It is with great regret that we have to announce the closure of Atom Club and the Dorset Science & Tech Centre in its current format.
Being open, from day one we’ve received a lot less support that we initially expected, both from the local press that have described the area as a ‘media blackspot’ and from award schemes that seem to see smaller projects with no premises as the most worthy of funds. While we’ve been finalists in some huge awards with large prizes, we always seem to lose out to simpler STEM projects – a lesson has been learned from this. We also believed that we’d be able to find more local business to sponsor exhibits and volunteers to run sessions.
My other business (another social enterprise) has managed to fund the centre and the new exhibits for the last 18 months, but it faces the same financial pressures that other small businesses are facing and ensuring that our team of remote workers are paid on time has increased the pressure on me to the point where it has caused health problems for me. Wessex Water deciding to close the road for 6 weeks with next to no warning has certainly not helped matters and was the final nail in the coffin. A 40 minute round trip detour for a 45 minute session was not attractive to most our bookings and cancellations have all been refunded.
After taking legal advice, we have agreed to place Atom Club into voluntary liquidation. It’s assets will now be sold off to pay our creditors. We have acted quickly and responsibly ensuring that nobody loses a deposit and we believe all creditors except myself will be paid in full once assets have been cleared.
When will the centre close?
We have managed to keep the centre open for the rest of November, but it will close at the end of the month. Our other business holds the lease for the front part of the centre so Atom Club will be able to store assets there for a liquidation sale – more details on that soon. The Dorset Robot Championship will still take place this weekend!
It’s too early to tell for sure, but we’ll know more in coming weeks. At this stage we have a plan that we believe will result in at least half of the centre being able to reopen in the new year, just in a different format.
As a family, we’re still committed to this mission and a lot of the equipment that our other company owns and Atom Club uses, will be kept where possible until the future is clearer. In fact, they will undergo a slight re-brand to better incorporate our educational aims. In particular, they will be taking over our popular robot combat club and more will be announced shortly. The Dorset Robot Championships (24th November) will still take place at the centre and will also return next year subject to us finding a suitable venue for the event (Exchange ideally).
Some assets will be sold from today (keep an eye on the shop section of the website), but the majority of the centre will stay in it’s current form until next week. After this we will begin making good on the property to give the landlords the maximum amount of time to find a new tenant.
What will be done with any left over money?
We have never taken a wage/dividends from Atom Club and do not plan on taking any money now. Our biggest creditors are our other company and me personally (I took out a personal loan to help float Atom Club recently) and we are treating ourselves as a low priority debt. Any funds left over after paying all creditors (a very unlikely situation) will be distributed to projects that promote STEM in our area.
Is it possible to save the centre?
We’ve looked at numerous ways to save the centre in its current format, but every option involves things we’ve tried and not managed to do in the last couple of years. There is one possible route and we are exploring that further.
Message to our supporters
Thank you for believing in us and our vision, attending sessions, sharing posts when you can – we really appreciate it. We’re still treating the centre as a partial success as the amount of happy enthused children that have left the centre (over 600 this year) is inspiring and the amount of positive feedback we’ve received has been heartwarming. What we have learned is that the concept is possible, but either requires a lot of financial backing, or a big team of volunteers – neither of which we have.
We’ll keep this site live if possible (thanks to The Honest Agency) and will keep you up to date.