February 1, 2012
A short film of highlights from our fantastically filthy days of dirty fun at the Secret Garden Party and Bestival in the summer of 2011.
Sponsored by the Wellcome Trust as part of their gorgeously grimy Dirt season of events.
Shot and directed by Isis Thompson.
September 21, 2011
Psychologist Dr. Fran Meeten explains how she found herself in a field at Bestival feeding willing volunteers dogfood and maggots, and what this all reveals about human nature.
Picture this: It’s September and I’m listening to the rain pour down outside as I pack my camping gear. While I am seriously beginning to doubt the possibility of an Indian summer this year, my excitement at going to Bestival with Guerilla Science is not dampened. I begin to pack my essential festival items: two toilet brushes (unused), two cans of dog food (chicken flavour), some rather smelly dried fish from Iceland – and finally, I make a mental note to collect the live maggots when I get there. I’m now fully prepared to take part in the Guerilla Science Dirt season with our event, Disgusting Little Beasts.
When Guerilla Science contacted us at the University of Sussex, I had no idea that we would be able to make our work disgust quite literally come “alive”. Yet, on a Saturday afternoon at Bestival I found myself offering our two volunteers some very alive and kicking (well wriggling) maggots to pop in their mouths.
Dr. Joe Latimer is a microbiological rock star: he survived four days of mud, sweat and tears at Glastonbury, our most intense event ever (by a long shot). And he came back for more at Bestival, where he proudly displayed a microbial colony grown from his own rectum and taught us all how to treasure our bacterial brethren. Read his tales from his summer of renegade research: “I hope we convinced at least a few people that bacteria don’t just infect us, or live on us, but that they are us.”
What do dirty secrets, loud music, lost voices, sleep-deprivation, sweaty armpits, the apocalypse, drunken shenanigans, “superbugs”, swabbing strangers, overcoming phobias, making friends, and freaking the hell out of the general public all have in common? Well luckily for me, this summer all were part of my ‘other’ job – festival microbiologist!
In normal life I am a research scientist at the University of Manchester, and I love the microbiological work I do: figuring out how and why different antibacterial chemicals kill different types of bacteria and what makes them resistant. But for two long weekends I was lucky enough to leave behind the minutiae of pipettes and paperwork and instead bring the wider world of microbiology to festival-goers at Glastonbury and Bestival.
As soon as my boss, Dr Andrew McBain, said he had been approached by Guerilla Science, my labmate Sarah Forbes and I signed up straight away. Just a few weeks later, we were sitting in front of our lovingly hand-grown “Microbial Zoo”, at the front of a Decontamination Unit, in the pre-apocalyptic nightmare city of sin Shangri La at the Glastonbury Festival.
Michael Warwick is an inorganic chemistry PhD student at the University College London, where he researches intelligent window glazings to reduce energy demand from buildings. He tells us about chemical sensors, why E-Noses might help us fight cancer, and how his work brought him to Bestival to invite revelers to burp into a phone.
After a long journey involving taxis, a plane, one train, a car and a ferry, Richard and I arrived at Bestival. Early on Saturday morning we dragged ourselves out of our sleeping bags and headed over to the Tomorrow’s World field to find the Guerilla Science tent, where we would engage with fellow festival goers about science.
What were we going to talk about?
Or, more precisely: gas sensing and the use of gas sensor devices for use in portable electronic noses (E-Noses).