The King’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups that benefit their local communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee and, following his accession, His Majesty The King emphasised his desire to continue the Award. The winners are announced on 14th November each year, the date of the King’s birthday.
The dedication and professionalism of the volunteers at the South Downs Planetarium and Science Centre in Chichester were recognised when they were honoured with The King’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK and the equivalent of an MBE.
South Downs Planetarium was opened by the Astronomer Royal Lord (Martin) Rees, President of the Royal Society, and its Founding Patron was the late Sir Patrick Moore the eminent astronomer, author and broadcaster. It serves a broad catchment in Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey and across the South of England. Since it opened in July 2001, the Planetarium has welcomed nearly 300,000 visitors and is currently visited annually by around 9,000 children of school age and 6,000 adults.
Responding to the exciting news, Chairman of Trustees Ann Mills said: ”The South Downs Planetarium volunteers are truly delighted to receive the King's Award for Voluntary Service. It is wonderful that their loyalty, expertise and enthusiasm in every aspect of our work has been recognised in such an amazing way. This is a well-deserved award from His Majesty The King that recognises the unique contribution of our volunteer team.”
The Planetarium is a highly-regarded and professionally-run educational facility that is managed and operated on a day-to-day basis by some 50 unpaid volunteers with multiple skills and experience, many of them retired experts in science, engineering and other professions.
Founding Trustee, Dr John Mason explained: “As an educational charity, the Planetarium’s fundamental objectives have always been to stimulate an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in people of all ages and to inspire young people and adults to learn more about our planet, the wider Universe and the scientific developments and discoveries that are taking place to explore and understand them. Without our incredible team of volunteers, none of this would be possible, and it is amazing that their skills and commitment have been acknowledged in this way.”
Fellow Trustee, Robert Kirk, said: “After 16 years working with the Planetarium team, it never ceases to amaze me at the dedicated and talented people who volunteer here. They come from all walks of life but the common factor is their willingness to give freely of their experience, expertise and above all time, for no reward other than the satisfaction it brings them serving the community. I am proud to be associated with this remarkable group of people and am delighted that His Majesty the King has seen fit to recognise their contribution with this award.
Starting from 24th July 2023. We are embarking on major building works to create a vastly improved entrance foyer and exhibition area at the Planetarium. Once completed in January 2024, you can expect a significantly improved customer experience. The new entrance foyer will be more spacious and welcoming, while the expanded exhibition area will eventually showcase a wider range of exhibits and displays. We assure you that we are working diligently with our contractors to minimize the impact on your visits, ensuring that cleanliness, safety, and accessibility are maintained throughout the construction period. We sincerely appreciate your continued support and understanding. Thank you for your patience, and we look forward to welcoming you to our enhanced facilities from January 2024 for an even better customer experience.
Plans have been unveiled to expand and improve the Sir Patrick Moore Building at the South Downs Planetarium.
The plans would see the extension on the west side of the building adjacent to the High School in Chichester’s Kingsham Road to create a larger entrance lobby and welcome area to the building.
Most of the current Sir Patrick Moore building will be retained as existing, the main development being to significantly alter and extend the existing entrance space.
The design and access statement written on behalf of the South Downs Planetarium said: “The planetarium will not change from its existing function, but the proposal will help expand and improve how it operates. “To achieve this, the proposed development will provide a new entrance stair/ ramp into a lobby area.
"Following this a large open space will accommodate a seating area/shop, providing a space to congregate or offer improved facilities for events. “A glazed screen will then lead to a new exhibition space with a high roof, which will provide an opportunity for larger exhibits than is currently possible.
“From this point the layout will be similar, however, less crowded and with more space available for exhibits. "The existing planetarium facilities need expanding and improving to meet current expectations of the South Downs Planetarium Trust and its users.
“School trips form a significant percentage of visits and currently there is insufficient space for schools to congregate at the beginning or end of visits, which can make things difficult.”
The South Downs Planetarium received the Community Award for outstanding contribution to the community of Chichester. This award is for the remarkable work of every member of the Planetarium Team, much deserved by us all. Councillor Richard Plowmman read out the citation for this award and highlighted the huge contribution of skill and knowledge by the whole Volunteer Team.
Robert Kirk Ann Mills Russel Slater Dr John Mason MBE and Meryl Goulbourne at the Annual Award Ceremony at the Council House in Chichester, Tuesday 7th February 2023.
Dr John Mason MBE. received a Civic Award for his unique contribution and work as an Astronomer & Presenter in the field of Education.