Science, Nature and Comedy Festival

  • Sat 16 Sep to Sun 17 Sep
  • 10am to 6pm
How to book

Funny side of  life scientific


The world’s first ever Science, Nature and Comedy Festival takes place at the National Botanic Garden of Wales on September 16-17.


A host of top names are taking part in this very special weekend of learning and laughing including: theoretical physicist, author and broadcaster Jim Al-Khalili; multi-award-winning comedian and Brian Cox sidekick Robin Ince; Welsh-born geneticist Professor Steve Jones; and neuroscientist and stand-up comedian Professor Sophie Scott – who has just be chosen to give the 2017 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures.


There will also be fungi foraging, walks, talks, tours, story-telling, rockets, chemistry and lots of fun, family activities.


The world’s first ever Science, Nature and Comedy Festival is sponsored by Castell Howell.


Here’s the Festival’s full line-up:


Jim Al Khalili

Jim was born in Baghdad and is a theoretical physicist, TV broadcaster and author. He has presented the programmes ‘ The Beginning And End Of The Universe’, ‘The Secrets of Quantum Physics’ and ‘Shock And Awe : The Secrets Of Electricity’. And, at 12 noon on the Saturday, Jim will be asking the question: “Is Life Quantum Mechanical?”


Robin Ince

Robin is a multi-award winning comedian and author. Along with Brian Cox he presents Radio 4’s The Infinite Monkey Cage. Robin starts his next solo tour this autumn. Robin is performing at 1.30pm on the Saturday and 4pm on Sunday.


Steve Jones

Steve Jones is a professor of genetics at University College London. He appears frequently on radio and television and has delivered the BBC Reith lecture. See Professor Jones at 3pm on the Saturday and 1pm on Sunday.


Sophie Scott

Sophie is a British neuroscientist and stand-up comedian. She is a Wellcome Trust Fellow researching the neuroscience of voices, speeches and laughter. Prof Scott will be giving the 2017 Royal Institution Christmas lectures on the evolution of language – and explain why gifs and emojis aren’t stupid. But, before that, see her at the Garden at 4.30pm on the Saturday and 2.30pm on the Sunday.


Hugh Warwick

Hugh Warwick is a hedgehog obsessive ever since a visit to The Orkney Islands in 1986. His books include ‘A Prickly Affair’ and ‘Linescapes’. Find out more at 4.30pm on Saturday and 11.30am on Sunday.


Joanna Neary

Joanna  was nominated for the Best Newcomer Award at The Edinburgh Festival in 2004. In addition to her solo stage shows, she has appeared in Skins, Time Trumpet, Count Arthur Strong, Miranda, Green Wing and That Mitchell & Webb Look. She will be on stage at 12noon on the Saturday performing ‘An A to Z of the History of Animals and Mankind’ which includes one song, two poems, 20 mankind impressions and a dance. Joanna will also deal quickly with politics, by holding up a photograph of a conker.


AF Harrold

AF Harrold is a poet who performs for  adults and children. He has been a poet in residence at both Glastonbury  and Cheltenham festivals and is the owner of many books, a handful of hats, a few good ideas and one beard. Hear him at 3pm on Saturday and 2.30pm on Sunday.


Helen Arney

(Festival of The Spoken Nerd) Helen is the UKs premier geek songstress and has smashed a wine glass with her voice on Blue Peter and serenaded Jon Snow on Channel 4 News. She also presents science on BBC2s ‘Coast’ and The Discovery Channel. Helen’s in action at 12noon on Saturday


Matt Parker

Originally a maths teacher from Australia, Matt is the author of ‘Things To Make And Do In The Fourth Dimension’ which won The Euler Prize awarded annually to an outstanding book about mathematics. The important numbers are 1.30 on Saturday and and 1pm on Sunday.


Richard Osmond

Richard is a professional forager and poet based in Hertfordshire. His debut poetry collection ‘Useful Verses’ has been called “remarkable” by the author William Boyd. Richard will be foraging around the Garden’s estate, explore our amazing waxcap meadows and performing his poetry.


Brenna Hassett

Bioarchaeologist Brenna Hassett wrote the book ‘Built On Bones’ which is based on research of skeletal remains from around the world. Brenna is a member of TrowelBlazers. See her at 1.30pm on Saturday and 11.30am on Sunday.


Will Ashon

Will founded the record label Big Dada in the process of winning The Mercury Prize on two occasions. He has had two novels published by Faber & Faber and his latest book ‘Strange Labyrinth’ deals with the poets, outlaws, mystics and murderers who have inhabited Epping Forest. Find out more on Saturday at 3pm and Sunday at 1pm.


Penderyn Whisky

Come and find out how Penderyn whisky is made. The Penderyn distillery produces award-winning whiskies and spirits in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons. Might there be tastings? Find out at 4.30pm on Saturday and 2.30pm on Sunday.


Take a look at the Festival’s timetable, so you don’t miss out on your favourite acts:

Saturday September 16:


12noon – Jim Al Khalili

1.30pm – Robin Ince

3pm – Steve Jones

4.30pm – Sophie Scott


Paxton Room, Principality House

12noon – Helen Arney

1.30pm – Matt Parker

3pm – AF Harrold

4.30pm – Hugh Warwick


Theatr Botanica

12noon – Joanna Neary

1.30pm – Brenna Hassett

3pm – Will Ashon

4.30pm – Penderyn


Richard Osmond will be foraging around the Garden and performing his poetry at 3pm.


Sunday September 17:


11.30am – Helen Arney

1pm – Steve Jones

2.30pm – Sophie Scott

4pm – Robin Ince


Paxton Room, Principality House

11.30am  – Hugh Warwick

1pm – Matt Parker

2.30pm – AF Harrold


Theatr Botanica

11.30am  – Brenna Hasset

1pm – Will Ashon

2.30pm – Penderyn


Richard Osmond will be foraging around the Garden and performing his poetry at 2pm.


Other events include:


1pm Weird and Wonderful Fungi

Explore the Garden rare waxcap meadows with our very own fungi expert and interpretation officer Bruce Langridge. He will be accompanied by professional forager and poet Richard Osmond. So, why not join them for a fine foray on the Garden historic estate. Meet at the Western Entrance of the Great Glasshouse. Wear suitable cross-country clothing. The walk will last about an hour.


3pm Between Capricorn and Cancer

Join artist Roy Wiles in the Garden Gallery for a talk about his new exhibition. Roy’s stunning drawings capture memories of the now critically-endangered creatures, plants and habitats he has encountered during a career researching and teaching the freshwater ecology of tropical forests.


All Day Inside the Wonder Dome

Lord Foster’s iconic Great Glasshouse – an architectural gem in its own right – plays host to a feast of fun, free family activities all through the festival

  • Dr Joel Loveridge,  from the Royal Society of Chemistry will focus on fungi and smell
  • Astro Cymru’s Emma Ride will major on meteors and rockets
  • There is science story-telling on the stage area with spinner of scientific yarns, Peter Arnold
  • The Garden’s very own Head of Education, Paul Smith will be conducting wild and wacky chemistry and physics experiments
  • To add to the equation you can take The Techniquest Maths Challenge and see if your skills add up to much and
  • The Institute of Physics will be on hand to answer your everyday questions and queries of a scientific nature


All Day Tropical Butterfly Safari

Marvel at our fabulous and exotic collection of rainforest butterflies in Plas Pilipala and meet members of the Garden’s science team Louisa and Rhiannon who will solve all your butterfly quandaries.


All day Little Pharma

Discover how Welsh chemists used to dispense plant-based pills, potions, lotions and tinctures 100 years ago by visiting our amazing Apothecary’s Hall


All day Honey? We’re saving the world

Make sure your visit our Bee Garden and see all the Garden hives in action and find out more about these prolific pollinators and the important part they play in all our lives


Admission to the Garden is £10.50 (including Gift Aid) for adults and £4.95 for children over five.  Entry is FREE for Garden members and parking is free for all.

Festival events are free.