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Opening date announced for new First Light Pavilion

visitor economy 11/03/2022

The stunning new building is part of a £21.5m project

The University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank is set to open its highly-anticipated First Light Pavilion on 4th June 2022.

The stunning new building is at the heart of a £21.5m project, supported by DCMS and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which aims to open up the inspirational history of the UK’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The concept for the new building was an original idea developed by Jodrell Bank’s Professors Teresa Anderson and Tim O’Brien, who have passionately spearheaded the project since its inception.

Professor Anderson, Director, Jodrell Bank Centre for Engagement, said: "After years of planning, we are thrilled to finally be able to announce the opening of First Light. This moment will mark a whole new chapter for Jodrell Bank and we're looking forward to welcoming our first visitors through the doors and in to this beautiful new space."

The building itself was designed by the award-winning architects HASSELL Studio and takes the form of a grass-topped 76m-diameter dome, which cleverly mirrors the shape and scale of the landmark Lovell Telescope.

Inside the new Pavilion, visitors will be able to engage with the site’s rich heritage in a brand new permanent exhibition. Created by leading exhibition designers Casson Mann, the First Light Exhibition will bring to life the Jodrell Bank story, which dates back to 1945 and the birth of a whole new science: the exploration of the Universe using radio waves instead of visible light.

Professor O'Brien, Associate Director, Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, explains: "That transformational development in this quiet corner of Cheshire completely opened up humanity's understanding of the universe and allowed us to discover previously undreamt of things such as pulsars, quasars, and even the fading glow of the Big Bang."

Exhibition audiences will be able to see a range of fascinating archive materials brought together for the first time, including audio, film, diaries, letters, plans, notebooks and photographs. Highlights include a number of personal items belonging to Jodrell Bank’s founder Sir Bernard Lovell.

Meanwhile, visitors will also be able to experience vivid planetarium-style shows in a custom-built auditorium, complete with a curved projection screen and an impressive nine digital projectors. A new temporary exhibition gallery with an opening show all about the realisation of the First Light project will also feature in the new building.

A 130-cover café, complete with a terrace overlooking the Jodrell Bank Arboretum and a fresh menu using seasonal and sustainable produce, is yet another part of the development. Plus, a new guided tour that takes visitors to previously inaccessible parts of the Jodrell Bank site will also be launched later in the year.

A series of preview and pilot activities for First Light begins this month, with the public opening set to take place on 4 June 2022. The launch will be complimented by a celebratory summer-long season of community-engagement activity, public events, and a new formal education programme.

Eilish McGuinness, CEO of The National Lottery Heritage Fund said:  “The National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded £12.5 million to the First Light Project so that the site’s powerful human stories of curiosity, exploration and discovery could be shared with the public. The stunning new building, its exciting exhibition, and an incredibly diverse and inclusive engagement programme, will all have a fantastic impact, delighting and inspiring every visitor.”

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.