Public Engagement with Social Issues




Spark entry

Entry to Spark Festival on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Spark Festival was a new and exciting event for UCL. It aimed to use novel ways to engage with communities in East London and to showcase a variety of UCL’s projects in order to raise awareness about, and increase interest in, engineering and physical science.  

The festival was also a chance to start working with the local community around UCL East, a new university campus in East London. The campus will be a world-leading university environment on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (QEOP) accessible to, and embedded within, the local community. 

A celebration of the work going on at UCL, Spark Festival brought together researchers from across UCL for a fun-packed, two day festival on the QEOP. Activities were all hands-on, participatory, based on active research areas and aimed at a family audience local to the QEOP.

What we did 

Spark game

A festival goer interacting with an exhibit

Coordinated centrally by the Public Engagement Unit with support from the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) who manage the QEOP, the festival featured activities run by UCL researchers. Taking place over two days of the 2015 August bank holiday, the research activities were accompanied by a band, creche and food stalls.

Twenty project teams took part in the festival and over 3,000 people attended, many from the four boroughs surrounding the park. The event was facilitated by QEOP volunteers (Park Champions), UCL student ambassadors and five UCL PhD students supporting the evaluation of the event. Over the two days, the evaluation team carried out interviews and observations to gather data on how well the festival achieved its aims. 

What we found


The festival goers were kept entertained by UCL student band, Dat Brass.

The evaluation that was collected shows that Spark Festival succeeded in enthusing festival-goers in science and engineering research going on at UCL. As the event was a one off, it is hard to know if these impacts were sustained over a longer period of time, but on the day the event incited dialogue, enthusiasm and learning for those attending.

A quarter of those who attended were from East London boroughs, the key audience for the festival, suggesting more could have been done to encourage local residents to engage with the event.

The staff and student project teams gained skills, such as project management and communication skills, as well as self confidence in engaging new audiences with their research. There were also new partnerships established both between UCL staff and students groups and with external partners.

An overwhelmingly positively received event, Spark has set a precedent as a way for UCL to think about engaging around its future location in East London.

A summary report of the festival (PDF) pulled together these findings.


113 UCL staff and students ran projects for an audience of over 3,000


Twenty projects were funded a total of just under £29,000

Impact areas


Spark Festival projects