UK Science Centres At Risk

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

UK Science Centres At Risk

Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium 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 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, the centre in Winchester 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, centres, like Winchester face a chronic funding gap.

As charities, the 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 campaign’s submission to government, asking it to urgently grant £25 million in Emergency Resilience Funding to secure the future of the whole network.

Future-focused centres like Winchester cannot apply for the Arts Council or Heritage Emergency grants and, without government support, many are at risk.

science centre

The campaign is being supported by some of the UK’s top advocates, including renowned academic and broadcaster Professor Alice Roberts and leading regional figures, including the MP for Winchester and Chandler’s Ford, Steve Brine.

Ben Ward, CEO of the Centre, urges the essential need for venues like theirs:

“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 is MP for Winchester and Chandler’s Ford:

“I’ve had first-hand experience of seeing what a valuable asset the Centre is, not only to my family and my constituents, but also the wider region.

“The fun, vibrancy of the 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.”

The public’s being asked to support the campaign in two key ways:

 Share your 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.)

With one voice championing the 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.

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