Calne Celebrates 250 Years of Oxygen With Priestley Festival

Calne, Wiltshire – This summer, Calne will host events commemorating the 250th anniversary of Joseph Priestley’s discovery of oxygen in 1774. Priestley, a radical minister, philosopher, and scientist, conducted his groundbreaking experiments while living in Calne and working at Bowood.

“Priestley Day” on July 20th features the unveiling of a community quilt by Lady Lansdowne, companion to Queen Camilla at Calne Library, a special peal of bells from St. Mary’s Church, and a Town Criers Competition with a Priestley-themed “cry”. Joseph Priestley will demonstrate some of his experiments in an interactive science show in Phelps Parade.  Visitors can also join a guided “Priestley Walk” around the town led by Dr Priestley himself, who will end the walk by pulling the first pint of a new ale, “Hidden Oxygen” specially brewed by Stealth Microbrewery.

“Oxygenfest” on 13 August at Calne Pocket Park offers demonstrations by the British Oxygen Company, Joseph Priestley’s interactive show, making carbonated water (invented by Priestley) and other science-based activities.

As part of the celebrations, schools have received educational activity packs based on Priestley’s life and time, and children can participate in art and writing competitions.

In October, the Calne Music and Arts Festival features a concert of 1770s music curated and performed by Calne resident, internationally-renowned composer Brett Dean, featuring the Isla string quartet.

A new sculpture by local artist Richard Cowdy will be installed in town in the autumn.

This celebration is organised by a volunteer Priestley 250 Steering Group, with funding from the Arts Council, Royal Society of Chemistry, Fulmer Trust, and local councils.

Chair of the Steering Group, John Boaler, said, “We have seen a wonderful coming together of Calne residents to produce the many elements of the celebrations, and a real sense of pride in the achievements and legacy of one of our most famous residents.”

Contact: John Boaler at [email protected], mobile: 07791 805347

Further details and links: (includes photos of Paul Hill and Nick Baxter as Joseph Priestley. Also includes further details of events)

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