Starmakers initiative to help meet demand for Dark Skies events

The Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks will be running a Starmakers initiative to recruit and develop a band of expert astro-guides to meet the booming interest in stargazing and the night sky.

With the Dark Skies Festival now an annual fixture following the popularity of the first two events and a rising level of enquiries about other stargazing evenings throughout the autumn and winter months, the National Parks are keen to train more people who can share and explain the beauty of the night sky happenings with visitors.

A Starmakers programme has been established to provide astronomy and presentation skills so that more events can be held throughout both National Parks, plus the two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the Howardian Hills and Nidderdale.

Initially the National Parks are looking for 12 Starmakers who will then support accommodation providers and local communities to host ticketed astronomy events.

The weekend’s training in 2018 will include practical and theoretical astronomy presentation techniques aimed at navigating the night sky with the naked eye as well as using a telescope. Customer service and tips on running events for different audiences will also be included.

The training is free with the only proviso being that candidates deliver two sessions for the North York Moors National Park on a voluntary basis after which rates will be paid at an agreed amount with the candidates who will then also be able to run sessions themselves or set up business relationships with other venues at any time.

Mike Hawtin, Outdoor Activity Tourism Officer for the North York Moors National Park National Parks explains: “The first two Dark Skies Festivals really helped ignite people’s cosmic curiosity. This has resulted in a rise in enquiries from both visitors looking to attend a stargazing event and businesses who are keen to become an all-year-round destination through astro-tourism.

“Already, established providers such as Hidden Horizons have added more stargazing events at Dalby Forest in response to demand and our existing pool of astronomers has become stretched to the limit responding to requests from hotels, bed & breakfasts, historic buildings and many other venues.”

Tracey Lambert, Tourism Officer for the Yorkshire Dales National Park adds: “Ideally our budding Starmakers need to have some experience in astronomy and star gazing but more importantly they need  a passion for the night sky to join our team as full training and mentoring will be given. In return all we ask is a commitment to help deliver some of the events.”

The first tranche of astro-guides will help support the fourth Dark Skies Festival to be held in February 2019.

The 2018 Festival is set to take place between 9-25 February with more than 100 events – from sporty endeavours through to family star spotting and crafting activities – showing the plethora of ways that people can enjoy and get the most out of the beauty of the National Parks’ dark skies.

To find out more about the programme and how to sign up, please contact Mike Hawtin