First Light officially opened

Posted 1 Jul, 2022

Our ambitious £21.5m development, the First Light Pavilion was officially opened at a special event on the summer solstice, Tuesday 21st June in the company of over 100 esteemed guests.

The sun shone as guests were welcomed to the iconic site and invited to tour the new building. The Pavilion has been years in the making and follows Jodrell Bank’s formal recognition as a site of Outstanding Universal Value when it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2019.

The unqiue structure is a 76m diameter grass-topped dome that mirrors the shape and scale of the dish of the Lovell Telescope. Created to open up the site’s inspirational heritage, inside houses a state-of-the-art permanent exhibition on the pioneering stories of Jodrell Bank, and a 130-seat immersive auditorium.

After exploring the stunning new attraction, guests gathered for a series of speeches and a joyous plaque unveiling ceremony in the First Light Café.

Speaking at the ceremony, Her Excellency Laura Davies said

What an absolute privilege to officially open the First Light Pavilion here at Jodrell Bank, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that brings science, education and culture together like no other.

You’ve all contributed to something extraordinary which will endure and open minds across generations and countries.”

David Renwick, Director, England, North, The National Lottery Heritage Fund also spoke at the event, thanking National Lottery players for raising funds for the project.

“We’re delighted to have supported the opening of the First Light Pavilion, something we couldn’t have done without National Lottery players. We’re sure that this state-of-the-art visitor attraction will delight and inspire all of its visitors, including the next generation of scientists and engineers to follow in the footsteps of Sir Bernard Lovell.”

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chanceller of The University of Manchester who also spoke at the event, has commented

“This bold and ambitious project has been a great success. It is a huge testament to Professor Teresa Anderson and her staff and many others within the University for their amazing work.”

After Her Excellency Laura Davies had unveiled a plaque marking the special occasion, guests were then invited to witness the first alignment of the Pavilion’s meridian line. A brass-lined glass cutaway in the building’s façade reveals the light of the sun as it shines through and across the floor of the entrance. At 13:11, local astronomical noon on the summer solstice, the sunlight aligned to a central marker just as planned, and involuntary cheers and applause rang out.

Teresa Anderson, Director of Jodrell Bank Centre for Engagement has spearheaded the project throughout and said of the occasion

“It was wonderful to celebrate our journey towards the First Light Pavilion with so many partners and supporters on the Summer Solstice. It’s a project that has involved an incredible team of creative, skilled and committed people, all of whom have put their hearts into it. The result something really special and unique – there is nothing like it anywhere in the world – and it will stand at Jodrell Bank for generations to come, offering people of all ages a chance to be inspired by our place in the Universe.”

First Light at Jodrell Bank is supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, The UK Government (DCMS), The University of Manchester, and a number of kind donors including The Wolfson, Garfield Weston, Denise Coates, and Stavros Niarchos foundations.

Photography by Andrew Brooks

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