Dartmoor Zoo owner and celebrity chef prepare to wow audiences

Dartmoor Zoo owner Benjamin Mee and celebrity chef Peter Gorton will be among the special guests at Plymouth University’s Big Festival Weekend.

Two days of free events will take place on the University campus this weekend (Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 June), including open-air cultural events and laboratory tours, showcases of student works and pioneering partnerships.

Incorporating the Plymouth Respect Festival, the weekend aims to give visitors a flavour of life at the University and the role it is playing in transforming lives locally and globally.

Benjamin Mee, awarded an honorary doctorate by Plymouth University in 2013, bought Dartmoor Zoo in 2006 and later wrote a book – We Bought A Zoo – about the difficulties of both saving it and bringing up his young family while his wife battled with a terminal brain tumour.

The story was subsequently turned into a Hollywood film, starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, and the film will be shown on Sunday afternoon at the University, followed by a Q+A session with Benjamin himself. He said:

“Dartmoor Zoo and Plymouth University have a growing partnership, which is creating exciting student opportunities and generating new research into animal behaviour. We are also working closely together as part of the new Research Centre of Excellence, established by Brain Tumour Research in partnership with the University. I am delighted to be part of the Big Festival Weekend, and it will be a great opportunity to enthuse more people about our story and how they can be a part of our future.”

Michelin starred chef Peter Gorton owned restaurants and hotels across the South West, before setting up a training academy for young people in Plymouth last year.

He has worked on numerous projects with the University in recent years, and will give a cookery demonstration on Saturday afternoon as part of a showcase of world foods. He said:

“I am very excited to be working with Plymouth University again, especially in an event which marks its place at the heart of the community. The University does some great work in the city and across the region and also plays a key role in promoting Plymouth as a whole to a wider national audience. In the past, our combined events have always been fun and entertaining, and it will be great to give people a taste of that at the Big Festival Weekend.”

The Big Festival Weekend will include opportunities to tour cutting edge University research facilities and there will be showcases of prominent partnerships, while University graduates are also invited to return for a ‘Back to Plymouth’ alumni events programme. Innovative artwork will be showcased at HOT’15 – an exhibition of works by final-year students across a range of art and design disciplines – while events will also be staged in Drake’s Place Gardens and Reservoir, and there will be a host of family activities, such as campus trails and treasure hunts, a fun park, craft fairs and performances.

Peter Gorton has worked on numerous projects with the University in recent years, and will give a cookery demonstration on Saturday afternoon as part of a showcase of world foods. He said:

I am very excited to be working with Plymouth University again. In the past, our combined events have always been fun and entertaining, and it will be great to give people a taste of that at the Big Festival Weekend