‘First Light at Jodrell Bank’ – our HLF project

In April this year, we were delighted to hear that we were awarded support from the Heritage Lottery Fund for our ‘First Light at Jodrell Bank’ project. This is a major step forward for us in our work to conserve and celebrate the heritage of Jodrell Bank.

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The University is currently investing in two major projects that will conserve and restore both the Grade-1 listed Lovell Telescope and the original Jodrell Bank Control Building. Alongside this, our HLF-funded ‘First Light at Jodrell Bank’ project will work on the historic ‘South Side’ of the site (not usually open to the public) – the area in which the key scientific developments took place in the early days of Radio Astronomy.

The project will also create a spectacular new gallery, in which visitors will be able to engage with the stories of the amazing scientists and engineers who have worked at Jodrell Bank over the years – and whose story continues to this day.

We intend that this space will include not only objects, pieces of engineering, documents and images, but also large-scale projections of archive films; the stories of Jodrell Bank’s role in the space race and discoveries out in space. We will also use it for innovative collaborations with artists and musicians, many of whom are already inspired by our stories – and who see them from new (and illuminating) angles!

We want the architecture of the building itself to be linked to astronomy, in the way that many structures have been since the people first became interested in the way that the sun, the moon and the stars move around the sky above us. We have some ideas about how this might be done – although it may take us a little while to finalise how it will work in practice.

We are very grateful to HLF for their award of almost £12million for the First Light project, but to make it happen, we also need to raise another £5.5million. It’s quite a challenge and we are looking to our partners across the UK to help us work towards that. As part of this, we will be launching a public fundraising campaign at the end of 2015, to coincide with the launch of our year-long 70th Anniversary celebration as well as a series of celebratory events. The first of which is our Heritage Lecture: Jodrell Bank, the Birth of Radio Astronomy and the Dawn of the Space Age on Monday 14 December, by Professor Tim O’Brien.

Our HLF-funded ‘First Light at Jodrell Bank’ project will also, for the first time, open our doors to volunteers and community groups who want to work alongside us in this inspiring place.

The people of Cheshire, Manchester and the North West always make it very clear to us that Jodrell Bank is theirs. It doesn’t belong just to the scientists who work here, or even just the University of Manchester (which is the legal owner of the site). In fact it belongs not only to local people, but to the nation as a whole. It’s a well-known and well-loved landmark, whether you spot it from a plane, from the train track that zips past the edge of the site, or drive past it as it looms up in the Cheshire countryside. It gives us all a sense of place and signifies ‘home’.

Many people tell us that they haven‘t visited  Jodrell Bank since they came ‘on a school trip’ many years ago. The First Light project will invite everyone back in their own right – a real ‘welcome home’ to Jodrell Bank.

Blogger: Dr Teresa Anderson MBE is Director of Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre.

HLF logoThe heritage work at Jodrell Bank is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of our ‘First Light at Jodrell Bank’ project.