As At-Bristol’s inaugural Festival of What If prepares to open on July 22, here are some interesting facts about the building, its mission, its people and its exhibitions that you may not know:
1. At Bristol is a millennium baby – one of 13 science centres across the UK to open in 2000
2. The At-Bristol building started life as a railway goods shed, built in 1903 as part of Brunel’s Great Western Railway. The Grade II listed building is one of the first examples of steel reinforced concrete in the world, and is now one of the most cutting-edge buildings in Bristol.
3. At-Bristol is more than just a fun place to get your science on; it’s an educational charity, with the mission of making science accessible to, and sparking curiosity in, everyone
4. Since opening, At-Bristol has had more than five million guests walk through its doors. That’s the equivalent to every single person in Bristol visiting 11 and a bit times.
5. At-Bristol is home to the British Paraorchestra – the world’s first professional ensemble for disabled musicians
6. It supports more than 60,000 school children, teachers and home-educators and their families to visit each year
7. As part of their community engagement programme, At-Bristol offers free entry to people who are currently under-represented in their visitors through its bi-monthly “Hello!” open weekends. Since its launch in 2012, more than 8,000 people a year from these areas have visited during these events.
8. Refugee and asylum seekers can also visit At-Bristol for free, as part of Bristol’s commitment as a City of Sanctuary
9. Since 2011, At-Bristol’s education team have also worked alongside Bristol Children’s Hospital, helping more than 700 children and their families to take part in fun, interactive science activities
10. At-Bristol is home to the most advanced planetarium system in the UK with 3D, 4K resolution (UHD Ultra High Definition) projectors and full surround sound
11. When not running presenter-led astronomy shows, the planetarium also acts as the Data Dome, an innovative space for experimental data visualisation, as part of the Bristol is Open project.
12. At-Bristol’s volunteers have so far donated a total of 38,000 hours to the organisation
13. 85 per cent of educational volunteers at At-Bristol have a postgrad degree in a science, technology, engineering or maths-related subject (but don’t worry, you don’t have to have a science degree to volunteer in At-Bristol!)
14. One of At-Bristol’s live science Team has a comet named after them
15. And a member of the education team went on the same space training programme as Tim Peake
16. At-Bristol has a working greenhouse and kitchen in the FOOD! exhibition, and works closely with Incredible Edible on the community planters out on Millennium Square. These ‘pick your own’ gardens form part of Incredible Edible’s Urban Food Trail.
17. At-Bristol’s YouTube channel is the most watched science centre channel in the world with more than two million total views to date, and used by teachers and educators globally
18. On the At-Bristol roof, you will find enough solar panels to power 13 households. It’s the only science centre in England to hold a gold Green Tourism award.
19. You will also find a beehive on the roof, which is looked after by two resident beekeepers, who are also part of At-Bristol’s venue hire team. They were trained by Bee Bristol.
20. There is a huge warehouse in Bristol filled to the brim with old At-Bristol interactive exhibits, props and paraphernalia.
21. At-Bristol also owns Millennium Square, Anchor Square and Big Screen Bristol – which regularly hosts free film screenings, community and sporting events
22. At-Bristol has won 40 awards in the last five years for a range of areas including visitor experience, sustainability and educational impact
23. All of the exhibits in At-Bristol are designed and made by the in-house exhibitions team. Each exhibit is prototyped and tested on visitors, before the final version makes it to the main venue floor. There are more than 250 exhibits currently, with more in production.
24. At-Bristol holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s longest string of popcorn, at 320m long. The 24-hour world record was created to celebrate the opening of the FOOD! exhibition in 2014.
The Festival of What If? is a series of out of the ordinary events and experiences to spark curiosity, over six weeks across the summer holidays. The festival will focus on three ‘what if’ themes celebrating what it is to be curious – ‘What if we had to live on a different planet’, ‘What if nature took over’ and ‘What if I could see inside myself’. For more information, visit www.at-bristol.org.uk/event/what-if
Main photo by Lee Pullen
Read more: Behind the scenes in At-Bristol