This is a guest blog post by Dr Julia Best, Bournemouth University, Postdoctoral researcher on the AHRC Large Grant exploring the ‘Cultural and Scientific Perceptions of Human- Chicken Interactions’.

In late June two members of the ‘Cultural and Scientific Perceptions of Human-chicken Interactions’ project, Dr Julia Best and Jacqueline Pitt from Bournemouth University, (whose Research and Knowledge Exchange office kindly sponsored this event) represented the project at Glastonbury festival. Displaying and discussing research from Bournemouth, Durham, Leicester, Nottingham, Roehampton and York Universities, the project set up camp in the Science Tent within the Green Futures field.

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The visitors came thick and fast and were ready and keen to interact. Approximately 800 visitor interactions took place lasting on average between five and ten minutes, although some people stayed for far longer and others returned multiple times.  The science tent was lively and varied with internal and external activities to entice visitors. From pedal-powered jukeboxes, musical bubbles and 3D printing to biofuel demonstrations, the chicken project was surrounded by a wealth of exciting research which demonstrated the immensely varied application of science, and its role in culture. The chicken project stand consisted of a range of archaeological finds, several handling skeletons, interactive charting and mapping, historic recipes, artistic perception activities, and data demonstrations. Using these tools the chicken outreach team could explore (among other things) zooarchaeology, breed development, commercial meat and egg production, genetic variation, lipid analysis and isotopic studies.

The activities and discussions were very well received and the interest expressed by the visitors was gratifyingly universal. The audience was exceptionally diverse and as such presented the opportunity to engage with participants from a wide range of backgrounds and viewpoints. Resultantly people were interested for a variety of reasons; from vegan caterers and backyard breeders to sustainable food trust workers and chicken vaccinators. The participants relished the opportunity to handle material and draw their own conclusions from the data. As such, by being very hands-on (but tailoring interaction to suit the audience at hand) the visitors stayed for a longer period of time (compared to previous festival outreach work experienced by Dr Best) and were confident in asking questions and engaging in complex debate.

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Time and time again the participants would express that they had not realised or considered that archaeology and anthropology could integrate so thoroughly with scientific research.  Frequently phrases along the lines of ‘oh I didn’t realise you could do/see/find that’ were uttered, demonstrating the positive increase this event had in public awareness of our research and the importance of integrating Science in Culture. The interactive charting and mapping also revealed to us that although most people knew that chickens were not native to Britain, there was a very diverse range in where participants thought that their wild ancestors were found. It also emerged that the majority of the visitors would like to keep chickens and that about a quarter of them already did. Work such as this is essential for allowing us to learn about our public audience and what we can give to them through our work.

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In a festival where there was so much to see and do, the constant stream of people into the Science Tent and to our stall is testament to the fact that the public audience as a whole is very interested in science, culture, sustainability and the application of the past to understand the present and look to the future.

If you are interested in finding out more about the AHRC project exploring ‘Cultural and Scientific Perceptions of Human- Chicken Interactions’ visit the project website for further information about future public engagement events and lots more.