Hello! My name is Matty, and I am the Inspiring Science Programme and Development Officer at W5.
At the beginning of this year, I celebrated 10 years at W5! When I tell people what I do for a living the number one response is usually along the lines of “that sounds fun, I bet you love it!” The truth is, I do love it.
I’ve had the opportunity to do some amazing things over the last 10 years, so I wanted to reflect on my top 10 memories over that time.
10. Tim Peake
There are few jobs which put you in a position where you get to meet a real-life astronaut, but I have been lucky enough to meet two! First, Jean-Francois Clervoy, and then Tim Peake visited W5 Belfast after he returned from his first mission to the International Space Station.
9. Museum of the Moon
It might not sound like the most exciting event that we have ever done in W5, but I loved Museum of the Moon. It was such a calm and peaceful exhibit and was the perfect place to take a 5-minute breather during a busy day. Plus, it made for a pretty awesome photo opportunity too!
8. Water Balloons
I was sitting in the office working when the boss walks in the door and says, “I just bought a new water balloon catapult, who wants to test it out?” Of course, it resulted in us making a bucket full of water balloons to see if we could fire them across the Abercorn Basin in the Belfast Harbour... which we could, but it took a lot of effort!
7. Marching Band
As part of the NCAA Friendship Four competition, American College ice hockey teams came to visit W5. We ran a day of activities for 1000 kids before they went to watch one of the hockey games at The SSE Arena. Never in a million years did I think it would end with me leading a full college marching band through the galleries of W5 to round up the kids like the pied piper on the way to the game!
6. RTE Live
While working on outreach in Cavan we received a phone call saying that RTE wanted someone from W5 to come to the studio and do some science experiments on live TV that afternoon. It was frantic pulling together an experiment to do last minute with what we already had in the van, but I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to appear on live national TV!
5. Re-opening of W5
During a multi-million-pound refurbishment, W5 shut its doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic and they sadly remained shut for 18 months. However, on 26th October 2021, we were finally able to re-open with brand new galleries, exhibits, and events! It was amazing to once again hear the sounds of people having fun and enjoying themselves while I’m trying to get work done in the office. I’ll never take that sound for granted again!
4. World Record Attempt
On 24th February 2015 during Northern Ireland Science Festival, I was lucky enough to play a small part with a group of people who broke the world record for the World’s Largest Science Lesson! What made it even more memorable was the fact that it was my birthday and over 2000 people sang Happy Birthday to me on stage.
3. Charge of the Jedi
W5 used to run ‘Invasion’ events for Star Wars fans in the past. They were always extremely busy, so we were used to seeing crowds lining up outside our doors. One Sunday morning, 5 minutes before opening, there was shockingly no-one waiting at the entrance to W5. We eventually figured out that no-one had opened the main doors to the old Pavilion. I stood looking out one of the windows that looked into the Pavilion area, and once the doors were opened saw hundreds and hundreds of people rushing through lead by 2 small children dressed as Luke Skywalker, with their lightsabers in the air leading the charge. It’s one of the most joyous things I have ever witnessed and an image I will never forget.
2. Tall Ships
In the summer of 2015, the Tall Ships festival came to Belfast and W5 took the opportunity to head outside and set up a stage to run 4 days of fun filled shows and experiments. We built boats, set up a deadly LEGO walks, sang on the stage, exploded watermelons, and so much more! They were long days, but the sun was shining and there was a feeling of joy in the atmosphere which was super infectious, and we turned what could have been exhausting work into some of the best working days we’ve ever had. We still talk about those days in the office even 7 years later!
1. The Big Bang Theatre
Not long after I started one of my colleagues said to me ‘Education at its best should be entertaining.’ That’s the mantra I took into writing a show to celebrate our 15th birthday. We developed something that was a mixture of science show and live theatre, which hadn’t really been done at W5 before. We created a show about a time-travelling scientist trying to fix his broken time machine by making loud noises, aptly named The Big Bang Theatre. Professor Ivan Marmaduke Deverell III was born from this show. The promotional photos we took are my favourite photos of me ever, and I ended up on the side of buses and on billboards across the country. My mum was so proud! Plus, I’ll never forget the look on the audience faces the first time I set my hand on fire!
We have since developed new shows and characters, but The Big Bang Theatre and Ivan will always be my favourite. I still have a giant poster from the show on the wall in the office and Ivan’s hat on my desk to remind me of how much fun it was and why I love what I do!