Cheltenham Science Festival returned to Imperial Gardens for a voyage of discovery, from the latest findings in quantum physics, cancer research, conservation, cybersecurity and many more to music, poetry, gaming and street theatre. Eminent scientists like Astronomer Royal Martin Rees rubbed shoulders with the Festival’s diverse group of Young Changemakers to envision what a new world could look like. 

Brand new drop-in zone The Arcade drew in 24,000 visitors with its cool graphics and retro arcade games as it posed a series of creative and cryptic challenges to show how new technologies will shape our culture in the future. Meanwhile the Festival’s first ever poet-in-residence Polly Denny collaborated with AI Curator AIDA to create a sustainable fashion Snapchat filter, all inspired by their work together, turning poetry into visual T-shirt designs. Polly’s poem Magic and Magnetism (reproduced below) is her response to the Festival.  

Ali Mawle, co-CEO of Cheltenham Festivals said: “Our 20th birthday is a great time to look back and see just how far science communication has come. Back in 2002 we made a conscious decision to take science out of the lecture theatre and create a celebration of the wonders of the world around us. Science is part of our culture and it’s a creative force.” 

2022 Festival Facts 

  • Over 11,300 tickets issued. 

  • An estimated 49,000 people enjoyed free interactive zones in Imperial Gardens and street theatre performance in Cheltenham High Street in association with Cheltenham BID 

  • Over 6,300 school children and their teachers from 82 schools attended the Festival site after a wait of two years and two online Science for Schools programmes.  

  • The Festival distributed around 200 free tickets via our local social prescribing team and Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees thanks to funding from Cheltenham Festivals Patrons and the Summerfield Charitable Trust. 

What we learned – seven news stories from Cheltenham Science Festival 2022 

  • An electronic device to lower blood pressure which clips over the ear was seen for the first time at the Festival. The non-invasive gadget has the potential to be twice as effective as drug treatments. 

  • Drugs that replicate the effect of falling in love could be available within five years, according to anthropologist Dr Anna Machin.  

  • A revolutionary new ventilator was demonstrated in the Discover Zone. The 3CPAP was specifically designed using technology used by divers applied to traditional oxygen masks. It can dramatically reduce high flow oxygen use, and protect from potential shortages, fire risks and supply pressure drops. 

  • Don’t eat breakfast until 11am if you want to lose weight, Tim Spector told the Festival audience. 

  • A Neanderthal gene present in 1 in 6 of us may have led to 1,000,000 Covid deaths said genomics professor James Davies. 

  • Deaths in Shakespeare plays are a comedy of errors, said author and chemist Dr Kathryn Harkup after a comprehensive review of the Bard’s works. 

  • Cats are one of the main reasons bats end up in wildlife rescue centres and a night cat curfew can really make a big difference, Beth Gerrard of the University of the West of England told the Festival. 

Magic and Magnetism

Poem by Polly Denny 

Cheltenham Science Festival 2022 poet-in-residence 


In a perfect square of magic and magnetism 

The awe of the everyday emerges  

Revealed before us 

A pervasive sense of wonder  

Entangled in everything  

Waiting to be uncovered 

By this community of explorers  

Ready to dig through in this sandbox  

With question mark shovels 

To examine and share and learn. 


Together we observe the complexity of our incredible planet, 

Stitch together music and art and science and play, 

Marvel at how these superficially separate entities, 

Interlock under the surface, 

The mycelium of our culture 

Flowing across the generations 

Like the limbs of a body 

Driven by the same beating heart  

A cycle of answers and questions and answers 

Of listening and speaking 

Of reaching out and asking 

All of us 

To be the change.