Jodrell Bank was awarded £4m in the Autumn Statement to go towards a new project to promote the historical importance of the scientific work undertaken at the Cheshire site.
Subject to the approval of a business plan, the £4m completes the fundraising for the £20.5m ‘First Light’ project which combines a celebration of scientific heritage with an enhanced educational programme. The development will include construction of a new gallery, incorporating a spectacular exhibition and immersive auditorium.
‘First Light’ is supported by an offer of £12M from the Heritage Lottery Fund, with generous support from the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation, the Denise Coates Foundation, the University of Manchester Alumni and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre currently attracts around 185,000 visitors each year, including 26,000 school pupils on educational visits. The new project is expected to increase the overall visitor numbers to 250,000, and reach an additional 6,000 school pupils each year.
The new facility will help people learn more about the history of the Observatory at Jodrell Bank, including its pivotal role in the development of radio astronomy, its work in space tracking and its contribution to defence during the cold war.
Building on this proud history, the astronomers at Jodrell Bank, part of The University of Manchester’s School of Physics & Astronomy, currently operate e-MERLIN, the UK’s national facility for radio astronomy, and the site hosts the international headquarters of the upcoming Square Kilometre Array.
Professor Teresa Anderson, Director of the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre said: “This is fantastic news and provides the final piece in the jigsaw to enable us to move ahead with this very exciting project. We are very grateful to all our funders for their support and are looking forward to creating something very special to celebrate the history of this unique place.
“I’d like to place on record my thanks to David Rutley MP who has been tireless in his support for our plans.”
Mr Rutley added: “I am delighted that the Chancellor has responded so positively to the request for funding for Jodrell Bank’s ‘First Light’ heritage gallery. This is a significant boost to the project and will make a huge difference in enabling this world-leading and iconic site to promote its history and inspire the next generation of scientists. I am very grateful to Professor Anderson and her colleagues for their outstanding hard work to get the project to this stage, and look forward to seeing this great initiative come to fruition.”