{Scots gaelic, "Kay-Lee" , kʲʰeːli

A community gathering and sharing event, often accompanied by music, dancing and storytelling



Loads of fun! Very lively & energetic....sparked discussion”

”Science works really well through ceilidh!
— Feedback from CRUK Ceilidh Oct 14




The Science Ceilidh is an award-winning educational project bringing people together through science and music.

From a team of experienced educators, scientists, musicians and folk dancers, the Science Ceilidh Band work with communities, schools & festivals to celebrate culture in its broadest sense, with dance, poetry, storytelling, music and science. 

We link communities with researchers, exploring questions such as the benefits of music to learning, dance to your cognitive ageing, linking creativity and resilience and how being bilingual can help protect against dementia. We often break down science topics into their core steps and use ceilidh dance to represent this, from simulating your immune system with the Dashing White Blood Cell to swinging your partner DNA base-pairs in the Orcadian-Strip-the-Helix and have had over 12,000 dancers up and moving since our inception in April 2014. 

Our school programme visits primary and secondary schools across Scotland and beyond exploring the science of music including the senses, physics of sound, medical technology and new advances in neuroscience research along with music and creative dance.

We also are working closely with teachers to provide open-source, curriculum-linked resources to support and embed cross-curriculum learning for all educators. 

Our long-term community projects include our science-residency in a shopping centre, Leith Labs, supporting our local New Scot community in Edinburgh with culture jams celebrating diversity and steering group, our MUSE programme working with additional support needs students, being part of a UK-wide Action Research project looking at Cultural Democracy with the Fun Palaces campaign, and working with organisations such  as Science GRRl to break stereotypes about STEM - because science is for everyone! 

If you want to get involved somehow, want us to visit your school, festival or event, or have any comments or ideas, get in touch! We are always interested in collaborating, and in 2018, will be especially focusing on touring Shetland and Western Hebrides as well as mainland Scotland.


An example Science Ceilidh dance adaptation of the traditional "Strip the Willow" explaining Photosynthesis (the Light Dependent Reaction). A fuller explanation is in the full video here

Got more questions? Check out our FAQ below too. 

Why a Science Ceilidh?!

Everyone can get involved in Folk Music and Dance. As anyone who's tried a ceilidh before knows, you don't need to be a trained dancer to get involved and have a good time! This spirit is exactly what we are trying to bring to Science -  we believe science is culture, and you don't need to be a trained scientist to understand and get involved on some level. It just needs clear instructions and some creativity. We're particularly passionate about involving audiences who might not usually "do" science. By using music, dance and other arts as a vehicle for science engagement, often through community workshops or sharing our science-dances, we like to break stereotypes about science, using dance as the perfect ice-breaker to allow anyone to talk to scientists, and get people talking about the science behind every day life! 

There are some wonderful creative science-art collaborations around, but ceilidhs (and therefore, Science Ceilidhs) are arguably uniquely events where everyone can (should!) be actively involved, and not just spectators! 

Can people really learn about Science using Ceilidh dance?!

As much as we enjoy our whimsical side and science puns, and often play at events where we are primarily there for entertainment rather than education, we take science engagement very seriously. Many of our dances have been written with scientists as a creative exercise in science communication, and our online resources have been carefully developed to help introduce and explain both fundamental and more cutting-edge science research in a simple, interesting way for all audiences and we also have a school visiting programme which engages directly on the neuroscience of music & movement. 

Are you guys a real ceilidh band? 

Yes! We have collectively been playing traditional folk music for years before the Science Ceilidh developed, and have played at Folk Festivals and events all around Europe. Lewis H also used to compete in Scottish Country Dancing and uses this experience in his calling and dance writing. 

How can people actually learn anything whilst dancing?

People are really bad at multitasking, and we don’t expect people to explicitly learn anything by coming to our ceilidhs. Our primary aim for the ceilidhs is to engage and bring new people who might not necessarily go to a science lecture, and break stereotypes about scientists, either by directly (or indirectly) hearing from (and dancing with) scientists through the science-themed dances, which are written assuming no prior knowledge to science but also to be good fun dances. If people leave our ceilidhs having had a good time, sore feet and the general impression that that the sciences (and scientists) aren't always boring and that if they can dance a ceilidh dance, they can potentially understand the fundamental concepts of science, then that is more than enough for us (and we will often evaluate this, so please let us know if not!)

Our more formal science “learning” is facilitated by finding out more about the dances with our online resources and videos, our schools programme which explicitly explores the neuroscience of music relevant for different age groups, and our community programme where we work with groups to explore science themes creatively and bridging the artificial gap between the arts and the scientists.  

Are all the band scientists?

Most of the team have science backgrounds, and all of the team are interested in science even though they work as professional musicians. Lewis H (fiddle, calling) works part-time in neuroscience and is a professional science communicator, Helen Le-Mar (flute) works part-time in a maths education company and has a background in geophysics, and Lewis W (fidde) has a background in chemistry. Gary R (guitar) works as a full-time musician and Fergus H (mandolin) has a background in cultural engagement in Scotland. Find out more of the team here.

Do you guys do conferences/weddings/birthdays/festivals?

Yes! Even geeks get married/ have birthdays ;) More seriously, we very often play for conferences and special events, and very happy to play somewhere on the spectrum between traditional Scottish ceilidhs to more science-themed and/or geeky dances. Just get in touch, we're happy to help!

How can I get involved!?

Just get in touch!