Big Bang Festival Brings Stars, Stories, Science And Marty Jopson’s ‘Wiggly Monsters’ To Wigtown

Marty Jopson, known to millions from the One Show and other TV programmes, will be among the stars of this year’s Big Bang Festival of science and astronomy. 

Organised by Wigtown Festival Company (WFC) and running from 9-12 March, the event has spread its wings with in-person events taking place at the Moat Brae centre for children’s literature and storytelling in Dumfries, in Wigtown, round a campfire in Glentrool and online.

Whereas many of those taking part will be focussing on objects beyond the Earth that we tend to view through telescopes, science communicator Marty will be focussed on the worlds revealed by the microscope.

During an in-person event at Moat Brae on Saturday, 12 March, he will be introducing children to massively magnified woodlice, spiders and creatures scooped from his pond such as pond hydra – which glow bright green, have poisonous stinging cells and can live forever.

Marty said: “The microscopic world is amazing, it’s all around us, right under our fingertips and it’s full of all sorts of wiggly monsters.”

Based in Yorkshire, it will be a welcome return to Scotland for Marty. His career as a science communicator got started when he began hosting events at Edinburgh Science Festival in the early 1990s, and that in turn led on to success on TV and as an author.

He also has strong memories of Stranraer where, about 15 years ago, he was setting up a spectacular TV science demonstration which required large amounts of hydrogen peroxide to set off a spectacular foaming chemical reaction.

He said: “We suddenly found ourselves without any hydrogen peroxide, the crucial element, and everything depended on it. I released that hairdressers use it a lot, so ended up going round every salon in Stranraer. They must have thought it was very weird, this long-haired, bearded bloke turning up and blagging a bottle here and half a bottle there.”

Marty’s event, called Invisible Worlds, is designed to be a really entertaining introduction to the microscopic world and is aimed at children of seven and over.

Anne Barclay, Operations Director of WFC, said: “The festival is all about making science and astronomy accessible and inspiring to children and young people and this is going to be one of our most exciting, and fun, line-ups ever. 
“We are really looking forward to welcoming audiences all over the world to take part in digital events, and to seeing people in person in Dumfries, Wigtown and Glentrool.” 

Big Bang will offer a whole galaxy of other attractions too, such as a chance to hear from International Space Station astronaut Nicole Stott who talks about coming back to Earth and her passion to preserve the planet.

Sky at Night presenter Chris Lintott asks “are we alone?” and Emily Levesque of the University of Washington explores the life of the professional star-gazers.

Philosopher David Chalmers offers the theory that our reality is a simulation created by a superior intelligence, and explains why many thinkers now believe this Matrix-like speculation.

Audiences can travel to the Red Planet, Mars, with writer Simon Morden and to the birth of the universe, the subject of Emma Chapman’s book First Light. Closer to home, Matt Gaw discusses his adventures walking under the light of the Moon.

This year’s programme particularly celebrates women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and will welcome Catherine Heymans, Scotland’s Astronomer Royal who, with Martin Hendry, will discuss the life of “Scotland’s Einstein” and Galloway’s greatest scientist, James Clerk Maxwell.

There will also be events with Dark Sky ranger Elizabeth Tindal including a chance to meet up in Glentrool round a forest campfire and listen to tales written in the stars.

Next up is Big DoG 

Big DoG bounds back to Dumfries in 2022 from 1-3rd of April. After two years of online festivals, the annual Big DoG Festival (named in honour of Nana, the big dog who looks after the Darling children in Peter Pan) comes back to Dumfries. Join some of the nation’s much-loved children’s authors and illustrators for a weekend of barking fun where everyone has a tale. See the full programme here.

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