Dome Club is a 360° digital dome entertainment
experience created by Mario Di Maggio in 2012 while
manager of Thinktank Planetarium.
On being placed in charge of the UK's first
purpose-built digital dome in 2006, aside from
delivering standard planetarium content, Mario almost
immediately began collaborating with artists to fully
exploit the capabilities of the new fulldome medium.
His inspiration was the SATosphère
(Montreal, Canada), and by the time Mario left in
September 2013, Thinktank Planetarium had produced a
significant amount of original creative content,
including the invention of a new art form.
The name Dome Club was coined by DJ Food (Kevin Foakes) after he
visited the planetarium in June 2012 to experience the
360° cinema for himself. He was so impressed by what he
saw, he was inspired to create a 50-minute fulldome
'music video' for his album The Search Engine - the
world's first full-length 360° show for a new album.
Kevin Foakes allowed Mario to keep the rights to the
name Dome Club, and Mario trademark registered
the name in November 2013.
The Dome Club experience started
coming together in earnest in 2011, a watershed year for Thinktank
In March 2011 we hosted the 2nd UK
Fulldome Film Festival (aka Fulldome UK),
in May we began regular screenings of Pink Floyd - The Fulldome
Experience, and in October, spearheaded
by enthusiastic planetarium volunteer Steve Harford,
we put on the first Domeheads Tripnotic
Dome Club events took place in the
evenings and attracted new audiences to the museum.
We made available free training for fulldome content
creation and loaned the planetarium fisheye camera
to enthusiasts. User-generated content was projected
on the dome at every event, as well as student work
from Birmingham City University next door.
We screened content from international fulldome
festivals and progressive digital domes around the
world, and ended each evening with a full-length
creative 360° film.
Below a few of the weekly Thinktank Dome
leaflets, including the penultimate one
censored by management.
In the penultimate leaflet I referred to an
article called 'People are biased against
creative ideas', from the journal Psychological
Science. Yet on getting wind of this,
Thinktank management prohibited me from publishing
So instead, the penultimate leaflet looked
By mid-2013 Dome Club had captured
the attention of local Arts Council England
(ACE) officials, and the local ACE Dance, Digital
and Museum Relationship Managers each came along to
experience the event for themselves. They were
impressed and supportive, and encouraged Mario to
apply for significant ACE funding to help establish
Dome Club as a permanent fixture at the
museum, including the creation of a separate branded
planetarium entrance on the third floor.
By now Dome Club had become the
eighth most popular Birmingham visitor attraction on
Yet instead of embracing this unique
opportunity - and despite Thinktank Museum being in
dire need of 'alternative income streams via
entrepreneurial initiatives' - in September 2013
Thinktank management chose to disband the
planetarium team and make Mario and one of the two
Sadly this short-sighted attitude towards
creative initiatives is common in UK planetariums /
science museums and has not gone unnoticed. British
singer-songwriter Mike Batt discovered this in
2014 when no UK digital dome was interested in
screening his stunning 360° production Voices in the Dark.
Happily the Dome Club initiative at
Thinktank encouraged a few planetariums around the
world to launch their own versions of the event and
attract new audiences to their museums.
Of course I wasn't going to let my
redundancy (which in retrospect turned out to be a
huge blessing in disguise) bring an end to Dome
I used the money from my Thinktank
settlement agreement to purchase a 7m inflatable
dome, and continued running Dome Club events
in Birmingham at The Custard Factory (in
the Old Library, January 2014) and The Q Club (May-August
2014). The capacity of the 7m dome was 30 adults
(lying down) and almost all the screenings were sold
out. The success of the mobile Dome Club
would not have been possible without the hard work
and support of Yaz Alexander.
It was of course a great shock to be made
redundant from Thinktank Science Museum,
particularly after all I had accomplished with
the planetarium alone, not to mention the
entrepreneurship of Dome Club.
Thinktank Planetarium had become recognised
worldwide as a leading progressive digital dome, and
as soon as my redundancy was announced protest
letters of support were sent to Thinktank /
Birmingham Museums Trust by the International
Planetarium Society [letter];
IMERSA, the organisation for Immersive Media
Entertainment Research Science & Art[letter];
the Jena International Fulldome Festival [letter]; and CERN, the European
Organization for Nuclear Research, with whom I
was collaborating on a fulldome film about dark
Nevertheless, as two of the many supportive
emails I received below predicted, establishing my
own mobile digital dome business has been a
wonderful adventure, indeed placing me in a far
better place - financially, emotionally and
The Thinktank Dome Club web page,
as it was in August 2013