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Festival attracts world-renowned science storytellers

Thursday 18 August 2011

Inaugural ScienceTeller Festival attracts world-renowned science storytellers

The point at which science and storytelling meet is being celebrated in the inaugural ScienceTeller Festival held by the University of Otago’s Centre for Science Communication from 15-19 November 2011.

The ScienceTeller Festival has attracted some of the world’s great storytellers of science, including Jay O’Callahan, author and performer of the NASA-commissioned story on space “Forged in the Stars”, and internationally renowned theoretical physicist and speaker Professor Lawrence Krauss, author of “The Physics of Star Trek”. It will provide talks by some of the best storytellers in the business, plus films, writers’ workshops and exhibitions.

Centre for Science Communication Director Professor Lloyd Spencer Davis says, “The ScienceTeller Festival is about the methods by which we communicate with the public and popularise science through film, writing and documentary productions. All the guests we have are involved with science and storytelling in one way or another.

“This Festival is unique – there is nothing else quite like it in the world. There are other science and film festivals, but none that celebrate the marriage of storytelling and science,” Professor Davis says.

The ScienceTeller Festival also has a competitive element, with entries now being called for the best films, poems, songs, photographs and written stories about science. Entries can be made at the festival website ( The festival’s competition is attracting entries from the creators of films and other creative media with a science, wildlife, natural history, health, travel or culture focus. The public will get to view the winning entries from the competition’s various categories.

Professor Davis says, “The competition is part of a long-term strategy for the Festival to promulgate different and better ways of communicating science — be it through photography, art, song, or film. This competition highlights and celebrates such creativity.”

The festival is intended to attract a wide range of people. According to Professor Davis, “The public has a real thirst for scientific knowledge and our mission is to popularise science in all the exciting ways that we can. There will be many opportunities for children, especially secondary students, to attend the screenings, workshops, exhibitions and talks.

“ScienceTeller creates a real opportunity for writers, too. Dunedin once had a writers and readers festival. ScienceTeller can potentially fill the nonfiction part of that void. Dunedin and its surrounding area has a large number of people who are incredibly interested in writing. They’re going to love the writers we have involved in the programme, such as the likes of Elin Kelsey and Bill Manhire.”

The festival programme combines extensive public screenings and workshops. Its impressive list of guest speakers includes:

Jay O'Callahan, a storyteller of international renown who has been creating and performing stories world-wide for over three decades. Jay will lead a workshop on storytelling, give two performances of “Forged in the Stars” (which includes a segment on the first moon landing), and present a SCITED talk during the festival (a short, punchy talk relating to science. It is filmed before a live audience and then posted online. Talks from the Centre for Science Communication’s SCITED series can be seen at

Klaus Feichtenberger is a film director from Austria who has won major awards for every documentary he has ever made. He will present his new film “Radioactive Wolves” about the wolves of Chernobyl, nominated for Best Wildlife Habitat Programme at October’s Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. He will also talk about using illusion as a tool in documentary filmmaking.

Peter Biggs, former Wellingtonian of the Year, Chairperson of the NZ Arts Council and currently Managing Director of the multi-award-winning advertising agency Clemenger BBDO in Melbourne, will be talking about what we can learn from the advertising industry to better promote science.

Elin Kelsey is an award-winning author and adjunct professor of Environmental Education and Communications at Royal Roads University in Canada. Her work appears in magazines including New Scientist and BBC Wildlife. She will present a talk about writing on environmental matters and motivating the public to act by engaging them through the power of writing.

Professor Lawrence Krauss is Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration, and director of the Origins Project at the Arizona State University. He is the author of several bestselling books, including “The Physics of Star Trek” and “Atom”. He will speak about the origins of the universe, mankind and consciousness.

Robyn Williams is a science journalist, broadcaster and ‘Godfather’ of science podcasting. He presents Australia's “Science Show”, “Ockham's Razor” and “In Conversation”. He will be talking about convergence in the media and the implications for telling stories about science.

Bill Manhire has published award-winning fiction and edited major anthologies, but is best known as a poet and as director of the creative writing programme at Victoria University of Wellington. He has also spent time in Antarctica, and edited “The Wide White Page”, the world’s first anthology of Antarctic poetry and fiction. His talk concerns accident, constraint and the creative imagination.

Arthur Meek is a graduate of the University of Otago and Toi Whakaari: the New Zealand Drama School. He will talk about the process by which he was able to write his award-winning play “Collapsing Creation”, which will be performed as part of the ScienceTeller 2011 programme.

Delegate registration is open now at

Delegates will have access to all screenings, workshops, exhibitions and talks, plus the Festival functions. Some workshops will be exclusively open to delegates only.


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