Festival of the Mind returns and launches digital platform for 2020 with live and online events

15th September 2020

With more than 100 collaborators from across Sheffield’s cultural sector, 25 specially curated podcasts, 17 films and more than 35 different exhibits and performances, Festival of the Mind will once again showcase Sheffield's creative talent.

Following the themes of Sustainability, Extinction, Hope, Artificial Intelligence, Climate Change and Health, this year’s festival will put creative talent and culture back into the heart of the city.

The iconic Spiegeltent - normally a fixture in Barkers Pool for the event - has been recreated digitally and will continue to be the home and heart of the festival through its digital reincarnation. The festival will bring live events back to the people of Sheffield safely, with interactive exhibitions of virtual realities open to the public at Futurecade in the Millennium Gallery, and a gallery of inspiring artwork that will be on display at Sidney & Matilda.

Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Director of City and Culture for the University of Sheffield and founder of the festival, said: “This year more than ever we wanted to showcase the amazing talents of Sheffield’s creative sector and put the lights back on in the city. That’s why we moved quickly to join together with Sheffield’s cutting edge digital technology providers to bring Festival of the Mind online.

“The Spiegeltent may not physically be here but we will bring its magic to the online world and encourage audiences from around the world to make themselves at home in Sheffield. The Festival of the Mind show must go on!“

The bi-annual festival, which attracted over 50,000 visitors in 2018, is now a regular feature of Sheffield city centre’s cultural activities and is designed to bring pioneering research led by the University of Sheffield’s academics to life using the city’s community of freelancers despite the difficulties of COVID-19. 

Jo Peel, Sheffield artist and collaborator on the project 'Common Ground', said: 'My project, Common Ground, with Professor Duncan Cameron is all about food sustainability and when lockdown happened it served to highlight this issue, with some people considering food availability for the first time.

“We had already planned to make a film about people's relationship with food and the situation with COVID-19 made it even more timely. I'm delighted to have been involved in the Festival. This collaboration was one of the only projects that has been able to take place in the last few months and it has helped sustain me as an artist.”

Highlights from this year's festival include:

  • Futurecade - from robots to virtual reality, learn more about the future of technology in this interactive and in-person exhibition located at Millenium Gallery.
  • Protopia - a series of thought provoking and inspiring artwork showcasing local Sheffield talent available to view through the digital platform.
  • Brain Orchard - A series of artworks showing how brain connections work in a state of disease.
  • Age of Love, Live - Launch of an uplifting, sensitive play about an older Sheffield couple encountering sexual difficulty.
  • Common Ground - An art installation and talk on the issues of unsustainable production, food waste, environmental cost and new technologies.
  • Creating Hope: A Choir Concert - A choir concert outside Sheffield City Hall of uplifting popular songs on a theme of hope, showcasing engineering research.
  • Physical Education - A high flying, science circus extravaganza taking a humorous look at the energy in our bodies and the world.
  • Future High Street - A virtual walk through Sheffield city centre in the future.
  • Suicide Monologues - A play highlighting the emotional stories of people who have experienced caring for a person who has attempted or committed suicide.
  • What Does It Feel Like - Performance-based experiments examining the possibilities of verbal and non-verbal interactions between humans and robots.
  • Castlegate - Film premiere and discussion about the regeneration of Castlegate to celebrate the launch of a book on the history of Sheffield Castle.
  • Salmon of Steel - A celebration of the return of the iconic salmon to Sheffield after 150 years of absence, including a steel sculpture and walk map.
  • Maker Futures - A research project engaging with local school children and families to collaborate with actors and makers using everyday items.
  • Sheffield Carescapes - An exhibition featuring immersive storytelling which considers social care and creating a more caring society.

The outline programme for the festival will be available online at www.sheffield.ac.uk/fotm from the 14 September 2020 with the full programme released daily from 17 September 2020.

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