Former teacher and theatre maker to lead Edinburgh Science Festival into new era

Hassun El-Zafar to succeed Dr Simon Gage
Hassun El-Zafar is to lead the Edinburgh Science Festival into a new era. Laure DivisiaHassun El-Zafar is to lead the Edinburgh Science Festival into a new era. Laure Divisia
Hassun El-Zafar is to lead the Edinburgh Science Festival into a new era. Laure Divisia

A former teacher, visual artist and theatre-maker who has worked with children at the vast refugee camp in Calais is to take charge of Scotland’s biggest celebration of science.

Hassun El-Zafar will lead the Edinburgh Science Festival into a new era after the departure of long-time director Dr Simon Gage.

Hide Ad

Mr El-Zafar, who was born and raised in Sheffield, has worked as a director, producer and curator across the fields of science, culture, community and technology.

His first festival, in the spring of 2025, is expected to explore the challenges of living on a planet with finite resources through the lenses of science fiction and space exploration.

He has been appointed in the 35th anniversary year of the Edinburgh Science Festival, the first event of its kind anywhere in the world.

The event, which runs for more than two weeks, attracts an audience of 120,000 every year to venues like the City Art Centre, the National Museum of Scotland, the Royal Botanic Garden, Our Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh Zoo and Summerhall.

Dr Gage, who will step down as director at the end of this month after overseeing his final event, was at the helm of the festival for 29 years.

Chair of the board Brendan Dick said: “Hassun El-Zafar brings a wealth of experience in science engagement that will be key for Edinburgh Science in the coming years.

Hide Ad

"We are delighted that Hassun El-Zafar is joining us to continue Simon Gage’s legacy of leading the organisation in its critical role of societal science engagement.”

Mr El-Safar said: “I’m thrilled to step into the role of director.

Hide Ad

"Our mission, centred on igniting curiosity and nurturing creative engagement with science across diverse communities, deeply resonates with my professional journey.

"Looking ahead, I am eager to uphold our distinguished tradition of excellence, harnessing the UK's dynamic intellectual, industrial, and cultural landscape to foster an even deeper appreciation for scientific dialogue, engagement, and inquiry.”

Next year’s festival, will have a “Spaceship Earth” theme.

A spokeswoman said: “To ‘live like an astronaut’ in the battle cry of a new movement that urges us to learn from the constraints of living on a space station, or a distant planet, where resources are impossibly constrained and every gram of material and watt of energy is precious.

"Transferring these principles to life on Earth would radically reduce the pressures we place on natural resources.

"Drawing inspiration from a collision between science fiction and science fact, the festival will consider the mundane – how to keep the lights on for the next million years; and the exotic – self-diagnosed and administered healthcare with ‘cyborg’ technologies.”

When Dr Gage announced he was stepping down, he said the festival had “changed the way science engagement happens for ever.”

Hide Ad

He added: “It has been a thrill to work in a part of the cultural landscape that, in the early nineties, needed to be invented, to have to quickly work out how to survive and then thrive in a world-class festival city. It has also been a delight to spend moments in the company of some of the greatest scientific and technological thinkers of our time, women and men that have literally revolutionised the way we see the natural world.”

Related topics:



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.