The public programme of the BNA2019 Festival of Neuroscience comprised 16 events held in 9 venues around Dublin city centre, with a satellite ‘Brain Movie Night’ event in Galway. The programme had events to suit all tastes, from rap to classical music, from art to contemporary dance and drama, along with well-attended educational events focused on brain research and patient experience.
Numerous conference delegates mentioned the public programme as a particular highlight of the meeting, with many both attending and participating in events. While BNA organised 2 events at the main conference venue– Baba Brinkman’s high energy, entertaining and educational ‘Rap Guide to Consciousness’ and Prof. Ed Bullmore’s public lecture on ‘Inflamed Depression’, Neuroscience Ireland were the driving force behind the majority of the public programme.
The arts strand was a key feature, and award-winning creative artists generously shared their work with us. Fishamble Theatre Company helped us to stage Olivier-award winning actor and playwright Pat Kinevane’s stunning, hilarious and emotional one-man show ‘Forgotten’ at Trinity College’s Samuel Beckett Theatre. Writer-director Oonagh Kearney allowed us to show her Cork Film Festival and Dublin Film Festival award-winning short film “Five Letters to the Stranger who will Dissect my Brain” in the atmospheric Old Anatomy Theatre in Trinity College – all who attended will agree that it was a unique and special experience to view the film in one of the historic locations in which it was shot and to hear about Oonagh’s experience of making the film. Joanna Hopkins developed a beautiful site-specific art installation on the theme of memory at the Accenture Gallery in the Science Gallery, while Jessie Keenan staged her exquisite contemporary dance piece ‘Fragments’ in the Samuel Beckett Theatre.
Perhaps nowhere was the crossover of the arts and sciences more evident than at “Cognitive Musicology Via Synaesthesia” at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. Svetlana Rudenko arranged a beautiful event comprising classical performance of a piano, string and flute ensemble accompanied by choreography and projected visuals, all preceded by a wonderful talk from Prof Anil Seth. Meanwhile, the importance of creativity and artistic expression to older people was evident at the joyful and uplifting ‘Age of Arts’ event at the Science Gallery, featuring a very special performance by the choir of the Mercer’s Institute for Successful Ageing.
Patient outreach and education was another key theme of the programme – the public appetite for information on research into brain health and disease was such that the events on delirium, depression, Huntington’s disease, epilepsy, teenage mental health and patient advocacy all sold out. More public discussion of science happened over coffee and buns during the ”Ask the Scientist’ event at the Science Gallery, and over refreshments of another kind at ‘Neuroscience on Tap’ at the Ferryman pub – the presenters at both events had to be on their toes to cope with the insightful and challenging questions from the public audience.
We would not have been able to stage such a diverse, creative and innovative programme without the hard work and inspiration of individual event organisers, and the heroic efforts of our student volunteers. Special thanks of course go to our funders – BNA, Neuroscience Ireland, the Physoc, Science Foundation Ireland and the Irish Research Council – whose generous support meant that all events were free of charge. It was an exhausting but unforgettable week of public engagement and outreach, but the enthusiasm and support of the general public made it all worthwhile.