Bluedot Festival can only be described as an out of this world experience for both music and science lovers! The award-winning festival is held within the ground of Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre in Macclesfield. Not only is the radio telescope the 3rd largest of its kind in the world, but the site has also just been awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status!
The festival is being held between 18th and 21st July 2019. I feel very fortunate to have attended every year since it started in 2016., I’ve never been to such an amazing, atmospheric and visually stimulating festival. I can’t wait to see what they can possibly do this year to improve this life-changing experience. Calling it just a ‘Festival’ doesn’t do it justice, it’s a weekend of discovery set in the towering shadow of the majestic Lovell Telescope at the grounds of the Jodrell Bank deep space observatory. The site is just short 15-minute drive from the train station and town centre into the beautiful Macclesfield countryside which surrounds the telescope to the West of the town.
Not only is there an eclectic and inspiring range of music on offer, but there is also live science experiments, interactive art installations, mind-expanding talks, a luminarium, exquisite food and drink and a diverse host of activities for all ages to experience at this award-winning festival. The timing couldn’t be more apt as it coincides with the 50th anniversary of the lunar landings. In July 1969, the Jodrell Bank Observatory team, led by Director Sir Bernard Lovell, monitored signals from the Apollo 11 Eagle lander carrying legendary astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Signals intercepted at Jodrell Bank caught the moment when the Eagle lander touched down on the surface of the moon, capturing one of the greatest achievements of mankind.
It’s very humbling to have such large event establish itself in Macclesfield. Planning and organising such a large and unique festival must be challenging to say the least but for Ben Robinson the Festival Director, it’s one of the highlights of his year;
“Being able to programme such a unique festival is not only one of the most stunning and unique settings in the UK but also a location that has been pioneering science and world-leading research of such historical importance has been a real honour.
It’s no question that the location has been one of the pinnacles of the festival’s success and we are delighted to call it home.”
In these turbulent times of uncertainty and division both politically and environmentally, Bludot wants to unify people. Its message is loud and clear: ‘look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.’ (Carl Sagan, 1934—1996).”
The festival aims to stimulate the mind as well as the ears. Adults and children have so many interactive activities to feed their imaginations at this family-friendly festival including a ‘Clangers 50th anniversary’ screening, ‘Lightsaber training,’ talks by Chester zoo on conservation and Wallace and Gromit’s ‘Modelling and animation’ workshops. There is a plethora of hands-on activities, brain illusions, science shows and even science superheroes!
Many scientific giants have been guests at Bluedot and spoken here including Professor Brian Cox and Richard Dawkins. This year Helen Sharman, the first British astronaut when, in May 1991, she launched on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and spent 8 days orbiting the Earth, living and working on the MIR Space Station, will be sharing her fascinating story. Liz Bonnin whose TV career has drawn heavily on her academic expertise. Most recently, presenting the ground-breaking documentary ‘Drowning in Plastic’ on BBC One and Should We Close Our Zoo’s in the latest series of Horizon for BBC Two, will be talking about ‘The problem with plastics.’
If you fancy watching some great comedy, make your way to the contact stage where you will be entertained through the weekend by acts including: ‘John Robins.’ In 2017 he won the prestigious Edinburgh Comedy Award (formerly The Perrier Award) for his show ‘The Darkness of Robins’. Award-winning ‘deranged genius’ Paul Foot is back with his latest collection of sublime wittering’s. You may have seen him on ‘Never Mind the Buzzcocks’ or ‘Would I Lie to You’, now you can see him live in all his surrealist glory. Also appearing is 80’s cult TV show Knightmare (Live) launches into Bluedot with a new improvised format. Every show will be different, every quest unique.
There are very few places in the world where a music stage could look so breathtaking, watching some of the biggest bands and artists from around the globe perform against the iconic backdrop of the world-famous radio telescope. When you add a light show, lasers and see the dish light up with projections, it gives you goosebumps! Past guests that have headlined Bluedot include Jean-Michel Jarre, Orbital, Underworld, Gary Numan, Chemical Brothers, Public Service Broadcasting, Pixies and Goldfrapp to name a few of the most memorable.
This year we’re honoured to see Electro pioneers ‘Kraftwerk’ headlining on Saturday at the Lovell stage, ‘Hot Chip’ topping the bill on Friday and ‘New Order’ closing the festival on the Sunday night. This year the bill boasts well over 100 artists and bands playing over the long weekend.
The Halle orchestra will open the event on Thursday evening. Let your imagination run riot with this interstellar collection of sci-fi classics as the Hallé take you on an extraordinary journey across time and space. Lift Off, a unique co-commission between The Halle and Bluedot, will feature some of the universe’s best-loved movie and television sci-fi themes set to stunning visuals created specifically for this concert.
Conductor and presenter Stephen Bell will be your space-captain for the evening guiding you through a musical adventure from Galifrey to Tatooine aboard the T.A.R.D.I.S., Starship Enterprise and the Death Star then back to earth for some Close Encounters with extraordinary Extra Terrestrials. A concert that will truly capture the spirit and imagination of Bluedot!
It’s very difficult to just highlight and write about so much going on over the weekend, so I would recommend a visit to the official Bluedot Festival website for a more in-depth guide to the whole weekend. Limited tickets are still available but if you don’t get the chance to make this year, make sure you put it on your festival bucket list for 2020!
Blog by Tara
See more here about Bluedot here.
Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre
The University of Manchester