The science of being a rainbow in someone’s cloud - Anne Hailes

The NI Science Festival is wonderful and packed with opportunities for children and adults alike to learn lasting lessons, says Anne Hailes

Mimi’s Rainbow Adventure at  2 Royal Avenue on Saturday and Sunday February
Mimi’s Rainbow Adventure, part of the NI Science Festival, will let little ones get answers to all their questions about the world around us

Isn’t the world a wonderful place? Scary at the moment, fear coming at us from all sides, wars and political chaos, climate change and cost of living rocketing out of control, and two old codgers fighting it out in the United States.

But - and it’s a big ‘but’ - we must continue to understand our world and share knowledge with our children and grandchildren who might well be frightened with reports and films on television and pictures in the papers.

A good place to start gathering knowledge is at the NI Science Festival which runs until February 25. We’re halfway through but there is still lots to look forward to. For instance, on Tuesday at 7pm there is a free, topical online offering ‘Exploring How Your Healthcare Data Shapes Research And Services In NI’.

On Wednesday evening in The Second Fiddle, Waring Street in Belfast at 7pm you can enjoy an event dedicated to whiskeys of Ireland, history, distilling techniques and the unique tastes (tickets £45). Then on Thursday evening, in the Seamus Heaney Homeplace at Bellaghy, the problems of blue-green algae in Lough Neagh will be discussed by experts (tickets £5).

I’m fascinated by the Crescent Arts Centre’s offering at 7.30pm on Friday, The Keys to Happiness - asking what can psychological research tell us about kindness and the most effective strategies for building more kindness into our lives. Broadcaster and author of the Keys To Kindness, Claudia Hammond, draws on her work with Sussex University and BBC Radio 4 on The Kindness Test, the world’s largest study of its type.

Claudia Hammond shared a thought-provoking selection on Radio 4's Pick of the Week
Kindness expert Claudia Hammond

What is kindness? “Behaviour which is intended to bring benefit to others.” It can be as simple as holding open a door for someone or a surprise cream bun when you’re feeling down.

Author Maya Angelou says it takes courage to be kind. “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud,” she challenges. The Dalai Lama claims his religion is very simple: “My religion is kindness.”

Mind You, It Can Backfire

When my late mother was going through a short bout of despondency, I sent her a big bunch of gladiola without a note of who they were from. They were delivered and she was very chuffed - was it an admirer from the past?

It lifted her spirits and she was like a schoolgirl on St Valentine’s Day - someone cared enough to send her flowers. The problem was, when my father discovered this act of kindness he was furious. Who were they from? He demanded to know what was going on. It got so dramatic I had to admit it was me... It rather took the shine off the gladiolas.

Kindness is a warm feeling when you receive it but it also has an uplifting experience when you offer it, especially when it’s known only to yourself. It’s said if a kindness is found out it doesn’t count and you must try again.

Again with my parents I was looking for a chiropodist to come to the house but couldn’t find anyone doing home visits. Then I struck gold: “Yes, of course I will make an exception because you smiled at me once in Rosemary Street.”

Back to the Science Festival. One of the major events must surely be the Foyle Science Showcase on Saturday: ‘A mind-bending science show’ they promise, an immersive exhibition, with interactive activities and a celebration of curiosity and discovery suitable for any age and all for free in the Foyle Arena in Derry. Doors open at 10am.

And Little Children Are Not Forgotten

At 2 Royal Avenue on Saturday and Sunday there is a free drop-in event between 10am and 4pm. It’s called Mimi’s Rainbow Adventure, when young ones and their families can ask questions about the world, get involved in exhibitions laid on by the Institute of Physics with creative activities and real live scientists to talk to, making memories to encourage an interest in science later in life.

Foyle Science Showcase on Saturday  ‘A mind bending science show’  suitable for any age  in the Foyle Arena  Derry.
The Foyle Science Showcase promises to be a 'mind-bending science show’ suitable for any age

The Evidence features The Science of Menopause on Saturday evening and is aimed at 16 years upwards (tickets £6). Every woman’s journey through the menopause is deeply personal and unique. But how does where you live shape your perceptions of this life stage and experiences of it? Claudia Hammond looks at how the menopause is viewed around the world and discusses the latest science along the way.

What a wonderful festival. There is something for everyone’s taste and a lasting lesson for children and adults alike - try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.

Find the programme and more details at or telephone the box office on 028 9024 6609