The Wildwalk and IMAX bits of @Bristol are closing, as soon as April this year. Apparently their initial millennium funding package is finished, and they don’t have alternative sources of income. So they have to make do with ticket sales on the door. Yow.
The science centre movement in the UK is on rather odd footing; there’s no ongoing central funding (cf. arts centres), with the result that despite many centres trying their darndest, it’s all still a bit amateur/people doing ‘their bit’/volunteers, etc. Full-time staff – often with serious amounts of experience and expertise – are too often paid a pittance, with the obvious knock-on effect that things like touring shows and the like are seriously underpriced. For the stuff I’m doing this year I’m going to try charging a low-end consultancy fee, but I don’t think I’ll get any bookings even at that price – and that’s with all the equipment and some of my time being subsidised by other sources.
So far as I can tell, most people who ‘make a living’ in this game actually do it for the love of it, and it’s their partners who are the real breadwinners. This is the dirty secret of the science communication industry, frankly. You’d think people would be on similar pay scales to teachers, but… no.
Without a culture of sponsorship in the name of corporate responsibility, it’s not clear to me what drives the industry. Goodwill, I think. Yikes.