Science Variety Night


We run a variety of events at Cheltenham Science Festival, with audiences ranging from 30 to 680. We curate many of these events ourselves, but we also love to collaborate with other individuals and organisations to create a broad and innovative programme.

Deadlines for submitting events are

Schools events deadline: Midday Monday 9th October
Main programme events deadline: Midday Monday 6th November


Audience   |   Event formats   |   What the audience want   |   How to apply  


We programme events for a range of audiences including:


Our Science For Schools programme runs from the Tuesday to Friday of the Festival and includes events for KS1 to KS4. The bulk of our programme targets KS2 (upper primary) and KS3 (lower secondary) with fewer events for KS1 (lower primary) and KS4 (upper secondary).

You can find the 2017 Science For Schools brochures here. In both 2016 and 2017, our schools programme reached over 6000 school children and teachers. We look for the following in our school events:

  • A link to the curriculum but with content which goes beyond what teachers would cover in school
  • Content which is appropriate to the key stage/age group you are targeting
  • Experiments or other activities which students are unlikely to experience in school
  • Lots of audience participation, demonstrations and other interactivity to keep students engaged


Over the Festival weekend we run events for families. These events are usually fun, lighthearted explorations of science with something for both adults and children. The content of family events needs to appeal to a wide age range with lots of audience interaction, demonstrations and other interactivity. Events are given a recommended lower age limit e.g. suitable for ages 8+. You can find our 2017 family events in the main brochure here.

General public – Adults

Most of our programme is geared towards a lay audience who are interested in the world around them but who do not have specialist science knowledge. Last year we had over 150 events and you can see the full 2017 programme here.

Event formats

Most of our events are an hour long but we do occasionally run longer events. We are particularly interested in events where there is opportunity for audience involvement. Event formats include:

  • Solo speaker talks: events where a single speaker explores the breadth and depth of a topic with time set aside for audience Q&A.
  • Duos and interviews: two speakers discuss a topic in a more conversational style event, or an interviewer discusses a particular topic with a speaker.
  • Panel discussions: three to four speakers (including a panel chair) discuss a topic in a conversational style, where panel members usually bring different perspectives or opinions. The chair of the panel facilitates the discussion and leads the audience Q&A.
  • Interactive science shows: Highly interactive and visual events with live experiments and audience interaction for schools, family and adult audiences.
  • Comedy and entertainment events: Comedy shows with a link to science and other events with a strong focus on entertainment. These events are often held in the evening, sometimes with the bar open.
  • Food and drink events: Events exploring the science of different food and drink, usually with tasters/samples. These events are often held in a cabaret style. In 2017 we hosted events on coffee, cheese and chocolate, as well as an event exploring the link between music and champagne.
  • Workshops: These hands-on events are usually held in a classroom format for audiences of 20-40. They are highly interactive, with the audience spending most of the event engaging in an activity rather than listening to a presenter.
  • Other formats: We are always open to considering other formats which will work within our programme. For example, in 2017 we ran a pub quiz with a difference and Jury Live, an event where the audience decided whether a fictitious defendant was guilty.

What the audience want

We always consider what different audiences might be interested in, and what they are looking to get out of an event. There are many different event concepts and approaches that work well including (but definitely not limited to):

  • Introduction to… aimed at audience members that are new to a topic
  • … in depth aimed at audience members looking for a deeper exploration of a topic
  • Cutting edge for audiences that want to explore the latest research in a field
  • Debate and discussion where the audience can hear different viewpoints, get to the bottom of controversial issues, and give their own thoughts
  • Myth busting for audience members who want to get to the bottom of conflicting information or perceived knowledge
  • How to… for audiences who want to explore how science or research could help them do things differently
  • What if… for audiences who are interested in how different decisions and scenarios may affect the future and society
  • Personal experiences for audiences who want to hear from people who are directly affected by something
  • A Fun Night Out for audiences looking for some lighthearted entertainment, with a sprinkling of science.

How to apply

You can apply as an individual, group or organisation. Please select the appropriate options on the submission form.

Would you like to be an official Festival partner? Branding and event sponsorship opportunities are available within the Festival. Partnership packages start at £5,000 plus VAT, but if you’re a charity/not-for-profit organisation we would also love to hear from you. To find out more contact us at or call on 01242 537256.

Apply here for Schools

Apply here for rest of programme

Please fill in the form giving as much information as possible. Successful applicants will be contacted directly and we hope to let all applicants know of decisions one month after each deadline. Due to the number of proposals received it may not be possible to offer feedback on unsuccessful applications.

If you have any questions about the submissions process please email