The Telescope – seeing things more clearly

The Telescope – seeing things more clearly

This year at Greenbelt we’re excited to introduce a brand new venue and programme into the mix. All about the future and how we’ll live well there, it’s called The Telescope and here’s a bit about what you can expect to find there across the weekend.

As this is Greenbelt, there will, of course, be a justice edge to the programming at all times. Because, as William Gibson famously wrote: “The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

Resonating with our festival theme, Acts of the Imagination, The Telescope will be humanity- and values-led, rather than tech-led. We want it to be a venue which encourages thoughtfulness, engagement and interaction about how we can all be part of making the future more livable for everyone. The venue itself will be a cool, geodesic dome construction (see the picture above). It will be a venue for all ages. It won’t just be for geeks and scientists (although they are welcome, of course!).

To live well, sustainably, fairly and generously in the future will require imagination – it will require scientists, dreamers, artists, activists, faith leaders – all of us. We want The Telescope to be a venue that moves fast and slow – allowing time for fun and impact but also for reflection and going deep, exploring the big moral and societal questions facing us was we hurtle towards tomorrow.

In the mornings there will be a smorgasbord of activities on offer to choose from in and around the venue – from VR headsets to try out, to table top games like Beasts of Burden, to guerrilla digital gaming, to building the future city out of lego and cool science graduates sharing their research and findings with you. The Telescope will be the place to be for all ages.

We’re thrilled to be working in collaboration with a number of organisations to enable this programming – including The Faraday InstituteNewman University, and Christians in Science. And it’s been great fun working with Greenbelters Amy Unsworth, Evan Wroe and James Stewart on this inaugural incarnation of what we hope might become a staple of the Greenbelt festival diet in years to come.

Here are some highlights to look out for:

Hussein Kesvani and Mathew Guest will be helping us think about the future of religion here in the UK, Hussein from a Muslim perspective and Matthew taking a broader overview of the sociology of religion in the future. Alice Procter will be part of the venue’s programme with a couple of sessions on with her museum of tomorrow. Neil Messer from Winchester University will speak on the ethics of enhancing our human nature. Ade Adewunmi will provoke us around big data, ownership and privacy. And Faraday speaker Denis Alexander will talk on genetic science and its impact on our sense of identity, development and change.

Emma Dabiri will get us thinking about the importance of Afrofutures (especially post-Black Panther). Lauri Love will be with us, sharing his story of hacking, extradition, espionage and freedom of speech. And we’ll also host big conversations on the future of housing with the Guardian’s housing correspondent Dawn Foster, and on the future of relationships with our friends at Christian Connections and Single Friendly Church, and the future of eduction with our associate partner Oasis Trust, sharing out for the work with Secondary School Academies up and down the country. 

Andy Robertson, GeekDad Gamer, will be building on his InterAct sessions from the past few years festivals with a set-piece on digital gaming and the future but other guerrilla style pop-up gaming opportunities across the weekend. And each evening, we hope to screen the award-winning dome-projected animated short film Star Maker in the venue as a truly immersive and magical ending to the day – asking us all sorts of questions about our identities in the future.

We can’t wait to welcome you to peer into The Telescope this Greenbelt. Our hope is that it might just help you see things that little bit more clearly.