Spending the penultimate weekend of August in the proximity of the beautiful Brecon Beacon hills was certainly worth the mugginess, the occasional downpours and even the slight case of facial sunburn upon my return from the Green Man festival. Currently sipping on a chai tea latte and with some Hot Chip vibes in the air, last week’s experiences still feel so incredibly fresh!
Armed with a sturdy team of meteorological experts from the Met Office and despite my own amateur student status, I felt well equipped to face the inquisitive crowds at the scientific heart of the festival site, just footsteps away from the main Mountain stage. The entire spectrum of ages and generations was spanned by those visiting the aptly named Einstein’s Garden: a festival of nerd of its own accord, featuring stalls with rockets, hormones, stem cells…. But the most important stall of all, of course, was the Met Office base. Where else would the public get the chance to create their very own cloud (in a bottle!) and learn about the process at the same time, or have an expert talk them through the mathematical probabilities involved in weather and climate forecasting using a Galton Board? Not to mention having the day’s weather forecast presented to them in person by a professional! Or – when said professional wasn’t around – presented by me….
As a volunteer for the Royal Meteorological Society, my role involved further encouraging those who showed a speck of enthusiasm when playing around with whirlpools of glittery water resembling a tornado to sign up to the WeatherClub, explaining a little about the seasonal newsletter. It is the public face of RMetS, aimed at enthusiasts and involves receiving a quarterly email about climate research news, current weather findings and trivia, photography competitions– something for a weather enthusiast of any age group! There was also a chance to win your own wireless weather station, which is not a prize draw to sniff at!
The Met Office returned for another year to the festival with the cloud-making shenanigans, in addition to a newfound collaboration with the incredible Sand In Your Eye this year to sculpt a city sandscape via hands-on, hour-long workshops for children and parents alike, with the goal of demonstrating the effect of coupling of pollution and pollen over urban landscapes via the release of bubbles and dry ice to represent pollution and fresh air, respectively. The story goes as follows: smaller pollen particles (e.g those of birch) generally travel further than larger particles (e.g grass) and are more allergenic, due to their ability to penetrate the respiratory system more than the larger particles. With increased pollution in urban areas comes a greater strain on plants to produce smaller pollen particles, which can physically latch themselves to the pollution, travelling even further. So: more allergenic and wide-spread. Best remedy: avoidance of exposure to pollen – an impossible mission in an urban area, where grass pollen levels tend to rocket during the summer months. It is no wonder that more and more of us are spending our holidays stocking up on antihistamines instead of sunscreen!
I filled the time outside of my 10am – 7pm daily duty by watching some great music acts late into the night (Hot Chip, Villagers, St. Vincent… as well as a mediocre band on the Chai Wallahs stage for the fact that they made my ears bleed!), also enjoying a hot drink to warm the belly and, most of all, exercising my passion for ethnic world cuisine by tucking into hearty falafel pittas, Indian chilli dosas or coconut tofu noodles! Crumpets for breakfast were a sure way to beat the morning blues after the regular, forecasted overnight heavy showers…
My festival experience was well enhanced by this opportunity to volunteer for the Royal Meteorological Society, for not only have I been able to practice my science communication skills by educating other festival goers, but also to educate myself on various aspects of meteorology and having the chance to connect with the experts in the field – figuratively and literally speaking!