This year's Swindon Festival of Tomorrow set to be greatest yet

By Barrie Hudson - 5 January 2024

  • Image from a video by Paul Blakemore

    Image from a video by Paul Blakemore

From a giant interactive robotic snail to strawberry flavoured clouds, from swarms of drones to exploding custard - the Festival of Tomorrow is taking over the town with its biggest-ever programme.

  • Photo: Miles Hart

    Photo: Miles Hart

The annual festival sees artists and Swindon arts organisations coming together with scientists and researchers to find creative new ways to help people explore the science, technology and discoveries that will shape our future.

Thanks to support from key partners UK Research and Innovation, Business West and Arts Council England, this year’s festival will include performances, immersive installations, and free drop-in activities at more venues than ever before – from Coate Water to the Designer Outlet Centre.

Thousands of primary school children across the borough will get an early taste of the fun, with a programme of hands-on workshops, planetarium shows and interactive online performances and challenges from top science communicators in the run up to the half-term break.

The public programme will kick off with a live contemporary dance performance set to the rich visuals of the late Jóhann Jóhannsson’s science fiction film Last and First Men with narration from Tilda Swinton. Presented by Neon Dance, First and Last Men will take place at Swindon Dance on Friday 9 February.

Other evening events will include a science comedy night at The Vic in Old Town, and a special film screening hosted by Create Studios at the Carriageworks.

Families will also find lots to keep them entertained throughout the half-term week. One highlight is sure to be meeting a huge robot; Luma - an 8m long inflatable snail who loves an audience.

She looms above visitors with a presence which is gentle, welcoming and otherworldly.  Luma will be at Steam Museum from Monday 12 to Sunday 18 February, as part of a programme of free, drop-in activities. Don’t miss the chance to see, touch and taste clouds at The Cloud Factory workshops on Wednesday 14!

A quick walk across to the Designer Outlet will uncover more free activities, including a swarm robot escape room, an Augmented Reality space trail and an interactive installation which invites visitors to make their mark while interacting with bio-inspired robots.  

There’ll also be fun science sparks workshops at libraries, young street theatre science performers will be popping up around the town centre, and the Richard Jefferies Museum will be running nature-inspired activities.

The festivities will culminate in a two-day Finale Extravaganza on Friday 16 & Saturday 17 February, taking place once again at The Deanery CE Academy in Wichelstowe. Organisers say visitors can expect to be wowed by lots of exciting new interactive exhibits.

Participants will have the chance to fly a drone, race a hydrogen cell car or programme a robot vehicle, and get hands on with the latest technology including a 3D anatomage virtual anatomy table, and the latest e-sports gaming gear.

The popular event will also feature an action-packed array of live shows and thought-provoking panel discussions. Families won’t want to miss the inspirational ‘Exploding Custard’ science-show presented by award-winning science communicator Ian Russell.  

This spectacular experience of more easily-repeatable experiments than you’ll be able to remember has delighted audiences in over 15 countries.

In their new interactive show, Braintastic! Science challenge you to complete tasks that have been used in real life to test the intelligence of a range of animals. You’ll need to use your creativity to solve tricky logic puzzles normally completed by chimps, parrots and even dolphins.

Juggling Scientist Dr Ken will explore the scientific principles behind skilful circus tricks and dangerous stunts. Hold onto your seats as he eats fire, cracks whips and juggles five beanbags - all in the name of science.

With immersive planetarium shows from family-favourites Explorerdome and live science demonstrations, hands-on science and creative activities and fun challenges from organisations including the James Dyson Foundation, Intel, Catalent and many leading universities, everyone is invited to explore the latest discoveries and ideas which will help shape our future!

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