Mayor launches celebration of science

Sparks were flying at INTECH as the Mayor of Winchester, Cllr Cecily Sutton, joined with local school children to launch a year-long celebration of science across the Winchester District.

The packed programme of events - dubbed Bright Sparks - A Year of Science and Discovery in England's Ancient Capital - has been put together by Winchester City Council's tourism service to mark World Year of Physics, which is being celebrated in the UK as Einstein Year.

Commemorating the centenary of the publication of Albert Einstein's theory of relativity and 50 years since the brilliant man's death, Einstein Year gives Winchester - which is usually celebrated for its wonderful heritage, stylish architecture, beautiful countryside and performing arts events - an opportunity to show off its more scientific attributes. This is, promises the City Council's tourism marketing team, a year to see what makes things tick in Hampshire's county town.

The City Council's Head of Tourism Eloise Appleby said: "People who visit Winchester and the surrounding District quickly fall in love with its heritage charm. But it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that this is a cathedral city like any other. In fact, it is buzzing with entrepreneurs, artists and academics who give it a very dynamic character. We hope that Bright Sparks will make visitors and local people take a second look at the world and the Winchester District in particular."

The main programme of events kicks off during National Science Week (11-20 March), when INTECH, the science and discovery centre at Morn Hill, will be offering a host of hands-on activities for all ages. Children can design and build a robot as light as an ant or follow a science trail around the futuristic pyramid-shaped building. There's also an opportunity for older children and adults to get to grips with Einstein's genius in a fun 'Science for All' show that promises to make his theory of relativity understandable for everyone.

Events continue throughout the year at INTECH, but the Bright Sparks programme also provides an opportunity to examine the inner workings of many of the District's other attractions. Take a guided tour of the former Chesil Railway Tunnel (16 April); understand the science of steam at Twyford Waterworks' Gala Open Day (1 May); or follow a Technology Trail around the National Trust's City Mill (throughout August).

Those who learnt the mystery beneath Winchester Cathedral from the recent BBC2 programme Cathedral will be able to relive the story of William Walker during a newly-introduced summer tour (Wednesdays in July and August) and learn just how this lone diver saved the building from total collapse 100 years ago. Or take an Architectural Odyssey Tour, which traces 1000 years of architectural innovation at this imposing Norman cathedral. And while you are visiting, there is a special exhibition at the cathedral entitled Cosmos and Creation (1-31 July) featuring paintings by Colin Wilmott on a theme of cosmic space and the mystery of the creation of the universe.

A host of colourful scientific characters will be coming to Winchester throughout the year. Dr Bunhead - Blue Peter's resident scientist - provides a day of explosive entertainment and madcap experiments for children at Winchester Theatre Royal in Dr Bunhead's Recipe for Disaster (28 May).

You can meet long-suffering Private Smealie of the Experimental Weapons Section from 1913 at the Royal Armouries Fort Nelson in Boffins, Bangs and Bazookas! (9/10 April) as he tests a variety of bizarre war-winning weapons that are probably more dangerous to him than to the enemy. And you can help solve a murder at INTECH by outwitting a crazy scientist and putting back together the missing bones in Murder, Mayhem and Mystery (30 May - 3 June).

Bright Sparks promises plenty to keep the grown-ups entertained, too. This weekend sees the second outing of Winchester's unique Festival of Art and Mind (10-13 March), which was launched to great acclaim in 2004. Themed Religion, Art and the Brain the festival sees Winchester's venues playing host to an exotic mix of Tibetan monks, Sufi dancers, classical composers, artists and scientists, coming together to explore the true nature of the religious impulse.

Adults will also enjoy an evening of molecular gastronomy at the Courtyard Café at Winchester Guildhall (12 May), investigating - with the help of dishes from top international restaurants - the science of cooking as practised by pioneers such as triple Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal at the Fat Duck at Bray.

Full details of events forming part of the Bright Sparks year can be found on or obtained from Winchester Tourist Information Centre on 01962 840500 or by email to