The countdown is on for the British Science Festival, hosted by the University of East London from 11 – 15 September 2024. Our Festival connects people with scientists, engineers, technologists, and social scientists.

Each year, our dedicated Festival Assistants bring an inspiring programme of free events to the public, spanning diverse subjects in science. From talks to workshops, our team ensures there's something for everyone.

But we wouldn’t be able to achieve this without the hard work of our brilliant Festival team who keep things running smoothly.

We recently caught up with Alistair Fildes, a previous Festival Assistant who has been part of the event for three consecutive years: in Chelmsford (7 – 11 September 2021), Leicester (13 – 17 September 2022) and Exeter (7 – 10 September 2023). Alistair describes the Festival as a surreal break from reality and highlights the power of teamwork and maintaining a positive attitude, giving us a glimpse into what it’s like to be part of the British Science Festival.

Assistants working at British Science Festival in 2023, University of Exeter

Tell us about yourself, and how did you learn about the British Science Festival?

I’m an IT consultant, and I run a not-for-profit company called CommunIT Access CIC, focused on digital inclusion, helping people get into technology. I work a lot with older people and young, diverse groups, conducting classes, one-on-one sessions, and giving talks to improve people's IT skills.

I found out about the British Science Festival four years ago when it was held in Chelmsford, which is where I live in Essex. Through my work, I do a lot of volunteering, which has helped me professionally and personally.

A volunteer organisation mentioned that the British Science Festival was looking for assistance, and since I have an interest in science, it seemed like a good fit. I applied, and I was appointed as an Audiovisual and IT Assistant in 2021, three years ago. Since, then I’ve worked on the Festivals in Chelmsford, Leicester, and Exeter.

Alastair (right) with close friend and former colleague Sophia (left) at the end of Leicester British Science Festival. 

What did you enjoy the most about working at the British Science Festival?

I love that it makes science accessible to everyone. There’s real scientific research at the heart of the events, and it caters for everyone’s interests.

You can attend as a complete newbie and learn a lot, but it also engages more experienced academics. It covers the whole spectrum of science well, so no one is ever left out or behind.

I don't have a formal science background, my knowledge mostly comes from watching YouTube videos! The Festival breaks down complex topics well, so no question feels too stupid. It doesn't feel overly simplified or patronising, it’s catered to all abilities – as it should be!

What is your best memory of the Festival?

During my first BSF, we were very fortunate to debut "Body," a live experience designed and created by Walk The Plank, showcasing a journey through the human body.

Although it was primarily aimed at the public, those of us working on the festival got the chance to go through it during quieter periods.

The highlight for me was seeing both the public and team members united in their enjoyment of the experience. It was a true "this is what all the hard work was for".

What is something you’ve learnt during your time as a Festival Assistant?

The biggest thing I learned is the importance of having a good team and a positive attitude. The Festival team are incredibly positive even in stressful situations, which makes a huge difference.

When problems arise, maintaining a positive outlook helps everyone stay calm and enjoy the experience, providing the public with a positive experience as well.

It taught me that a positive attitude can carry you through difficult situations.

Although the days can be long, those moments of shared smiles and positivity make all the difference. It’s a lesson I’ve carried with me throughout the year, knowing that when things go wrong, a positive attitude can make a significant difference!

And finally, what advice would you give to someone working with the Festival for the first time?

The best advice I can give is that the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.

The Festival is a surreal break from reality and if you lean into it, enjoy the science, the people, and interacting with the public, you’ll have the best time. 

Making memories and having fun will not only enhance your experience but also ensure that the public has a great time as well. So, just enjoy it.


If you’re interested in joining the team or learning more about the event, visit our vacancies page for job descriptions and application details.

Remember, you don’t need a formal science background to get involved—just a passion for learning and a positive attitude.

Whether you're a seasoned professional or a curious newcomer, there’s a place for you at the British Science Festival. Join us in making science accessible and fun for everyone!

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