Abandon Normal Devices: Watch the Skies! Jodrell Bank Observatory

Watch the Skies! is the first ever large-scale outdoor cinematic event to take place at The University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Observatory, home to one of the largest radio telescopes in the world and world-leading centre for research in astrophysics. The weekend-long programme of interstellar cinema takes audiences to the darkest spaces of the universe, making contact with the unknown through tales of artificial life, dark stars and extra-terrestrial encounters.

Through presenting classic science fiction films 2001: A Space Odyssey and Alien against the spectacular backdrop of the Lovell Telescope, audiences are pushed to explore new frontiers – all the while informed by specialist talks on space probes, extra-terrestrial life and exploration of the invisible universe. The weekend also features two exclusive world premieres and commissions from Manchester based Soup Collective, and US acclaimed electronic musician Oneohtrix Point Never.

In 1966 Kubrick recognised the iconic role of Jodrell Bank Observatory, selecting the renowned physicist and radio astronomer Sir Bernard Lovell to be interviewed for the original prologue to Kubrick’s yet to be made sci-fi masterpiece. This prologue featured a number of renowned thinkers talking about the possibility of alien cultures, intelligent computers and the origins of life.

The short film is now lost, but the transcript of the interview still exists and we use this as the inspiration for a night, which celebrates the meeting of these two great minds, with special one-night only screening. Featuring a special AV commission for projection onto the Lovell Telescope from Soup Collective, archival material marking the scientific legacy of Sir Bernard Lovell and a screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film will be preceded by talks in Jodrell Bank’s Discovery Centre, whose exhibition galleries will also be open to visitors to the event.

On Saturday the programme takes audiences on a sonic journey, tuning into signals from other planets, satellites and interstellar phenomena. Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror Alien will be the main event, however preceding this is the world premiere of a new live soundtrack from acclaimed Warp Records artist Oneohtrix Point Never.

Produced for the film Magnetic Rose, an anime short from Katsuhiro Otomo, this will be played alongside rarely seen footage of Sputnik 1, the Russian satellite, whose rocket was tracked by Jodrell Bank and which launched the Space Race on 4 October 1957. Accompanying talks will respond to the Alien slogan ‘In space no one can hear you scream’, drawing on various sounds from the Jodrell archive, including the search for radio signals from extra-terrestrial civilisations, the tracking of spacecraft and study of exotic phenomena such as pulsars and black holes.

Abandon Normal Devices: Watch the Skies! 3 – 4 October, Jodrell Bank Observatory, The University of Manchester, Macclesfield, Cheshire SK11 9DL. For more information visit www.andfestival.org.uk.

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1. Still from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Courtesy of Abandon Normal Devices.