Gary Fildes, the former brickie turned astronomer who founded Kielder Observatory 11 years ago, is leaving to pursue new projects.

Outside of his role at the Observatory, which is recognised as one of the UK’s most popular dark skies attractions, Gary recently acted as a consultant for The Eden Project and regularly guest lectures at Sunderland University, which awarded him an honorary degree in 2017 after he received a similar accolade from Durham University in 2012.

As well as driving forward a new national astronomy project, Gary will take up more consultancy work, continue his ongoing educational programmes with schools, colleges and universities, and increase the number of speaking opportunities he delivers.

Gary’s profile has risen significantly since the publication of his book ‘An Astronomer’s Tale: A Bricklayer’s Guide to the Galaxy’ in 2016.

Three years prior to that, he spent two months in Chile filming at some of the world’s most cutting-edge facilities in astrophysics.  A feature-length documentary filmed during this visit called ‘Searching for Light’ is currently in post-production and expected to be broadcast later this year.

Gary leaves behind a talented and enthusiastic team that will continue to develop the inspirational visitor experience at the award-winning observatory and further extend its current programme of educational outreach in the Tees Valley into other schools across the North East.

Gary said: “Kielder Observatory has been my life and my passion project and to have built it to where it is today is a matter of huge pride to me.  However, as the saying goes, keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground and now seems a natural time for me to explore new possibilities, while the projects I have been involved with offer a great springboard.

“Kielder Observatory is in capable hands, with a staff team and board of trustees who share my vision of making the wonders of the universe more accessible for everyone.  While leaving is hard, the observatory will always be a very special place and I’m delighted to think that my work there has enabled so many people to discover the delights of the night sky in the glorious Kielder Forest and will continue to do so long into the future.”

Peter Standfield, chair of the board at Kielder Observatory, said: “Gary’s vision and drive have been the inspiration behind the observatory’s phenomenal success in its first ten years.  With the addition of the Gillian Dickinson Astro-imaging Academy to our already award-winning facilities last year, planning approval now granted for development of a planetarium next to our observatory buildings and the ongoing expansion of our educational programme, Gary can rest assured that his Kielder legacy will continue to inspire and educate people for many years to come.

“The trustees of Kielder Observatory wish Gary every success in his new undertakings and look forward to opportunities for further collaboration in the future as his career develops.”