The CHRISTMAS LECTURES are engaging and mind-expanding television programmes for all ages but particularly children and young adults.

  • Dr Peter Wothers presents The Modern Alchemist in 2012. 

    Credit: Paul Wilkinson


Begun by Michael Faraday in 1825, the CHRISTMAS LECTURES are now broadcast on UK television every December and have formed part of the British Christmas tradition for generations.

The Lectures have taken place every year since they began, stopping only from 1939 to 1942, when it was too dangerous for children to come into central London. The theme changes every year, and they are delivered by an expert in their field.

Discover the amazing history of the CHRISTMAS LECTURES.

The Lectures

The CHRISTMAS LECTURES have been inspiring children and adults alike since 1825. They were set up to introduce a young audience to a subject through spectacular demonstrations, and today they bring the magic of science to a global audience through the live shows, television broadcasts and online distribution.

Demand for tickets to the live recordings is always very high. To ensure tickets are allocated fairly, we use a ticket ballot similar to the Wimbledon ballot system. The ballot is open to UK registered schools and Ri Members.

The 2016 CHRISTMAS LECTURES ticket ballot is now closed. Find out about other ways to be part of the magic. 

The audience is made up of attendees from all over the UK and beyond. In recent years we've had school groups from Bath, Norwich, Loughborough and Exeter, and individuals from Bridgend, Leamington Spa, Chesterfield, Stockport and even Germany.

In addition to tickets allocated through the ballot, every year we set aside a number of tickets to prioritise disadvantaged groups attending the lectures. Find out about three groups of patients and carers from the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel who attended the Lectures in 2014.

Thanks to a generous donation from a Mr Reid a few years ago, we are able to provide tickets and cover travel and accommodation costs for students from a disadvantaged background who live in the North West of England to attend the lectures each year. And in a partnership with the RiAus, an Australian science communication organisation, we welcome a group of disadvantaged students from South Australia every year, in a programme called Spirit of Science.

In the run-up to the Lectures, the content is tested in front of a live audience. We take a rehearsal version of the shows to a different state school every year, allowing even more children a glimpse of the exciting broadcast to come.

With screening rooms streaming the action live from the theatre, offering a more relaxed view and no age restrictions, and behind-the-scenes tours offering a peek into rehearsals and the CHRISTMAS LECTURES archives, there are many ways to enjoy the Lectures.


After broadcast, the Lectures go online for everyone in the world to watch for free on the Ri Channel. We’re currently digitising a large archive of past Lectures, which will be regularly added to the catalogue.

For the last two years we’ve paired with the award-winning online engagement team behind ‘I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here’, to introduce genuine interaction with the audience, allowing members of the public and school groups to take part in live chats and have their questions about the science and engineering behind the lectures answered online by the Lecturer and a team of professional scientists and/or engineers working in related fields.

The lectures can be used in the classroom, so we create a range of online teaching resources for teachers and home educators to use, including short YouTube clips which illustrate and explain the key scientific or engineering concepts in each Lecture.

In 2014 we encouraged the public to be involved with the Lectures while they were still in development, with our online public gallery, Hack Gallery, inviting the online community of enthusiasts and researchers to contribute their ideas and work to the Lectures.

In addition to this, our in-house digital team produces a wealth of online content relating to the lecture topic. In 2012 and 2013 we released video advent calendars, with 24 short films providing a deeper look at the lecture topics. In 2014 we reached audiences across social media platforms to provide 24 simple ways to bring the hands-on spirit of the lectures into their homes.

Beyond London

There is an important international dimension to the Lectures. They travel internationally over the summer, and in recent years the shows have been repeated to school audiences in Singapore and Japan, broadcast on national TV.

Thanks to funding from the Royal Society of Chemistry, we were able to take the 2012 ‘Modern Alchemist’ lectures on a UK-wide tour in 2014 which reached school and family audiences in community centres and local theatres in the Scottish Highlands, Edinburgh, Manchester, Plymouth, Norwich, Harrogate and more.


The impact of the CHRISTMAS LECTURES reach far beyond our famous lecture theatre. However, we receive no guaranteed support for the Lectures, either from government departments or through endowments, to cover the costs each year. We are entirely reliant on the funding we raise through ticket sales, donations and sponsorship.

Find out how you can help support the CHRISTMAS LECTURES.

The CHRISTMAS LECTURES is a registered trademark. Contact xmaslecs@ri.ac.uk for more information.

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