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Despite fears about the novel coronavirus, Hastings-based astronomy outreach company, Creative Space, had a hugely successful Space@TheStade weekend at Stade Hall.

This space-themed public engagement event, which took place in Hastings Old Town over the weekend of 14th and 15th March 2020, was all about connecting with the local community of Hastings and St Leonards, raising aspirations, and inspiring young people within this deprived area to consider career paths in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM). This fun, educational event was timed to coincide with British Science Week… and it was all completely free.

The theme for Space@TheStade was ‘The Spectrum of Space’, so it was all about the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) and how we use it to explore the cosmos. In the planetarium, visitors got to see a 360-degree immersive film called ‘We Are Astronomers’ which took them on a journey from far away galaxies to the tiniest atomic particle at Cern – all seen through the EMS. Other activities included seeing the invisible in infrared and ultraviolet, exploring radio with listening dishes, making a wave machine, measuring the speed of light with kitchen implements, making UV glow-in-the-dark slime to take home, detecting gamma rays, turning sunshine into fire, and creating rainbows out of visible light.

Founder of Creative Space, Melanie Davies, said: “I was really pleased to see so many families from the local community come down to the Stade to support our event. We had 400 people through the doors over the course of the weekend.” She added: “This was possibly the last weekend of normality before many people from Hastings and St Leonards decided to self-isolate and stop going to events like this prior to the COVID-19 lockdown.”

Visitors to the two-day event had the chance to get hands-on with some cool experiments, demos and activities, all linking space to the EMS using materials and equipment that included a microwave oven, nail polish, and even a banana! Everyone had the opportunity to experience the free planetarium show, plus a free public lecture about the ‘Spectrum of Space’ on the Saturday evening.

One visitor commented: “A great opportunity to take science seriously and make it fun too. I loved the heat camera, the nail polish experiment and the planetarium. I’d like to take my son to visit again once he’s a bit older.” Another visitor said: “Really great for Hastings. Informative and fun. Please come again!”

The event was part funded by the Hastings & St Leonards Foreshore Charitable Trust with the remainder of the funding coming from Creative Space. It was made even more fun with generous support and collaboration with the University of Sussex. It was attended by Councillor James Bacon, Deputy Mayor of Hastings, and Councillor Nigel Sinden, Mayor of Hastings, who was “happy with it all!”.

Local resident, Col Turner said: “We brought our two young boys down. We teach them all about space at home, but it was great to let them learn through experiments how we see things in space. It was very, very good.”

“We’re so very grateful to all those who came to Space@TheStade and we’re hoping to continue this cosmic journey with more events like this” said Biddy from Creative Space, “We’d like to go bigger and better, and move the space experience to Hastings town centre in the not-too-distant future.”

Creative Space is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company and has been providing free public engagement events in Hastings for the past five years. These events have been made possible by generous funding and support from volunteers who help out with activities, stewarding, and operating telescopes.