On This Day… 2011

On 11th April 2021, the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre celebrates its 10th birthday.

Ten years ago, we began to welcome people to Jodrell Bank, sharing the stories of its research and discovery, inspiring the scientists of the future and celebrating the creativity, hard work and determination of the people of this remarkable place.

The journey actually began back in 2006, when we embarked on the quest to understand what was needed by visitors, what was possible at the site and (last but not least) for funding to do some of these things.

Above: School pupils take part in an event for The Big Draw in our Marquee in 2008

Part of the process involved a large 200-seater marquee, which we put up in the summers of 2007-2010 and in which we tried out all sorts of things (– including talks, bouncing people’s voices off the Moon, schools programmes, exhibitions, political receptions, celebrations of a solar eclipse, inflatable planetarium shows, art and amateur astronomy….).

Some things were successful, and some were dire.

The marquee was freezing in poor weather, eventually leaked every time it rained (with puddles on the floor underneath), the sound system became an electrical risk and one night, someone stole our projector and screen…

But – we learned a lot.

We learned what people wanted to hear about and see (and what they didn’t!), what schools want from us and how to turn creative ideas into things that happen in the real world. All of this became the raw data and evidence that supported yet more ideas and proposals for our new buildings and activities.

And in 2010 – success! – we were granted £3million funding.

Just enough to create our first two buildings, the Planet Pavilion and the Space Pavilion, in which we planned to deliver Phase 1 of our programme – engagement with the world-leading scientific research Jodrell Bank.

There was a bit left for the exhibition and for a tiny bit of work in the gardens.

It took several hair-raising months to finalise the funding agreement and obtain planning permission (supported by the wonderful Sir Bernard Lovell himself, who signed a letter of support for the project that we sent in with the planning application).

Late in 2010 the work began and, in the bitterly cold temperatures of the 2010/11 winter, the last traces of the ramshackle old buildings were demolished and the new buildings took shape in the freezing fog.

Above: The Planet Pavilion under construction in early 2011. Photo credit: Ant Holloway

We finally opened on 11th April 2011, and sometimes still can’t believe it…

Now, 10 years later, Phase 2 underway – The First Light Project – which will engage people with the stories of the heritage of this amazing site.

Above: Artist’s impression of our new First Light Pavilion, due to open late 2021/ early 2022.

And at this, a staging post in the journey, we want to say thank you to everyone who has helped us, travelled alongside us, made suggestions, supported us and visited us.

We launched a new Education programme, which we have seen grow and flourish; our Events programme has matured and grown; we’ve had some amazing collaborations with broadcasters (the Stargazing Live Eclipse Special was a highlight!); wonderful Live From Jodrell Bank events; the ground-breaking bluedot festival, and of course the fantastic inscription of Jodrell Bank as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We’re looking forward to the journey with you over the next 10 years!

Teresa Anderson