Life received one of only two Mariano Gago Awards at the Ecsite ceremony in Heilbronn, Germany. Ecsite is the European network of over 320 science centres and museums. The Mariano Gago awards encourage creative and impactful work within the sector.  

Life is the first ever recipient of the Responsible and Responsive Award which was specifically created to reflect the response of Ecsite members to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Award recognises the partnership between Life and the North East Autism Society (NEAS) and their online support to the autistic community during this period. What started as a small Facebook group involving just 6 families, grew into to a mass online programme with an audience of over 13,000.

Life worked with colleagues from NEAS to create short videos showing accessible science demonstrations such as how to make a balloon powered mini-car and experiments with chocolate. As interest grew, this developed into a sustained programme of videos and weekly Zoom chats which attracted increasing engagement and interest.

David Jones, Community Liaison Manager at Life, received the award at a ceremony attended by over 1500 people. David said:

By the time the pandemic hit, Life had already forged deep bonds with the local autistic community and this relationship provided vital support during lockdown.  There is no shortcut to effective engagement – it takes time, patience, and open minds to develop mutual trust and understanding.

The partnership between Life and NEAS began in 2018 and was supported initially through the Inspiring Science Fund, an initiative of the UK Government and Wellcome. Life began working with a small group of 10 families and the science centre quickly became a hub for a support group for children and parents. Young people helped to shape the centre layout and the design of new exhibits. They helped in the planning and delivery of Relaxed Sunday Sessions (dedicated quiet time for autistic people) and helped create a range of materials including a ‘visual story’ – a downloadable photographic explanation of what to expect from a visit. In 2021, Life was presented with the Gold Award for Autism Acceptance.

Linda Conlon, Chief Executive of Life said:

The Mariano Gago awards are the Oscars of the professional science engagement world.  It is a massive endorsement from fellow professionals and we’re honoured to receive one.

Sharon Ament, Director of the Museum of London and chair of the Ecsite judging panel said: “This is a remarkable project that has touched our hearts as well as our heads. We were particularly impressed by the huge personal impact that the Life project has made for participants.   It has strong stable foundations and a legacy going forward”.  

John Phillipson, Chief Executive of NEAS said:

It’s brilliant to work with people who are committed to making a positive difference to the lives of autistic people. We could never have imagined where the journey would take us when we started out four years ago.

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