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1 Jun 2020

Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum, joins UK Science Centres’ nationwide campaign calling for Government Emergency Resilience Funding

Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum, along with over 40 members of the UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres (ASDC), has today joined the Science Centres For Our Future campaign, which is calling on the government to set up an Emergency Resilience Fund to support the UK’s world-class network of regional Science Centres. 

Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum, has been part of independent charity, Birmingham Museums Trust, for over 8 years. Due to Covid-19 Thinktank closed its doors to visitors in March, cancelled community outreach and education programmes and stopped all events, cutting off many of its vital revenue streams for the charity.   

To highlight the crucial role that UK Science Centres play in making science accessible to all, Thinktank is joining a nationwide campaign which is being supported by some of the UK’s leading science advocates, including Professor Alice Roberts. Find out more at future.sciencecentres.org.uk .

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.  

At a time when science is so important and with major global challenges ahead from both Covid-19 and climate change, Science Centres provide our regional cities and towns with crucial opportunities to access science, in an approachable and engaging way, helping to inspire our next generation of scientists and engineers.

Thinktank is a treasured educational museum, with over 243,000 visitors a year. Nationally, hands-on Science Centres welcome over 13 million people in regions outside London and contribute over £200million per year to local economies.

Thinktank is one of the most popular family attractions in Birmingham. Many will have fond memories of school visits and family days out, learning new things and being inspired by interactive and hands-on experiences such as RoboThespian and the Planetarium, and getting an insight into the past, with displays such as the City of Birmingham locomotive and the oldest working steam engine in the world, the Smethwick Engine. 

The campaign launches in the week that Thinktank marks one year since opening its interactive mini city gallery, MiniBrum. The innovative gallery is a child-sized world which was created in collaboration with under 8s and allows children to explore and question their understanding of the world around them through play.   

Visitors have returned and told the team at Thinktank how they have been inspired by their visit to pursue careers in science – and more will follow in their footsteps.

But, in lockdown and without no or reduced revenue streams, Science Centres face a chronic funding gap. As charities, Science Centres and museums trusts cannot take on large debts as, whilst the furlough has been hugely helpful, costs like utility bills, insurance, payroll, site security and rents still need to be paid.

Laurence Butler, Manager of Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum, said: “Like other Birmingham Museums’ sites we closed our doors in March, and this is a challenging time for us. Science centres and museums inspire visitors to think differently about the world by making science and STEM learning fun and educational for all visitors. We must make sure they are there to do this in the future.” 

Dr Penny Fidler, CEO of ASDC highlights: 

“As a nation and as a global society we have some major challenges ahead, especially in relation to climate and coronavirus. To solve these challenges we need an entrepreneurial and scientifically engaged society. Science Centres unlock science for people, making it accessible and interesting to millions of children and adults each year. Without support we will start to lose these popular cultural resources that offer access into science for all.”

Alice Roberts, Professor of Public Engagement in Science, University of Birmingham and ASDC Patron, adds:

“From Thinktank, the Glasgow Science Centre and the Eden Project, to the Centre for Alternative Energy and the Centre for Life in Newcastle - our Science Centres and museums are important as places where people can learn about many different branches of science, get inspired, and satisfy their own curiosity. These centres support hands-on learning for children, all the way through to lifelong learning for adults. Like many other cultural institutions, Science Centres are struggling at this time - they need our support. I hope the government can help them survive, so that they can continue their crucial work, making science accessible for everyone.”

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

● Share your Science Centre photos and why you love them on social media, using the #ScienceCentresForOurFuture
● Write to your local MPs asking them to support the creation of this Emergency Fund to secure the future of science centres across the country (find a downloadable email on the campaign website)

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.

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