27 March, 2018

Leading climate scientist and mathematician Dr Emily Shuckburgh is teaming up with award-winning author and illustrator Chris Haughton as part of a collaboration between Hay Festival and the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to communicate cutting-edge science to new audiences.

Entitled Trans.MISSION, the project pairs prominent scientists with reknowned artists to produce a piece of work – an animation, a series of still pictures with text, an infographic or animated text – to be launched in a series of public events during Hay Festival’s Hay on Earth programme (24 May–3 June 2018).

BAS oceanographer Emily and Chris (A Bit Lost, Oh No George! and Shh! We Have a Plan) will explore polar science and climate change. Ally Lewis, atmospheric chemist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS), pairs with Aardman Animation Studios’ director Dan Binns to look at air pollution. And NCAS climate scientist Ed Hawkins joins children’s author Nicola Davies to analyse extreme weather events.

Scientist Emily Shuckburgh and artist Chris Haughton discuss their joint project to communicate climate science


Alison Robinson, NERC Director of Corporate Affairs, said: “Understanding our changing planet is fundamental to all our futures, and art has the power to start conversations around how our environment affects our lives. We hope that bringing together high-profile artists with NERC’s leading researchers to create compelling visuals will engage new audiences with our cutting-edge environmental science, from the freezing Antarctic and the world’s changing climate to the air we breathe here at home in the UK. We are proud to be working with Hay Festival and excited to see what creativity and ongoing engagement Ed, Emily and Ally’s work inspires.”

Dr Emily Shuckburgh said: “The findings of climate science affect all of us: they warn of the perilous state in which we have placed the planet and of the urgency with which we need to respond if we are to limit the risks to society of future climate change. I am very excited to be working with Chris to find new ways of engaging people in our scientific discoveries on this important topic. I am certain that the combination of Chris’ wonderful creative talents with the profound and majestic insights Antarctica offers will prove to be captivating.”

Chris Haughton added: “I am so excited to work on this project. I hope I can communicate some of the research being done in the Antarctic and make it understandable to a wider audience. My picture-books rely on simplified images to tell stories. By using a similar approach I hope it can enable us to communicate some of the more difficult concepts about the earth’s atmosphere and climate. The science behind climate change has often proved to be very difficult for the public to digest, so it is an exciting challenge. I hope we can help contribute to public knowledge around these very important topics.”

Andy Fryers, Sustainability Director at Hay Festival, commented: “Hay Festival is one of the few places where artists, scientists and policy-makers share the same stage, blending disciplines and art forms in exciting ways. Our Hay on Earth programme continues to address the big issues facing the planet, whether it’s through raising awareness with debates or looking after our own direct impacts. The new partnership with NERC takes this in an exciting direction and we can’t wait to see what these collaborations produce.”

NERC is the UK’s main agency for funding environmental science, covering the full range of research from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. Tackling major issues such as clean air, water and energy, extreme weather and the impact of our environment on human health, NERC scientists play a critical role in understanding how our planet works.

Hay Festival addresses environmental concerns through its Hay on Earth programme of conversations and lectures, and through its own efforts to operate sustainably. This year’s festival will be powered entirely by renewable energy from Good Energy, while it will be the first festival in the UK to trial a reusable hot drink cups system; 80% of waste produced on site is recycled.

View the full Hay Festival 2018 programme at hayfestival.org.