Hope and joy shine out of recent announcements in Edinburgh birthplace of the Scottish Enlightenment, in both the arenas of culture and science. In fact, I’d go as far as to argue that it is both culture and science working hand in hand which has gotten us this far through the worst global pandemic of our lifetimes. Science not only gave us the vaccine to halt progress of the virus, but the internet technology that allowed scientists to share data, and families to share Facetime. And culture in all of its expressions gave us the emotional strength to endure – whether the culture of volunteering which is so strong in this city, that saw thousands of home-cooked meals delivered to the vulnerable, to the culture of creativity that saw schoolchildren creating their own trails of rainbows and smiles to give heart to strangers they’d never meet, to our iconic festivals pivoting to deliver music, drama and dance online.
Our Edinburgh International Science Festival, the very first of its kind, launches this week with an art trail around the city depicting oft-forgotten women in STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths. They range from astronaut Helen Sharman OBE, to Women 5050 founder Talat Yaqoob, from Natalie Duffield, CEO of InTechnology SmartCitie, to Dr Helen Senn, Head of Conservation and Science at Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, from the fearless Dr Kathy Sullivan, the first American woman to complete a spacewalk and first woman to travel to the bottom of the ocean - and the first human being to walk in both these challenging environments! Not to forget the co-founder of Stemettes (the award-winning organisation dedicated to inspiring and supporting young women and non-binary people into STEM careers), Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, who has been described as “the very definition of a prodigy”, becoming the youngest ever girl to complete an A-level in computing - at age 11 - or the equally inspiring 90-year old Lorna Prendergast, whose research has investigated the correlation between music and the relief of dementia symptoms. The trail was created in partnership with Citadel Youth Centre, WHALE Arts, North Edinburgh Arts, Broomhouse Hub, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh Zoo, Dynamic Earth and Summerhall.
You can learn more about these amazing women – from conservation geneticist Dr Aline Finger to Scotland’s climate justice advocate Zarina Ahmad – by getting the trail map app or downloading the pdf here http://curiousedinburgh.org/women-in-stem-street-art-trail/
And in the same week, we heard the announcement of this year’s Edinburgh Medal award winner, American anthropologist Prof Heidi Larson, for the vital role she’s played in recognising the importance of widespread misunderstandings of vaccination programmes, helping international organisations engage practically with communities to advance public health as well as social well-being.
This year’s oration will be provided by the University of Edinburgh’s Chair of Global Public Health, Prof Devi Sridhar, while the Vote of Thanks will be delivered by behavioural scientist Prof Linda Bauld, the first woman to hold the Bruce and John Usher Chair at the University of Edinburgh - the oldest Professorship of Public Health in the UK.
Meanwhile, the Centre for the Moving Image, the people behind our fantastic Edinburgh International Film Festival, have appointed their first female Creative Director, Australian Kirsty Matheson.
All of these are examples of a city whose wealth of festivals and academic institutions contribute to this fantastic internationalist and progressive city!
Dr. Amy McNeese-Mechan, Vice-Convenor, Culture & Communities, Festivals Co-Champion, The City of Edinburgh Council