September marked the ten-year anniversary of YorNight, a contribution to the pan-national European Researchers’ Night. The event offered residents and visitors of York a glimpse of the cutting-edge research taking place in the area with University researchers hosting lectures and stands at seven venues throughout the city.
Having been offered the opportunity to work as ‘photographer’s assistant’ on the night, I had a very different experience to the other visitors attending the evening. York graduate and professional photographer, Ian Martindale’s aim was to capture the essence of every venue and all in time to make it back to the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey in time for the grand finale.
Our first stop was King’s Manor where, after hurrying through flocks of excited Scouts and Girlguides, we came upon Professor Ambrose Field, Professor Thomas Krauss, Dr Helena Daffern and Amelia Gully. They were the masterminds behind the live concert; a reconstruction of the acoustics and sounds of St Mary’s Abbey as it would have if it were still standing today. A specially commissioned piece, composed by Ambrose Field and performed by members of the Ebor Singers, was accompanied by graphics and lighting to mark the International Year of Light celebrations.
But it was the research stands at King’s Manor, run by both students and staff at the University, which really championed the evening. Such ingenuity as the use of LEGO to model a salt marsh under threat, or Minecraft to recreate a historic site, proved to both adults and children alike that research isn’t all white coats and conical flasks. Even complex topics, such as the use of stem cells, spectroscopy and the piKON telescope were rendered with impressive clarity by the researchers on hand.
And on to the Museum Gardens. There was a buzz of anticipation in the air as crowds of newly-inspired visitors began to flock onto the lawn. By the time the timer, projected onto the Abbey wall, began to tick, the whole space was packed full of people, each clutching at the glow sticks being frantically distributed by YorNight stewards. And the performance itself? Well, it was as Professor Krauss had promised; ‘the sound of elves’. If you closed your eyes, you could imagine that the ethereal song was not being sung into the still, starlit night, but reverberating around the magnificent walls of St Mary’s Abbey. An experience which, I’m sure, audience members won’t be in a hurry forget.