Festival of Curiosity: a heady mix for inquisitive minds

A fash-tech mash-up, a Lego party for grown-ups and a night at the Dead Zoo – this four-day festival in Dublin is a headspinning celebration of creativity and inventiveness

Expect a whole lot of mixing next month when the Festival of Curiosity takes off in Dublin. The four-day extravaganza of science, tech, art and general curiosity will feature events around the city centre and the focus is on the old, the new and people having fun and learning together.

Now in its fifth year, the popular festival broadly divides events into a family programme of playful days and an evening programme of curious nights tailored for adults, including a “Block Party” where grown-ups get to play with Lego and bubbles.

“The general flavour this year is a mix of new and old, light and shadow and exploring together,” says Festival of Curiosity co-founder and creative director Ellen Byrne.

This July will see a big focus at the festival on fashion, and particularly what can happen when fashion meets technology, according to Byrne.


"This year we launched Curiosity Studio, supported by Science Foundation Ireland, which is a year-round design research and residency programme. The 2017 call is specifically for fashion designers to explore the future of fashion and technology, and the designers are working with scientists and engineers, learning how to solder and how to make conductive fabrics. They are having a great time," she says.

Fashion and engineering

“The results will be on show at an evening event that explores runway fashion with a focus on light and illumination. We have so much talent here in Ireland in terms of fashion design and engineering, so we want to see what will happen when their expertise is pooled.”

The Festival of Curiosity will also offer plenty of scope for mixing up sound and vision, Byrne adds, including an evening of mixing music samples at Science Gallery Dublin's Sound Check exhibition, and other events involving virtual reality and film screenings.

You can sign up for a night tour of the Natural History Museum (or “the Dead Zoo” as it is fondly known) and there are even “secret cycles” where groups hop on bikes and pedal off to a mystery location. “You will be advised what to wear and what to bring, but you won’t know where you are going and what you are doing until you are brought there,” says Byrne. “It’s a curious adventure.”

Byrne and co-founder Vince McCarthy are keen that festival participants get involved together wherever they can, particularly at family events such as the Curiosity Carnival at Smock Alley Theatre, the Curiosity Picnic at Wood Quay, a city-wide treasure trail and a series of talks by explorers.

Make your own record player

“We want to see grandparents and grandchildren learning and working on things together, and there will be inclusive workshops where you can make your own record player and learn how to make sounds in movies,” says Byrne.

A regular favourite at the festival is Dublin Maker, on July 22nd, which is “a celebration of the inventors of Ireland”, according to co-founder Dr David McKeown. “We have coaxed Ireland’s best amateur engineers out of their garden sheds to join the spare-bedroom woodturners, home brewers, crafters and everything in between to turn Merrion Square into an eclectic tented village of creativity,” he says. “There is something for all ages and definitely something you haven’t seen before.”

The Festival of Curiosity runs from July 20th-23rd. For more details about events and to pre-book tickets where required, keep an eye on festivalofcuriosity.ie where the programme and ticket booking will be live in the coming days.

Claire O'Connell

Claire O'Connell

Claire O'Connell is a contributor to The Irish Times who writes about health, science and innovation