Bristol’s We The Curious to reopen on 22 May after 14 months with groundbreaking new experience Project What If
Wednesday 19 May | Jen Forster
After 14 months of closure, educational charity We The Curious will be reopening on Saturday 22 May with a bold new experience Project What If, which aims to leave people with questions rather than answers.
Project What If is the first major science centre exhibition in the UK inspired entirely by the curiosity of a city’s residents, with over 10,000 questions collected from every postcode in the city. The project aims to reimagine the science centre experience and sees the ground floor exhibition spaces completely transformed, inspired by the charity’s vision of “a future where everyone is included, curious and inspired by science to build a better world together”.
We The Curious was due to reopen in November 2020, but second lockdown put those plans on hold. With 68 new exhibits and 25 art pieces to explore, the core of the exhibition is built around seven questions, selected from the thousands of questions submitted by visitors and Bristol residents over the past three years.
Project What If is multidisciplinary, which means ideas will be explained in different and often surprising ways with a variety of disciplines and voices, embracing art as well as science. The experience explores the human side of science, embracing topics that you might not traditionally expect to see in a science centre, such as religion, gender, sexuality and mental health.
The seven selected questions have informed seven exciting new exhibition areas - called ‘constellations’ – covering (some extremely topical) themes such as illness, rainbows, happiness, the universe, the soul, invisibility and time. Other questions have been used to create an interactive questions database for visitors to explore in the ‘John James Theatre of Curiosity’ and the exhibition will also feature ‘Open City Lab’, funded by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, a collaborative working laboratory space which devoted to participation in scientific research as it happens. Both of these new spaces are dedicated to democratising science, by opening up the scientific process for all, and meaning visitors can participate in world-leading real scientific research.
Image credit: Lisa Whiting
Collaboration and diverse participation has been a key part of the development of Project What If, a reflection of some of the pledges in the guiding Manifesto for We The Curious. Several of the question-askers themselves have been instrumental in the direction and development of the exhibit constellations – both with ideas generation, but also exhibit prototyping and testing. Members, volunteers, researchers, schools and key partners such as WECIL (The West of England Centre For Inclusive Living), Creative Youth Network, work experience students from City of Bristol Academy and Curious Researchers from Bridge Learning Campus have all fed in to the development of Project What If.
Each of the seven exhibit ‘constellation’ also features a ‘Make Space’ exhibit - an artwork co-designed by a local community in partnership with a Bristol-based artist. The Make Space project is funded by The Nisbet Trust and The National Lottery Community Fund, and aims to increase the diversity of voices represented in the exhibits at We The Curious.
We The Curious will reopen with a programme of activities themed around ‘A Better World Is Possible’, which includes activities exploring what a better world could look like, looking at themes of mental health and artificial intelligence, diversity in science and happiness. COVID-secure activities for all ages will run across all spaces including Open City Lab, Theatre of Curiosity, the Food exhibition, The Box, the Studio and the Planetarium.
We The Curious CEO Donna Speed said: “We’re so excited to be reopening finally, after 14 months of closure and a false start in November – and what a way to reopen, with our spectacular experience Project What If.
This is the result of three years’ work, focused around our vision to create a future where everyone is included, curious and inspired by science to build a better world together. Our aim is to place people at the heart of science and present the real world of science - a world that is creative, collaborative, uncertain and inspiring, and arguably, has never been more important than right now.
We can’t wait for our venue to kick back into life, and to be able to welcome our visitors back again. Lockdown lasted for so much longer than we anticipated, so we really do need the support of our Bristol community and beyond when we reopen, and we can’t wait to share Project What If with you all.”
Image credit: Lisa Whiting
SUPPORT FOR WE THE CURIOUS
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 – a fund created to enable science centres across the UK to develop new STEM-based exhibitions and learning centres, alongside inclusive and creative community programmes, building a sustainable programme for the future. 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.
We The Curious has been supported to reopen by the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage, securing £1,052,000 in grant funding. The Culture Recovery Fund is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic England, using funds provided by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. We The Curious also secured a £99,800 grant from the Heritage Emergency Fund last year, distributed by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
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 “to connect and empower people with the wonder of science”.
We The Curious reopens on Saturday 22 May and will be open Wednesday – Sunday 10-5 during term time, and daily 10-6 during school holidays with bookable 30 minute arrival slots. All tickets, including Planetarium shows, must be booked in advance. Tickets for Project What If are included in general admission for We The Curious, and are available now.
Visit www.wethecurious.org to buy tickets, and for information on how everyone will be kept safe.
For more information, images, interviews or to arrange a press trip, please contact Jen.Forster@wethecurious.org or call 07967 334152. You can follow We The Curious on Twitter (@wethecurious_) Facebook (wethecurious) or Instagram (@wethecurious_). For more information, please visit www.wethecurious.org
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 of a future where everyone is included, curious and inspired by science to build a better world together.
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.
Key partners on the project include:
- Creative Director - Anna Starkey
- Exhibit architects - kossmann.dejong https://www.kossmanndejong.nl/
- Exhibit fabricators - Bruns https://www.bruns.eu/
- Software developers - Calvium https://calvium.com/
- University of Bristol www.bristol.ac.uk
- Community partners including Creative Youth Network, West of England for Inclusive Living (WECIL) and Bridge Learning Campus
Inspiring Science Fund
The Inspiring Science Fund, a partnership between UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Wellcome, has invested £30 million in science centres across the UK, enabling them to revitalise their public offer and to develop more sustainable working practices for the future. New exhibitions and learning centres, alongside inclusive and creative community programmes, will inspire visitors to engage with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in fun and exciting new ways.
Wellcome supports science to solve the urgent health challenges facing everyone. We support discovery research into life, health and wellbeing, and we’re taking on three worldwide health challenges: mental health, global heating and infectious diseases.
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), brings together the 7 UK research councils, Innovate UK and a new organisation, Research England, working closely with its partner organisations in the devolved administrations of the UK Government.
About The National Lottery Heritage Fund
Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. www.heritagefund.org.uk. Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund
About The National Lottery Community Fund
We are the largest community funder in the UK – we’re proud to award money raised by National Lottery players to communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. National Lottery players raise £30 million each week for good causes throughout the UK. Since June 2004, we have made over 200,000 grants and awarded over £9 billion to projects that have benefited millions of people.
We are passionate about funding great ideas that matter to communities and make a difference to people’s lives. At the heart of everything we do is the belief that when people are in the lead, communities thrive. Thanks to the support of National Lottery players, our funding is open to everyone. We’re privileged to be able to work with the smallest of local groups right up to UK-wide charities, enabling people and communities to bring their ambitions to life.
About the funding campaign
In addition to the support from the Inspiring Science Fund, Project What If has so far received generous support from: John James Bristol Foundation; The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851; Garfield Weston Foundation; The National Lottery Heritage Fund; Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF); Innovation 4 Growth; Nisbet Trust; Charles Hayward Foundation; Britford Bridge Trust; Kirby Laing Trust; Medlock Charitable Trust; The National Lottery Community Fund, an anonymous funder and local individual donors.