We The Curious receives vital funding from Garfield Weston Foundation to support reopening and tackle educational inequalities

Tuesday 6 April | Jen Forster

BRISTOL educational charity and science centre, We The Curious, has received a £440,000 grant from the Garfield Weston Foundation, to support the science centre’s reopening programme of activities, develop an online educational offer for schools and continue to develop their inclusion programmes. 

The support will allow We The Curious to build on work already in progress  addressing educational inequality; through a programme of activities themed around ‘A Better World Is Possible’, the development of online schools activities, and the expansion of We The Curious’ inclusion programme which includes career pathways for local young people.

The Garfield Weston Foundation is a family-founded, charitable grant-making foundation, which supports a wide range of causes across the UK, donating over £80 million annually.  It was established in 1958 by the Weston family and is one of the largest and most respected charitable institutions in the UK which has donated over £1 billion in total. It supports charitable activities across arts, education, youth, environment and museums and heritage categories.

Following Government lockdown guidelines, We The Curious has been closed since March 2020 meaning a £3.4million loss in income for the educational charity. It plans to reopen with the launch of a bold new experience Project What If, when the venue is able to open – hopefully in May, if the Government roadmap proceeds as planned.

Being neither a museum, a frontline crisis charity or an art gallery, the science centre has been ineligible for the majority of Covid-19 funding to cover lost income, despite facing many of the same challenges as other cultural institutions. We The Curious has been and still is pushing the government for more support for the sector and continues to seek support from businesses, foundations and individuals to stay afloat and continue striving for inclusion in science.

The Garfield Weston Foundation funding will focus on three key areas which will support We The Curious reopening:

‘A Better World Is Possible’ – launch programme of activities across We The Curious, including:  

  • A new, collaborative and topical programme of activities – supporting audiences to explore and take action on climate crisis, mental health and happiness, food poverty, artificial intelligence, pandemic response, racism and diversity in science.
  • Working with researchers, community groups, artists and priority audiences such as marginalised young and disabled people – for example with “STEM Heroines and Heroes” which works with YESTEM researchers at UCL, University of Michigan, Oregon State University and students from Bristol Brunel Academy     
  • Climate-action focused activities to tie in with 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November


Revise and expand existing inclusion programmes, including:

  • Revision of existing work experience week and intensive Trainee Programme (put on hold due to pandemic), supporting young people to gain a career in cultural organisations.
  • Offer paid placements to local young people to work with researchers and We The Curious staff in creating content for future online science learning hubs on their chosen topic e.g. space, climate crisis
  • Remodeling previous programmes such as free Hello weekends, Young Person events, Autism mornings and community membership to overcome any barriers to visiting.
  • Working with WECIL (West of England Centre for Inclusive Living - a charity run by and for disabled people) in reshaping the We The Curious volunteering strategy to better support diversity and create accessible volunteering pathways

Online resource for schools and communities, including:

  • Create a programme of curriculum-linked workshops and live-streamed Planetarium shows for schools, to be offered alongside in-venue school trips as alternative curricular support for those schools unable to visit
  • A virtual tour of the exhibition
  • An online ‘Open City Lab experience’, bringing together audiences and academic or industry researchers to shape cutting-edge research in action

Donna Speed, Chief Executive for We The Curious said:

“We’re extremely grateful for the phenomenal support that we’ve received from the Garfield Weston Foundation. It has been a truly challenging year for our charity with virtually all of our usual income sources grinding to a halt since our enforced closure in March last year; we’ve worked incredibly hard to survive – and to ensure we are still here for future generations.

This funding will enable us to continue and build on our programmes to tackle educational inequality, something which has been further exacerbated in the last year during the pandemic. Investing in these programmes now, will help us to reopen in a stronger position, and to inspire a more diverse generation of UK innovators, researchers and change-makers.”

Philippa Charles, Director at Garfield Weston Foundation, added:
“Science centres play a vital role in tackling educational inequalities and have faced many of the same challenges as other cultural institutions over the past year.  Our Trustees are delighted to support We The Curious in reopening their doors and developing ambitious and accessible learning initiatives for all. The Trustees are impressed by the charity’s engaging approach to involving the wider community in shaping their programming and exhibitions and wish We The Curious every success.”


During the time which We The Curious has been closed, the entire ground floor has undergone a complete transformation, with the installation of a bold new experience Project What If, which will be ready to open when the venue is able to open.

Project What If was supported by a £3m grant awarded by the Inspiring Science Fund – a partnership between UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Wellcome. The support for the charity and new exhibition has been hugely successful in addition to this, with over £900,000 donated by other generous funders, including the Garfield Weston Foundation.

We The Curious has also received a £99,800 grant from the Heritage Emergency Fund and £173,400 from the Cultural Recovery Fund for Heritage, distributed by the Heritage Lottery Fund and DCMS to support cultural organisations recover from the Covid-19 crisis.

With over 10,000 questions collected from every postcode in the city, Project What If will be the first major science centre exhibition in the UK inspired entirely by the curiosity of a city’s residents.

We The Curious is an educational charity and interactive science centre in Bristol which brings together science, art, technology, culture and innovation to create positive change for its community and environment and “create a culture of curiosity”.

The Garfield Weston Foundation has been a long-term supporter of We The Curious, and previously At-Bristol Science Centre; first awarding a grant in 1992 for part of the build of At-Bristol, and then going on to award ten further grants including for Project What If. The total amount of support over the years now comes to £2,475,000.

We The Curious plans to reopen in May, with tickets on sale shortly - visit www.wethecurious.org for more information.

For more information on supporting We The Curious and to donate, please visit https://www.wethecurious.org/charity/educational-charity



For more information, images, interviews or to arrange a press trip, please contact the Jen Forster, Communications Manager – jen.forster@wethecurious.org or 07967 334152. You can follow We The Curious on Twitter (@wethecurious_) Facebook (wethecurious) or Instagram (@wethecurious_). Visit www.wethecurious.org for more information.

Editor’s Notes:

About We The Curious

We The Curious was previously known as At-Bristol Science Centre; an educational charity with an aim to “make science accessible to all”, it opened in 2000, and welcomed over 5 million visitors in the past 20 years. At-Bristol relaunched as We The Curious in September 2017, with a new vision that is committed to creating a culture of curiosity.

We The Curious is an idea and a place for everyone. Our venue on Bristol’s harbourside is a bit like an indoor festival, with all sorts of different experiences, where you can interact with exhibits, test stuff out and participate rather than just visit.  We’re all about empowering everyone to ask questions and get creative - with boundaries removed between science, art, people and ideas - a culture of curiosity.


About Garfield Weston Foundation

Established over 60 years ago in 1958, the Garfield Weston Foundation is a family-founded, grant-making charity which supports causes across the UK and gave over £88million last year. It has donated well over £1billion to charities since it was established.

One of the most respected charitable institutions in the UK, the Weston Family Trustees are descendants of the founder and they take a highly active and hands-on approach. The Foundation’s funding comes from an endowment of shares in the family business which includes Twinings, Primark, Kingsmill (all part of Associated British Foods Plc) and Fortnum & Mason, amongst others – a successful model that still endures today; as the businesses have grown, so too have the charitable donations.

From small community organisations to large national institutions, the Foundation supports a broad range of charities and activities that make a positive impact in the communities in which they work. Around 2,000 charities across the UK benefit each year from the Foundation’s grants.