Winchester Science Centre joins UK Science Centres’ nationwide campaign calling for Government Resilience Funding

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Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium, southern England’s leading science and discovery centre, has today joined the Science Centres For Our Future campaign. The campaign, which brings together over 40 members of the UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC), is calling on the government to set up an Emergency Resilience Fund to support the UK’s world-class network of regional science centres.

At a time when science is so important and with major global challenges ahead from both Covid-19 and climate change, science centres provide crucial opportunities to access STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) in an approachable and engaging way, helping to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. Set up in 1986, Winchester Science Centre, an independent educational charity with no government funding, made a commitment to spark curiosity in STEM in everyone, regardless of age, ability or background. It aims to improve access to STEM, making it more relevant and fun for all, through interactive exhibits, live science shows, an engaging schools programme, partnerships with university research teams and community outreach.

With over 70 members of staff during peak operation and engaging around 200,000 people annually, including 40,000 school children, Winchester Science Centre is a major contributor to the regional economy. Many visitors will have fond memories of school visits and family days out, learning from the exhibits and being inspired by the live demonstrations. However, due to Covid-19, the Centre had to close its doors in March resulting in cancelled community outreach, education programmes and events and cutting off every vital revenue stream for the charity. In lockdown, without these revenue streams, science centres, like Winchester Science Centre, face a chronic funding gap. As charities, science centres cannot take on large debts and, whilst the furlough scheme has been hugely helpful, costs like utility bills, insurance, payroll, site security and rents still need to be paid.

The Science Centres For Our Future campaign (#ScienceCentresForOurFuture) supports ASDC’s submission to government, asking it to urgently grant £25 million in Emergency Resilience Funding to secure the future of the whole network of UK Science Centres. Future-focussed Science Centres like Winchester Science Centre cannot apply for the Arts Council or Heritage Emergency grants and, without government support, many UK Science Centres are at risk. The campaign is being supported by some of the UK’s top science advocates, including renowned academic and broadcaster Professor Alice Roberts and leading regional figures, including MP for Winchester and Chandler’s Ford, Steve Brine.

Ben Ward, CEO of Winchester Science Centre, said: “Science Centres, like ours in Winchester, are a vital part of the government's recovery from this pandemic and will be essential in preventing and mitigating future crises. We inspire, educate and inform the general public about cutting edge science and here in Winchester we are committed to ensuring that this is accessible to everyone no matter their age, ability or background. Our aim is to inspire a generation of future STEM superstars.”

Steve Brine, MP for Winchester and Chandler’s Ford, said: “Living locally, I’ve had first-hand experience of seeing what a valuable asset Winchester Science Centre is, not only to my family and my constituents, but also the wider region. The fun, vibrancy of the science centre is what families love, and it’s this experience that helps build children’s confidence and curiosity in science and complements their formal education.”

ASDC and Winchester Science Centre are asking the public to support the Science Centres For Our Future campaign in two key ways:

  • Share your Science Centre photos and stories on social media, using the hashtag #ScienceCentresForOurFuture
  • Write to your local MPs asking them to support the creation of this Emergency Fund to secure the future of Winchester Science Centre. (A template letter is provided on the campaign website www.future.sciencecentres.org.uk)

With one voice championing the science centres, ASDC wants to let the government know how important these charitable enterprises are to our regions and ask the government to save over 40 of these vital cultural and community resources, thousands of jobs, millions of annual visits and billions of individual discoveries.