VINCENT MC CARTHY
“A festival that ignites curiosity”
“Curiosity and wonder are the antidote to emotional stress”
Co-founder & CEO of The Festival of Curiosity
(Dublin’s international festival of science, arts, design and technology with over 45,000 attendees each year)
Tell us about The Festival of Curiosity, when was this Festival originated and why?
The Festival of Curiosity is the official legacy to Dublin being the European Capital of Science in 2012. The inaugural Festival of Curiosity took place in 2013 and it is Dublin’s annual international festival of science, arts, design and technology.
From Playful Days (family programme) to Curious Nights (adult programme) we create, produce and curate unique, visual and interactive cultural experiences in Dublin that merge cutting-edge technology, design, arts and science in playful, immersive and curious ways.
The Festival of Curiosity takes a brand new, innovative and research-led approach to audience participation and engagement in science, arts, design & technology for all ages and has sold out every year since it’s inception.
With over 45,000 attendees each year across 14 venues in Dublin City Centre, the festival is Ireland’s annual celebration at the intersection of art, science, technology and design and has quickly grown to be one of the most exciting and innovative festivals of it’s kind in Europe.
Aristotle said that wonder is the origin of knowledge, if so, what can The Festival of Curiosity add to our quest for new answers to the eternal riddles posed by man and nature?
We are living in anxious times and similar to the shift over 100 years ago in physics, from classical physics to quantum physics, our world today seems more uncertain with people finding it difficult to understand the present and predict the future. Curiosity and wonder are the antidote to this emotional stress as they give people the confidence and tools to navigate the uncertain future facing all of us.
Wonder and curiosity are the origins of knowledge, but now this wonder needs to be shared with everyone and to do that we need to break down the boundaries between the general public and science. The Festival of Curiosity is part of this movement and together we can ignite the world’s curious heart again.
In your opinion, what are the areas where we can expect more breakthroughs in science in the forthcoming years and decades?
It is an exciting time for science as we see many breakthroughs on the horizon. The areas that I am really attracted to are the advances in AI and the possibilities of genetic therapies and CRISPR technology. Both sound like sci-fi ideas and each could bring about massive step changes in computing and medicine, but both have huge ethical and risks associated with them. We will need to draw on the best of our scientific and humanities cultures to navigate them for the benefit of all.
In a famous conference delivered in 1959, CP Snow warned about the growing schism between the Two Cultures, meaning science and the humanities. Is this schism still widening? What can initiatives like the Curiosity Festival do to overcome it?
I think there is a recognition that we need to bridge the gap between the sciences and humanities but it is difficult to bring this change about in a meaningful way. It is not just about putting a scientist and artists in a room and hoping that they collaborate.
We have identified this as an issue at the festival when creating engaging programming for audiences. We setup the Curiosity Studio, a multi-disciplinary research led art/science studio that creates open and accessible best practice in the design process of public engagement of science.
In 2017 we launched the first Curiosity Studio open call called Future/Fashion to identify emerging fashion designers in Ireland who would be interested in exploring science and technology in their design practice. We selected six emerging designers from across Ireland who worked in the studio over the summer with international and local mentors and created six designs that were showcased at a runway fashion show at The Festival of Curiosity. The fashion show was a huge success and the time spent at the studio by the designers has changed the trajectory of their creative practice, which now includes elements of science and technology.
Only through structured programmes, like the Curiosity Studio, can we bridge the gap between the humanities and sciences, reintegrate the pursuit of knowledge and open up new pathways to create a better shared future.
In your opinion, is Europe prepared to compete with other regions in the domains of science and technology? What else can be done at a European level to promote the advancement of science?
For Europe to be competitive in the domain of science and technology there needs to be structured and comprehensive investment in basic and applied research. The next European Commission research and innovation framework, FP9, will be launched in June. One of the major elements to this new framework is support mechanisms to scale excellent scientific research into innovative European companies with global impact. These supports will be key to maintaining Europe’s competitiveness and also to demonstrate the importance of investment in research as a means to create growth and sustainability in the region.
Another key requirement to maintaining Europe’s competitiveness is ensuring that groups are not left behind as we progress technologically. One of the lessons of Brexit is that moving too fast can lead to individuals being disenfranchised and disconnected. This is not the Europe we want to live in. When we look at promoting the advancement of science, we need to start putting the citizen at the heart of our research policy and decision-making. We need to ask ourselves, what risks will be introduced by these new scientific and technological developments and how can we mitigate those risks in a way that preserves the dignity and respect of everyone, allowing people to continue to see the shared benefits of scientific progress.
Is science attractive enough for the new generations?
It is important to equip new generations with the tools to succeed. It is more and more apparent that science and technology skills will continue to be more important for each successive generation. Our focus needs to be on breaking down boundaries so that young people engage with science and technology and it becomes a more inclusive endeavour.
It is key for policy makers to realise that not everyone is going to be a researcher but a healthy trust and interest in science and technology is important for individuals and our society.
What are the main attractions in this year´s Festival?
At this year’s Festival of Curiosity, we have an action packed few days with over 100 events all across Dublin. A number of new events this year will look at exploration and the future of story. We have a few National Geographic Explorers visiting Dublin who will be inspiring the next generation of explorers through accounts of their adventures. For the first time this year we will have a summit at the festival for professionals on the future of story and we will host international storytellers, including the Oscar nominated writer of Disney Pixar’s Ratatouille, Jim Capobianco.
Also at the festival, we will have our hands-on adventure in science, play and curious technology for all the family, the Curiosity Carnival, renowned bubble performer Marco Zoppi, Aerial Cirque performing a vertical aerial dance with cutting- edge projection mapping, secret tours and night cycles.
What can Ireland, and Dublin in particular, offer to those attending this Festival from abroad?
Dublin is a vibrant city with sea and mountains on its doorstep, famous for its literature and now the home of curiosity. There are two famous trails across Ireland that I would recommend after a visit to Dublin. The ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ is 2,500 km of rugged coast along the west of Ireland, home to soaring mountains, jutting headlands, breath-taking cliff faces and lush green forests. ‘Ireland’s Ancient East’ covers 5,000 years of Ireland’s history encompassing historic sites like Glendalough, Newgrange, and the Rock of Cashel. From ancient high kings to modern day poets, saints and scholars to ramblers and fishermen, Ireland’s Ancient East looks at the legendary tales of Ireland’s history.
Ireland has a lot to offer and readers of Global Square will not be disappointed!