Jodrell's visitor centre reaches for the stars

The award-winning Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre looks set to expand thanks to a £250,000 donation by the Wolfson Foundation.

The Planet Pavilion at the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre
The Planet Pavilion, constructed in 2011, is one of two current buildings at the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre. Credit: The University of Manchester. Click for a full-size image.

The Discovery Centre has proved a huge hit with visitors to the University of Manchester's world-famous Jodrell Bank Observatory since opening in 2011, attracting more than 140,000 people last year alone.

But with the Centre's schools education programme often oversubscribed and capacity stretched generally, bosses have been keen to explore how visitor numbers can be increased.

The Wolfson Foundation grant will pay towards a new Star Pavilion to complement the existing Planet and Space Pavilions.

"Visitor numbers to the Discovery Centre have exceeded all expectations, particularly for educational school visits, leading to pressure on current facilities," said Centre Director Dr Teresa Anderson.

"The Star Pavilion will provide an outstanding and much-needed extension to the new science outreach facilities and nearly double our capacity for school visits, as well as providing more hands-on science for all our visitors."

The Star Pavilion will be a single-storey, fully accessible building, situated adjacent to and designed to complement the existing Discovery Centre buildings. It will provide the following features:

  • A single large flexible learning space of nearly 500 square metres that can be sub-divided by the use of partitions to suit the size and interests of the groups visiting on any particular day.
  • Purpose-built raked seating to allow for conversion to a large lecture theatre, which can be stored safely out of the way at other times.
  • Sophisticated projection system to create an extraordinary opportunity to see live images being sent back from spacecraft exploring aspects of our solar system.
  • Functional areas, such as kitchen, first aid room, storage, offices and toilets.

The overall project, which has also received funding from the University, includes an extension to the highly popular café in the Planet Pavilion to provide cover for the decked, outdoor terrace and increase seating capacity.

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation, said: "Jodrell Bank remains an inspiration and the Wolfson Foundation is delighted to support the Discovery Centre in its important work – often sparking an interest in the natural world and science that lasts a lifetime."

Plans for the new Star Pavilion have been submitted and, if approved, building work is due to start in the Spring.

Background notes

The Discovery Centre currently has four school group visits a day during busy periods, providing capacity for up to 18,000 school pupils (Key Stage 1 to 4 and A Level) each academic year. Its educators offer a lively and engaging programme linked to the national curriculum, which has received extremely positive feedback from visiting schools. Activities include the Discovery Centre's pop-up planetarium and hands-on workshops, such as building a Mars Rover or discovering the electromagnetic spectrum.

The schools programme is currently delivered in the Space Pavilion using its Events Space for larger groups and an Education Space for smaller parties, including A level sessions. The limited space available restricts the number of groups that can be accommodated, so the new Star Pavilion will greatly enhance the Centre's educational facilities.

The Planet and Space Pavilions opened in 2011 following successful funding bids to the Northwest Regional Development Agency and the European Regional Development Fund.

Since opening the Discovery Centre has won:

  • Small Visitor Attraction of the Year, Marketing Cheshire Annual Awards 2011
  • Visitor Attraction of the Year, Marketing Cheshire Annual Awards 2012
  • Extra-Festival Activity Award, UK Festival Awards 2012, for the Science-Music Festival 'Live from Jodrell Bank' 2012
  • Tourism Event of the Year, Marketing Cheshire Annual Awards 2013, for the Science-Music Festival 'Live from Jodrell Bank' 2012.

About the Wolfson Foundation:

  • The Wolfson Foundation is a charity that was established in 1955.
  • The Wolfson Foundation supports and promotes excellence in the fields of science and medicine, health, education and the arts & humanities. All funding is based on expert peer review.
  • Over £750 million (£1.25 billion in real terms) has been awarded in grants to some 10,000 projects over the last 58 years.
Media enquiries

Media Relations team
The University of Manchester
Tel: +44 (0)161 275 8258

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