Crafting science at the Green Man Festival

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Staff and students from the Institute of Infection and Global Health have taken part in the Green Man Festival in the Brecon Beacons, Wales as part of their latest public engagement initiative.

More than 15,000 people attended the four-day festival, which features a dedicated science and nature area, called Einstein’s Garden, that brings a huge array of science-inspired performances, talks, installations and activities to festival goers.

[caption id="attachment_30103" align="alignnone" width="448"]IMG_0303a The stall was open for ten hours each day and was always busy[/caption]

The Institute delivered its newly developed ‘Germ War Craft’ activity, which encouraged visitors to learn about disease-causing microbes and the body’s immune response to infection through sewing and craft. Comic book style information posters, designed by postgraduate student Marisol Collins, featured a selection of different pathogen and immune system characters, including Salmonella, Influenza and macrophages.

[caption id="attachment_30102" align="alignnone" width="448"]IMG_0291a Marisol Collins with the comic book style information posters and characters she designed[/caption]

Visitors could then create a plush version of their favourite character to add to a wall of growing ‘armies’ while chatting to the researchers about infection and disease. By the end of the Festival more than 1,000 people had visited the stall with 500 characters crafted, with Influenza proving the most popular.

PhD student Suzanna Gore, who studies host-pathogen interactions and modulation of the immune response and was one of a team of five from the Institute who took part, said: "I really enjoyed the experience and can’t believe how busy we were! The craft activity was a simple and effective tool that opened the door to engaging discussions about infectious disease. I got to talk to lots of different people about my own particular research and listen to their thoughts and views too."

Germ War Craft was fully funded through public engagement grant support from the British Society for Immunology and the Society for General Microbiology.

[caption id="attachment_30104" align="alignnone" width="448"]IMG_0306a Some visitors with their creations[/caption]

Nicola Frost, the Institute’s Science Communication Officer, said: "Our public engagement programme has steadily been growing over the past couple of years and we were keen to try something different and reach out to a new audience. The team worked really hard to develop a quirky and engaging activity proposal that fitted with the spirit of the Festival, and thanks to the grant support we received we were able to make it all happen. It was a really successful event that got some great feedback and we hope to return again next year."

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