The University of Victoria is planning to make IdeaFest an annual event, following the two-week festival’s success this month.
“It was far better than anything I could have imagined,” said Howard Brunt, the university’s vice-president of research. “We were thinking, well, maybe we’ll do this every two years, but we came out [this year] and said nope, we’ll do this each year.”
An estimated 7,000 to 10,000 people attended more than 50 events between March 4 and 15, although many were repeat attendees. Organizers estimate 60 to 70 per cent came from the community outside of the university.
“That was really our main target audience, so we’re just over the moon that that actually did happen,” Brunt said.
This was the second year the festival was mounted, but it was the first open to the public on this scale. Public events included panel discussions, debates, guided walks, exhibits, film screenings and lectures. About 125 faculty members — about one in six — were involved in making presentations, taking part in panels and organizing events.
Among the most popular events were a guided tree walk, which attracted 150 people — about triple the expected 50 to 60 — a panel discussion about creativity moderated by Times Colonist editor-in-chief Dave Obee, and a panel discussion called Innovation Nation: The Role of Universities in Strengthening Canada’s Future.
The most successful, well-attended events were ones that looked at traditional subject areas through a new lens, such as Deep Impact: How Physics and Astronomy Shape Culture, said communications co-ordinator Melanie Tromp Hoover. Deep Impact attracted about 350 attendees and the tours and demonstrations attached to the event filled up in about 20 minutes.
Audience interaction and participation were other common qualities of popular events.
With early sights set on next year, organizers see room for improvement. They would like to target high school students more directly, potentially hosting events at schools. Finding ways to foster more interaction is a priority. And condensing the festival length to concentrate on fewer, more tightly organized events is also a likelihood.
“We’ll probably do it for a week next year, so we can really focus our energies,” Brunt said. “And probably we’ll do a bit more vetting … so we have high-impact events of great interest.”
The $20,000 budget will likely shrink, as this year’s IdeaFest was considered part of the university’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
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