Jodrell Bank’s newest attraction, the First Light Pavilion, opened its doors to visitors for the first time last Saturday, with more than 1,000 people exploring the new building during the jubilee weekend.
Teresa Anderson, director of Jodrell Bank Centre for Engagement, said: “It was a huge moment, finally, to welcome visitors to the First Light Pavilion and see all our hard work pay off. I’m delighted to have reached this milestone and grateful to everyone who supported us on this journey.” The First Light Pavilion is a £21.5m development supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and has been years in the making. It followed
Jodrell Bank’s recent recognition as a site of outstanding universal value when it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2019.
The First Light Pavilion was created to tell the inspirational stories of Jodrell Bank’s world-leading contribution to science, heritage and culture. Highlighting its global reach, the first visitor had travelled all the way from Boston in the US.
Others had come from right across the country, including from Glasgow, Essex, Plymouth and Norwich.
A visitor commented on the experience: “The whole day was marvellous, an experience I will never forget. Every moment was captivating and utterly enjoyable. From the initial welcome, to the beautifully designed and totally absorbing new pavilion.”
Julia Riley, head of interpretation and engagement, was welcoming visitors into the building during the weekend. She said: “It was a delight to see people’s reactions to what we’ve created here at Jodrell Bank. It has just been so well received by everyone and it’s wonderful to see.”
The building was created with international architecture firm Hassell. It takes the form of a grass-topped dome that mirrors the shape and scale of the dish of the famous Lovell telescope. It also contains a meridian line, referencing the age-old tradition of building structures that align with the skies above, much like other World Heritage Sites such as Stonehenge.
Inside is a new, permanent exhibition, which brings visitors into direct contact with huge sections of the authentic metal dish of the Lovell Telescope that has “listened” to the skies since 1957.
The exhibition, created by Casson Mann, tells the inspirational story of Jodrell Bank’s pioneering scientists and engineers. Through a range of fully interactive digital displays and projections, visitors are able to uncover archive materials brought together for the first time, including audio, film, plans, photographs and more.
Eilish McGuinness, CEO of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Jodrell Bank is a truly unique heritage site, of national and international importance. The National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded £12.5m so that the site’s powerful human stories of curiosity, exploration and discovery could be shared with everyone.”
Every visitor also has the opportunity to experience an immersive audio-visual spectacle in the Pavilion’s Space Dome, a state-of-the-art auditorium complete with nine projectors and a giant curved screen. The Space Dome also hosts traditional planetarium-style shows “touring” visitors around the stars and planets.