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BBC Scotland project After Life coming soon


After Life – a BBC Scotland project to take a closer look at the science of decay – goes “live” this weekend, with a full-scale kitchen and garden section, contained in a purpose-built box, going on display on Saturday 6 August to visitors at Edinburgh Zoo.

Visitors – at the site or online at – will be able to witness everyday foods and substances decay and decompose over a two month period, in a compelling life-size demonstration of one of Nature’s most fundamental but least understood processes.

Events in the box will be recorded using the latest technology in time-lapse photography and microscopy for a feature-length programme on BBC Four later in the year. The programme is a co-production with Discovery and BBC Worldwide.

The 6m x 6m box sits within a lecture hall to which the visiting public will generally have access. The box has been designed and built by specialist companies, with input from expert scientific contributors. Temperature, humidity and other conditions within the box will be monitored and controlled throughout.

Only approved BBC personnel will be allowed to enter the box, via a double-door system, for filming purposes. Together with time-lapse photography, it will present an encompassing insight into the decay process from the bigger picture through to the minutiae.

As well as the online updates, which will include time-lapse and microscopic photography from the project, at the site there will also be TV screens and information panels about the project.

Within the kitchen and garden, foodstuffs left to rot will include a selection of meat, fish, bread, fruit and vegetables and there will also be dead mice in cavity areas of ’the house’.

Presenting the programme is Dr George McGavin (Lost Land Of The Tiger), who says: “What myself and the team really want to do is reveal the extraordinary science of decay. Nature’s ability to recycle the building blocks of life is often overlooked but this process is central to the survival of every species on the planet – without it there would be no cycle of life. I want to show people just how beautiful, elegant and essential the processes of decomposition really are.We believe we will see a lot of bug and bacteria action but we just don’t know what will happen as there has never been anything quite on this scale before.”

Events in the box will be augmented with specially shot documentary pieces for the programme, that explore the wider aspects of decomposition and our attitudes to it.

Richard Klein, Controller BBC Four, says: “From death comes life. It is a classic contradiction of nature. And our new After Life science event offers viewers the chance to observe the compelling and extraordinary world of decay and decomposition to rebirth and new life in vivid, full colour, up-close detail. The fact that we are able to open the process up through an exhibition at Edinburgh Zoo, putting BBC Four at the heart of cultural life, is an added bonus.”

Adds George: “This is one of the most exciting projects I have ever been involved with and that includes all the expeditions to far flung places. This is about making discoveries in our ’backyards’ – it is the lost land of our kitchen.”

Marcus Herbert, executive producer of After Life, says: “This innovative broadcasting project is one that the public can really engage with – either at the site or via time-lapse updates online – and we hope they’ll find it as fascinating as we do.”

Hugh Roberts, Chief Executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, comments:“The RZSS place great emphasis on scientific research, so we’re very excited about housing this extraordinary project at Edinburgh Zoo. The birth-life-death cycle is fundamental to all life on earth and hence for sustainable conservation, an important part of our vision.”

After Life will be at Edinburgh Zoo from August 6 to September 25. Access may be temporarily restricted to visitors for short periods on filming days. BBC Learning is working in tandem with the After Life team to provide tailored clips for use in schools early next year.


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