Winchester Science Centre unveils £3.4m building project and capital fundraising campaign to transform its visitor experience

Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium has unveiled £3.4m plans to transform their visitor experience adding a live science theatre, a major new multi-sensory exhibition and upgraded planetarium. The building work is part of their new strategic vision to spark curiosity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and reach a wider audience.

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“We passionately believe that science should be for everyone,” said Ben Ward, CEO of Winchester Science Centre. “Through our £3.4m project, Winchester Science Centre will lead the way in creating a space where inclusivity is embedded in everything that we do. We want to build welcoming spaces for all, with a real commitment to getting it right for people with a disability and their families – so they can engage like never before. We want to break down the economic barriers that exist and reach out to a wider audience to spark curiosity and create opportunities for young people.”

The educational charity has also launched a capital fundraising campaign to support the transformation project, which has received widespread regional support including £50,000 from Winchester City Council.

Councillor Rob Humby, Winchester City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Business Partnerships said: “We’re very excited to be involved with this inspiring project that will mean that STEM can become more accessible for all children regardless of ability or household income. We’re supporting Winchester Science Centre’s vision for the future as it is a transformational project for the centre and at the same time it’s also a development which will have significant local and national impact – creating new opportunities in young people’s lives.”

The re-development of Winchester Science Centre includes a fully-equipped, multi-purpose 200-capacity performance space, to replace the Space Marquee. It will be used for a dynamic schedule of live science shows at weekends and school holidays as well as arts events throughout the year. The new Geoffrey Lilley Live Science Theatre is being designed by two Winchester-based firms, Terrell Architecture and Sustainable Acoustics.

The plans also include The Arcade, a groundbreaking 400m2 multi-sensory experience that re-imagines traditional science centre exhibits to include new interactive STEM hands-on activities with acoustics and accessibility that have not been tried before. The Institute of Sound and Vibration Research at the University of Southampton is a key partner for the design and delivery of this ambitious exhibition, which will explore how sound and vibration affects our everyday lives.

There are planned upgrades for the Planetarium too. The new Airbus Planetarium as well as being the UK’s largest standalone planetarium, offers an enhanced audio-visual experience that everyone can engage with, irrespective of disability. Winchester Science Centre wants to become a world leader in accessible planetaria; planned changes include innovative new content, a hearing loop, step-free access to the stage and special educational needs (SEN) programming.

Other features of the new-look Science Centre include an additional café and improved access and high-quality accessible facilities throughout. There is also an extensive schools, community and events schedule, including a new all-inclusive programme for school trips.

Earlier this year the Science Centre bid for £2.4m from the Wellcome Trust’s Inspiring Science Fund, and their application has reached the final round of consideration.

“We’re hugely encouraged to have reached the final stage of the Inspiring Science Fund and have our project so warmly received by our partners and supporters across the region. We’ve made a significant step forward in our bid to achieve our vision,” added Ben Ward.

“We’re looking for support from both the public and private sector, STEM industry, suppliers and individuals. We also welcome donations of time, materials and professional services that will help us achieve our objectives; and welcome contact from anyone wishing to get involved and support the project. We would like to start our building programme in late spring 2019.”

Other funders and supporters of the project include The Elizabeth Foundation, The Goldsmiths’ Company, Blue Apple Theatre, Spectrum – Centre for Independent Living, Naomi House and Jacksplace, Stannah, Airbus, the University of Southampton and the University of Portsmouth.

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