I was fortunate to join Winchester Science Centre as the dome screen was being installed, giving me the exceptional opportunity of setting up the UK's newest, near-largest and most up-to-date planetarium.
I designed and implemented all in-dome operations, show programming and health and safety. I developed realtime shows using Uniview, recruited and trained staff and volunteers, evaluated activities, assisted marketing activities and managed planetarium finances and resources.
I presented interactive, live shows almost every working day for the first five years. This, and working closely with the Front of House team, gave me a deep understanding of how different audiences behave, the small things that make a difference to their enjoyment, and how their expectation and experience can be managed by small changes to the way in which we communicate.
I set up a variety of special events using the dome. These included projects with funders, industry partners, regional astronomy societies, arts practioners and STEM Ambassador volunteers. In the early years I led marketing activities for these events. Multiple series of profit-making events were established which continue to this day.
I introduced shows to improve accessibility for those with additional needs, for Home Educated children, for younger children and to engage repeat visitors who wanted more depth of content. A mobile planetarium offer was introduced in 2013.
Having taken on responsibility for the dome technologies in 2012, I produced estimates of running costs, assessed risk, managed a server upgrade in 2016, and led discussions with vendors to investigate options for a major upgrade.
Winchester Science Centre planetarium has hosted TV news and documentary crews, live music events, awards ceremonies and conferences, poetry and theatre performances and a variety of bespoke marriage proposals.
From 2011 to 2014 I served as President of the British Association of Planetaria, giving me a broad understanding of the various facilities across the UK and their needs. I sat as UK and Ireland Representative on the International Planetarium Society council, and supported our international colleagues. Attending conferences such as IPS and IMERSA brings a fresh view, enables discussion of factors affecting domes across the world, gives a view into the future, and has allowed me to make connections with the most experinced and innovative players worldwide.
In 2015 I took on additional responsibilities giving me oversight of all Educational aspects of the Science Centre, and served as Acting Director for short absences of the Director. On my departure in 2017, I left behind not only a Planetarium Manager (the only planearium role when I joined in 2008) but an additional two Planetarium Officers and a Weekend Science Communicator specialising in planetarium programmes.
I have demonstrated Uniview for SCISS, and have consulted on management of planetaria for domes in the UK and internationally.
I would be delighted to share my experience and understanding to ensure other planetaria are also successful in their aims, clear and realistic in their objectives, and able to avoid the common pitfalls that might otherwise hamper their progress.