A very responsive audience stayed on for a wide-ranging discussion about indigenous arctic legends, Siberian tribes, science/arts collaborations, global warming and something called 'archaeo-astronomy' - my favourite new word. The inter-disciplinary aspects of my talk seemed to appeal to this group of assorted lecturers/ students from different University of Leicester departments, local astronomers and several small children. I enjoyed the chance to chat to such enthusiastic and well-informed people.
We also discussed whether our recent 'cold snap' might be evidence of a slowing-down in the sun's activity, as suggested in recent research that linked low solar minimums to Europe's Little Ice Age in the seventeenth century. But my man in the Radio & Space Plasma Physics Group assures me that though the sun has been slow to 'awaken from its deep slumber', sun-spot activity has now quickened considerably. We may yet see the beautiful aurora this far south come the solar maximum of 2013. Watch this space ...
And the questions also led me to reflect on the science/arts collaboration that has me performing poems in a Physics & Astronomy lecture theatre. Darren Wright of the Radio & Space Plasma Physics Group spoke of how scientists like himself were interested in finding different ways of communicating with the wider community. His group have sponsored a number of artists like myself working on projects related to their auroral field of study. And from the events I've done at science festivals and venues like the Science Museum I can see there are some exciting approaches to engaging both adults and children in scientific discourse.
As a writer, the challenge of finding a language to communicate complex scientific ideas in poetry and performance has proved very stimulating. It's stretched my literary voice and my skills as a storyteller and I love presenting this material to very diverse audiences from primary schoolchildren to astronomers. And the narrative journey of the Northern Lights has led me from the Arctic Circle out into space - a place I want to write about more in the future. From physics to poetry, aurora to story - the cross-overs continue to fascinate me.