In the City… we keep it rockin’

It’s spring 2019 and Lancaster University’s Campus in the City project is back, bringing research and researchers from campus into the city centre shopping arcade to share their discoveries with the city residents.

“Because of what you do we’d like to invite you to the launch event,” they said.

“Oh, what an honour!” we thought.

“The deputy mayor will be there!” they said.

“Sounds like canapes and complimentary drinks on tap!” we thought.

“So if you could be there to set up from 9 am and have your stall and activities ready to open to the public at 10 am, then work until 3 pm, that would be excellent,”

Hang on a second…

Yes, we were part of this year’s Campus in the City launch event, and it was a great honour! We were introduced with full fanfare by Lancaster University’s champion for engagement Prof Sue Black, alongside other colleagues from Lancaster Environment Centre and other University departments. I have to say that even at Glastonbury, I’ve never talked someone about the Wonders of Woodlands with a stilt walker stood beside me!


Another thing we’ve not experienced before is for one of our visitors – a complete stranger – to come back to us towards the end of the day with a bag of chocolate as a “thank you for all you do”. Wow. To that lovely person we extend our thanks for making us feel that our hard work is appreciated. We’re very grateful.

Indeed we had such a lovely day on the 2nd March that we’ll be back on the 23rd! We’ll have the full woodland tent with us this time: shoppers of St Nicholas Arcade, Lancaster won’t be able to miss us! If you’re around In The City, we hope to see you there!

(NB the complimentary drinks – of the hot caffeinated variety thanks to a local cafe – were much appreciated, though oddly canapes never did materialise!)



Radio Waves

Monday saw us back in Carlisle – being interviewed by Kevin Fernihough at BBC Radio Cumbria. After a weekend at Kendal Calling, “introducing” presenter Tom Salmon had been instructed not to shower or change before calling into work.

We’re not entirely sure how much he knew in advance, but when Tom heard that we were going to show him the microbes on his festival kit, his expression was priceless

Tom bravely provided T-shirt, wristband and wellies for us to swab live on air – and we’re following the growth of his festival bacteria until Friday, when Jo will phone in live to identify Tom’s very own festival bacteria…

Here’s what the plates looked like after only 2 days…

And the lovely results after 4 days in the stinkubator:

Radio Gaga

When Jennie Dennett of BBC Radio Cumbria heard that we were taking Cumbrian dung beetles to Glastonbury, she immediately got in touch to find out more and invited us to give an interview at their studios in Carlisle. Our activity “How Gross is Your Festival Kit” gave her an idea – drawing presenter Mike Zeller away from the studio under the pretence of a meeting, a member of the studio team took sneaky swabs of his kit and posted them to us at the Lancaster Environment Centre. We duly plated them out and incubated them to see what’s population the BBC Radio Cumbria studio.

On Friday, we arrived at the studio with some nasty-looking growths on agar plates, which we were able to produce on cue when Mike asked us about the activity.


BBC Radio Cumbria videoed the whole thing, so you can watch it on their Facebook page here.

Mike’s bacteria are now on show in our newly opened Hall of Shame. Thanks to the BBC Radio Cumbria team for making it happen!

We think it went pretty well – despite an initial fraught 20 minutes of being lost in the Carlisle one-way system during morning rush-hour.

Been Away Too Long

After a long winter break, we finally took some of our festival activities out for a road-test at Lancaster University’s Community Day on 6th May.
It all went down a treat. Visitors had a lot of fun playing our “pick a pollinator” fishing game, identifying animal poo, discovering the magical smells of mushrooms, and hitting our “soil strengthometer” as hard as they possibly could.
We received around 800 visitors during the 6 hours at Lancaster Square, so we were really relieved to have plenty of help from some very excellent PhD Students – many thanks to Rosanne, James, Kasia, and Thomas.
We had to make do with a bog-standard gazebo, as our new stall is still in the works. But at least now it has a door.
All in all it was a great day and good preparation for our next event… roll on Glasto 2017!

Standing in the doorway

Doing something creative is a nice way to balance intense research work, so @panemma has really enjoyed designing a brand new stall – this first draft is very much in keeping with this year’s woodland theme.

We also had a fun coffee-break making a model to see what it would look like in the field (although note the complete absence of mud).

Not a bad start, now all we need is a door…


New-look stall being inaugurated by King Henry VIII in a 2017 Roadie T-Shirt