waters Corporation is the world's leading specialty measurement company, has pioneered chromatography, mass spectrometry, and thermal analysis innovations serving the life, materials, and food sciences for more than 60 years. With more than 7,000 employees worldwide, Waters operates directly in 35 countries, including 15 manufacturing facilities, and with products available in more than 100 countries. It is the 12th year that Waters Corporation have supported Manchester Science Festival. It has a manufacturing facility located in Manchester. It has a manufacturing facility located in Manchester. 

About Electricity North West

Electricity North West owns, operates and manages the electricity network that connects every home and business in the North West from Cheshire to Cumbria. A revolution is taking place in how electricity is made, used and stored across this network. Achieving zero carbon targets will lead to an increasing dependency on electricity in all our lives as we move to low carbon electricity to heat our homes, charge our cars and even generating our own power through solar panels. Electricity North West is leading this innovation by maximising the use of the existing network and introducing new technology and ground-breaking smart and flexible solutions to provide customers with a reliable, affordable and sustainable service. Electricity North West have generously supported Manchester Science Festival for many years.

About Cadent Gas

Cadent are leading solutions for decarbonising heat in its Future of Gas programme, using the existing network to deliver greener gases like hydrogen.  Cadent originated the Hynet project and are leading the development of the hydrogen pipeline which will enable multiple environmental benefits including a significant reduction in CO2 emissions, enabling Greater Manchester’s carbon neutral target of 2038 to be reached.  

About Renold

Renold innovates in delivering the highest precision engineered power transmission products to all industries worldwide.  Its Group head quarters are located in Wythenshawe. Tracing their history back to 1864, Renold are long standing supporters of Manchester Science Festival.

The Science Museum Group and sustainability

The Science Museum Group (SMG) has been a leader in raising climate awareness through its public programme. In December 2020, it announced a major focus on sustainability and climate change in its 2021 public programme, reinforcing a commitment to engaging its physical and digital audiences with the science and solutions to the urgent challenges facing our planet.

Commencing in January, a new eleven-part event series, Climate Talks, will lead public engagement around climate science within the cultural sector and conclude in the run up to COP26, the 26th United Nations Convention on Climate Change, happening in Glasgow in November 2021. 

Included in the series are three talks that will form part of Manchester Science Festival. Musician and climate campaigner Brian Eno, journalists Samira Ahmed and Gaia Vince, and Dr Helen Czerski will spearhead debates covering pioneering work in using the law to fight climate change, the future of fuel, and a look at James Lovelock’s legacy, with an exclusive video appearance from the 101-year-old scientist himself. 

The Group’s approach to sustainability has also transformed its working practices and collections care. Highlights from the past decade include:

  • Since 2011/12, SMG has cut direct carbon emissions by 69%, from its operations despite increasing floor area by 24% as a result of mergers and Masterplan developments, and purchases all its electricity from renewable sources (except at the Blythe House object store)
  • In 2005, the Science Museum became the first national museum to install solar panels on its roof;
  • 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;
  • We’ve also built a hempcrete storage facility at the National Collections Centre and the site uses two prototype hydrogen fuel cell cars;
  • 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 native, locally-sourced trees a year on its estate throughout this decade, joining 43,000 trees already planted at the National Collections Centre;
  • Biodiversity has also been encouraged by the addition of bee hives at the Science Museum, installing over a hundred bird and bat boxes together with log piles and hibernacula for reptiles and insects at the National Collections Centre, planting wildflowers at Locomotion in County Durham, and extensive new box planting across the Science and Industry Museum’s seven-acre historic city-centre site in Manchester;
  • 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 Commissions 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: