A look back at this year’s FutureEverything Festival

13th April 2016

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At the beginning of April, MSP customer FutureEverything hosted its 21st Festival in the city of Manchester. This flagship international event is held annually and is a coming together of artists, academics, musicians, scientists and technologists. The emphasis is upon cross-disciplinary collaboration and the sharing of ideas. Each year a theme is chosen which resonates with a current issue by using talks, installations, performances and art to present scientific ideas as tangible and physical expressions. This year, the theme was Less and More.

With resource scarcity high on the agenda, particularly after the landmark climate summit in Paris last December, COP21, Less and More sought to examine how as a society we can not only reduce the amount of resources we use; but increase the amount of some resources that are available to us. It challenged our notion of what we can classify as a resource - with sessions looking at life, community and intelligence as a resource. The festival also saw the launch of Project Ukko. A joint project between FutureEverything and the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre, Project Ukko is a climate service that visualises future weather conditions. By combining cutting-edge climate science and data design, Project Ukko can forecast wind conditions not only over the coming days, but months. Through closer management of wind resources, we could not only increase the energy we source from renewables but reduce our dependence on dangerous fossil fuels at the same time.

As well as the conference, the festival also includes a wide ranging programme of events across the city. This included a series of field recordings or ‘sound poems’ from across Corridor Manchester - the city’s innovation district -, the engaging presentation of data from the FutureEverything email network through the emission of smoke signals. As well as this, FutureEverything helped showcase cutting edge musicians at the Salford arts collective Islington Mill.

The festival's commitment to the arts and to challenging ideas was encapsulated in the closing address by internationally renowned poet and Chancellor of the University of Manchester, Lemn Sissay. First, he treated the audience to a recorded performance of his poem ‘What If’ which looks at our relationship with nature and left us with the crucial question ‘’what if our wanting more was making less?’’. He then delivered a powerful talk on society’s duty towards children in care. We only need to look closely at our favourite classic books and movies like Oliver Twist or Harry Potter to realise how the arts have recognized and expressed this issue, taking it beyond the realm of politics. How society treats these children is crucial, and Sissay called upon Manchester - the leader of the industrial revolution, a city of science and home to the Hacienda- needs to broaden its narratives so it can tell stories that include all of its diverse population.

Finally, he appealed to everyone in the room to embrace and celebrate diversity. By opening our doors to those outside, he said, we open ourselves to great ideas.

FutureEverything will return to Manchester Town Hall next year, and tickets are on sale now. Get yours here.