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Funding to create spectacular new gallery building at Jodrell Bank

21 May 2018

Discovery Centre for our iconic radio astronomy site awarded £16.1 million to spark First Light at Jodrell Bank and inspire generations to come

First Light at Jodrell Bank artist impression

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have announced that the Discovery Centre at Jodrell Bank is to receive a total of £16.1 million for a transformational £20.5 million project. £12.1 million of the total is thanks to National Lottery players, with a further £4 million coming from the Government.

The new ‘First Light at Jodrell Bank’ project will create a spectacular new gallery building that will promote and celebrate Jodrell Bank’s world-leading place in the history of astronomy, and a pioneering chapter in British scientific and cultural history.

Jodrell Bank Observatory was founded in 1945. It is the earliest radio astronomy observatory in the world still in existence and was a pioneer of the new science of radio astronomy, which revolutionised our understanding of the universe. In recognition of the international significance of its science heritage, Jodrell Bank was nominated by DCMS for UNESCO World Heritage Site inscription in January 2018.

The game-changing support of National Lottery players will preserve and protect the heritage of the site for future generations and result in a must-see national heritage destination to match the site’s national and international importance.

The new facilities will house a stunning new exhibition and engagement space, incorporating the original fabric of the 1957 dish of the telescope, an auditorium devoted to displaying immersive digital presentations, an education hub, and a new café.

At its core the First Light Project is all about connecting the widest range of people with the heritage of science and innovation, and will provide opportunities for people to become more involved in Jodrell Bank through education, group activities, volunteering and engagement.

The project will provide a place of inspiration for young people and their families, showcasing not only the emergence of the new science of radio astronomy, but also the stories of resilience, determination, cooperation and the entrepreneurial spirit that brought it into being.

The project, which will be delivered over the next three years, will create 19 new roles, increase visitor numbers and establish a volunteer programme.

Professor Teresa Anderson, Director of Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, said: ‘’We are thrilled that we have received this generous support thanks to National Lottery players and the DCMS. This funding will transform visitor engagement with the heritage of Jodrell Bank. It will enable us to properly relay, reveal, interpret and explain our story, so that a wider range of people, locally, nationally and worldwide, can understand and appreciate the unique turning point that occurred with the emergence of radio astronomy.

“This major investment acknowledges Jodrell Bank’s unique significance and will ensure that the heritage of the site is protected and conserved according to the standards required of a World Heritage Site, ensuring its care and maintenance for future generations.’’

“I am particularly pleased that this will provide opportunities for young people to pursue their own paths of interest and to develop the skills needed to become the digital technologists, scientists and artists of the future," she added.

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: “The First Light project has been designed to nurture a new generation of scientists and astronomers and is only possible thanks to National Lottery funding. Jodrell Bank will be a centre for learning, wonder and fun – a place where people of all ages can visit, be inspired and, quite literally, reach for the stars.”

Commenting on the award, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “It’s great to be here at this iconic home of British innovation to personally congratulate the team on this funding award, which will enable Jodrell Bank to continue to inspire scientists in Britain for generations to come.

“We are committed to continuing the proud heritage that Jodrell Bank represents, by making the UK the world’s most innovative economy through our Modern Industrial Strategy. As we stand on the threshold of a technological revolution, we will use science to transform our quality of life.”

Heritage Minister Michael Ellis added: "Jodrell Bank is a globally important site that has helped to transform our understanding of the Universe. This significant investment from government and National Lottery players will create a world class visitor attraction and help inspire future generations in science and astronomy."