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Your Guide to the DarwIN Shrewsbury Festival this February
30 Jan 2024

Celebrate the father of evolution and Shrewsbury's most famous son at a month-long festival this February.

As the birthplace of Charles Darwin, Shrewsbury has a proud connection to one of history’s most transformative scientific figures. This year marks the 21st DarwIN Shrewsbury Festival, where Charles Darwin’s enduring legacy will be honoured with 40 different events throughout the month.

Events include music, talks on his life story, guided tours of his home and garden, art exhibitions, lectures, and interactive activities to educate children, which all pay homage to Darwin’s life and enduring influence on our understanding of the natural world.

    

Walk in Darwin’s footsteps 

A door leading to the birth room of Charles Darwin

The popular tours of Darwin’s childhood home and garden, and sites connected to his life and legacy within the town, will be held on Monday, February 12th  – Thursday, February 15th (house) and Saturday, February 17th (garden), following the ‘thinking path’ at Darwin House, will offer a rare and intimate glimpse into the early environment that shaped Darwin’s curiosity and intellectual development.

    

Talks and Exhibitions

Art exhibitions in the town will showcase works inspired by Darwin, while several talks and exhibitions will further explore his childhood family home and gardens, his studies, the intricacies of his personal life and his local ties, offering a chance to gain a comprehensive understanding of his life and legacy, from the scientific to the artistic, and the historical to the personal.

This year, the DarwIN Festival has partnered with James St Clair Wade’s Streetscape Project, which features around 10 buildings which are part of Darwin’s story. A private view of the artworks will be held, with a tour of the works highlighting relevant sections of the Streetscape and how they fit into Darwin’s story. For a preview of the works, read our full interview HERE.

Shropshire Archives is holding a small exhibition of documents relating to Charles Darwin and his family home at The Mount on February 3rd.

Bear Steps Gallery has an exhibition by Head to Art Artists Collective from February 5th – 17th. Darwin’s earthworms, ravens and apes are among the artworks in a mix of media presented by 11 established. You can meet the artists on February 10th, 11am – 2pm.

On Saturday, February 10th a Symposium at Darwin House will explore the fascinating life of Susannah Darwin, nee Wedgwood, often silenced, anonymised and referred to only as ‘Darwin’s mother.’

This free event is an opportunity to discover more about Susannah’s life, including her experiences of motherhood, her guiding influence on the young Charles, and her contribution to the Darwin family home, business interests, and garden.

One of the festival’s most anticipated events is the annual Darwin Memorial Lecture, to be held on Sunday, February 11th at The Walker Theatre. Dr Isabelle Winder, a notable figure in the field of Natural Sciences from Bangor University, will lead this year’s lecture. Her talk promises to bring a contemporary perspective to Darwin’s work, linking his foundational theories with modern scientific inquiry into primate evolution.

In addition, you can visit St Chad’s Church daily to see where he was Christened and on February 17th you can go behind the scenes at Shrewsbury Library, where Darwin was a schoolboy.

     

Happy Birthday Darwin

Mount House    

Mount House - where history’s most famous biologist was born on February 12th, 1809

On Darwin’s 215th birthday, on Monday, February 12th, the annual Darwin Birthday Toast will be held at the Bellstone in Morris Hall Courtyard, hosted by Jon King, who is the founder of the DarwIN Shrewsbury Festival.

Everyone is welcome to come together, raise a glass, and celebrate the man whose work continues to inspire curiosity and scientific inquiry to this day.

    

Music

On Monday, February 12th, Andrew Bannerman will deliver a talk on the relationship between Charles Darwin and his wife Emma Darwin (nee Wedgwood), accompanied by John Bowen on piano, in the beautiful setting of Darwin House. You can toast Darwin’s birthday with a glass of Prosecco, supplied by Tanners Wine Merchants.

Speaker Ted Maidment and local pianist John Moore will return to the festival on Sunday, February 18th, with a musically illustrated talk examining the composer Frédéric Chopin, from whom Emma Darwin received several lessons.

Emma was a gifted pianist and Charles greatly enjoyed listening to her play the works of Chopin in the evenings. This event will be repeated on Wednesday, February 21st.

If you attend any events at Darwin House you can view Charles Darwin’s birth room and tour some of the Darwin family’s principal rooms.

    

The Festival of Ideas

Shrewsbury Unitarian Church has teamed up with local philosophy and science group “Hmmm Squad’ to launch a ‘Festival of Ideas’ on the evening of Friday, February 9th and on Saturday, February 10th. 

The ‘Festival of Ideas’ will include talks on a range of topics from mathematics, civility, playing board games, psychology and the importance of engaging with nature.

    

Families and Young Explorers

Over February half term, the festival welcomes little scientists with lots of interactive and educational opportunities to keep kids busy, active and engaged with the legacy of Shrewsbury’s most famous son.

Help them foster an interest in science, history and nature with a programme of events including the chance to build their own miniature HMS Beagle at Shropshire Archives, see Shropshire fossil at Shropshire Wildlife Trust, get muddy with Darwin’s Wiggly Worms at Wroxeter Roman City and build and explore with the Darwin Lego Workshop at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery, and much more.

    

Short film: “Son of Shrewsbury”

To celebrate the 21st DarwIN Shrewsbury festival, a small team of young people aged 16–19, from the BFI Film Academy at MediaActive in Shropshire, have created a short film – “Son of Shrewsbury”. In the film, two grammatically opposed investigative journalists take a look at the legacy and ubiquity of Charles Darwin in our town.

Watch the film here.

   

A Month of Celebrations 

The annual DarwIN Shrewsbury Festival is managed and coordinated by John K Hughes, Project Manager at Darwin House, and supported by Shrewsbury BID.

John K Hughes said, “Plans for the 21st DarwIN Shrewsbury Festival are progressing very well with around 40 individual events taking place this year. We have seen a real growth in interest and I am sure it will be the best festival yet. We are extremely grateful to everyone who is participating and for all the help and support received in making the festival happen in celebration of Shrewsbury’s most famous son.”

Emma Molyneux, Project Co-ordinator, Shrewsbury BID, commented, “As a proud supporter of the DarwIN Shrewsbury Festival, we love seeing our community come together to honour the legacy of Charles Darwin.

“This festival not only celebrates Darwin’s contributions to science but also reinforces the rich cultural and historical significance of Shrewsbury. We’re excited to see residents and visitors alike engage with the diverse programme of activities on offer and gain a deeper appreciation for Darwin’s enduring impact on our world, and our town”

For the full the programme of events visit darwin.originalshrewsbury.co.uk.