When Port Eliot Festival springs up on the ancient St Germans estate on south east Cornwall’s Rame Peninsula at the end of July, the endlessly fascinating house on the site is at the heart of the event. Perhaps the most awe-inspiring part of the house is the Round Room, one of Sir John Soane’s masterpieces,, which will become the science lab for the whole festival: a centre for experiments, debates, futuristic thought and scientific wonder.
Among the science highlights is Project Adrift, a combination of art and science, which throws light upon the 27,000 individual pieces of debris currently being tracked as they orbit above us. Each has been left in space during one of the many missions since the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, in 1957.
Adrift comprises an award-winning short documentary film by Cath Le Couteur and an interactive element which enables audiences to adopt an individual piece of junk and communicate with it via Twitter as it orbits Earth. It also features a genuinely unique electromechanical sound instrument and installation created by BAFTA-winning composer and sound artist, Nick Ryan.
The festival’s creative and cultural partner, the University of Plymouth, will join with campaigners Surfers Against Sewage to present The Killer in our Seas, looking at ways of solving the enormous problem of the plastic which makes up 75 per cent of all marine debris.
Bestselling author and Port Eliot favourite, Simon Garfield, will convert the Round Room into a clock and explain what makes us tick. His most recent book, Timekeepers: How the World Became Obsessed with Time, was named as a book of the year in the Observer and the Sunday Times. He’ll puzzle over the reasons why time seems to slow down during an accident; why, after Roger Bannister ran a sub-4 minute mile, all his rivals were able to do it too; and how timekeeping came to dominate our lives.
Back to sound, this July marks the 60th anniversary of the first meeting of Paul McCartney and John Lennon. To celebrate a moment which changed the modern world, Dr Alexis Kirke, a composer at the University of Plymouth, has examined the duo’s friendship through analysis of their lyrics. Come Together: The Sonification of Lennon-McCartney uses a scientific database of emotionally-annotated words to plot the emotional positivity and physical intensity of the lyrics of 156 songs by McCartney and 131 songs by Lennon. The resulting data has been mapped into musical features and transformed into a classical duet that shows how each musician’s happiness developed throughout their friendship.
Also presented in conjunction with the University of Plymouth: Harnessing the Waves explores how wave power could provide our energy in the future; Blast into Science is a riotous, eruptive entry into the world of science, perfect for families and the place to head if you’re fascinated by volcanoes, robots and all manner of explosions; and Atkins’ Gigantic Panorama presents the strange world of Victorian science and technology - steam-powered path to peace and prosperity through science.
Port Eliot Festival takes place from July 27-30, near St Germans, and tickets are available at porteliotfestival.com