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By Mohammed Rahman on

SIM at 50: Rochdale Science Extravaganza

In the first of a series of posts celebrating the Science and Industry Museum's 50th anniversary, Mohammed Rahman tells us about how visiting the museum with his son Labib helped inspire them to set up the Rochdale Science Extravaganza.

“We have a vision and a mission to make science accessible for the underrepresented communities.”

I’ve never really been interested in science—I got a U at GCSE. But my son Labib has a real passion for it, and by the age of five he was asking me these really deep questions about physics and black holes that I couldn’t answer. We had been going on a lot of trips to local museums and galleries, so we started going into Manchester to the Science and Industry Museum or Manchester Museum to try to answer these questions for him.

He enjoyed it—and I suddenly found that I did too!

He’s home schooled and I came across Manchester Science Festival when he was about seven when I was looking for events that I could take him to. There was an event with Professor Jeff Forshaw who wrote a book with Professor Brian Cox and it was like all his questions could be answered. The event was supposed to be for people over the age of 13 but I rang up and they said ‘if you think he’ll enjoy it, he can come’—he was absolutely fascinated and he got the chance to ask a question of Professor Forshaw.

We kept coming back to the festival year after year. But we realised we were often the only Asian people there, and my son asked if we could do something similar in our home town for our culture.

The first Rochdale Science Extravaganza took place in March 2017. We received some funding from the British Science Association to hold it and within a week of us receiving it the community had raised a further £1,000 for us.

500 people came to the first one; it was a basic introduction to science, it wasn’t structured, we just wanted to share our love of science with children. Now it’s still volunteer-led but it’s run by a community interest company (CIC) who have directors—we have a vision and a mission to make science accessible for the under-represented communities of Rochdale. Back in 2017 it was a modest event but it’s grown—we’ve held two events this year and we’re planning to go up to three events.

Our idea is to get science out into the community, into the spaces they use. Take parents and children on days out to the museums, create links with the universities. We want the parents and the children to enjoy science together and excel academically. It’s natural for parents to want to do the best for their child – for me, that’s opening yourself up to the world you live in. Labib has really inspired me.

He hasn’t decided exactly what he wants to do but he knows he wants to have a career in science – he loves paleontology and he loves astronomy. I just want to keep feeding his curiosity, and that thirst for knowledge. I’ve been on this journey with him and I’ve loved it – it’s really made me realised how amazing science is.

The next Rochdale Science Extravaganza event will take place on 10 November 2019 at Heybrook Primary School.

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