Date of release: Friday, November 30, 2018

A festival which uses a virtual natural disaster scenario to get young people interested in science has won Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community at the Times Higher Education Awards.

SMASHfestUK is an innovative arts, tech and science festival, co-produced by the University of Greenwich. It takes place nationally, using exhibitions, arts events and experiments linked to an impending apocalyptic natural event as its central theme.

The awards, known as "Oscars of higher education", were held last night (Thursday 29 November).

Dr Lindsay Keith, a Creative Research Fellow at Greenwich, created the festival. She says: "By asking 'what if this disaster meant we couldn't survive or rebuild?' we're getting young people to use their creativity and skills to confront future challenges.

"To see SMASHfestUK grow like this is incredible. It is a great way of getting kids interested in science and to win such a prestigious award is a wonderful endorsement of the hard work by everyone involved."

The festival is a collaboration with Middlesex University and The Refinery. It is aimed at under 16s and has inclusivity at its heart, with 70% of visitors being black or of mixed heritage, as well as 62% being female.

Since SMASHfestUK started in Deptford three years ago over 60,000 have taken part. The idea is to get young people interested in arts and science, technology, engineering and maths.

Earlier this year the festival won the Engineer magazine's Collaborate to Innovate award, retaining it from 2017. In 2016 it won the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) category of the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement's bi-annual Engage Awards.

SMASHfestUK's mission is to widen participation and build diversity in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) through the Arts

Pictured left to right: Sandi Toksvig, Wyn Griffiths (SMASHfestUK and Middlesex),
Dr Lindsay Keith (SMASHfestUK and University of Greenwich), Neil Melton (Middlesex University), Sir Deian Hopkin (one of the judges).